Whose Wine is it Anyway?
Cascina degli Ulivi has been practicing biodynamic agriculture for over 40 years and considers the soil as a living organism belonging to the cycle of every living thing. By promoting the soil’s health the vines produce excellent fruit. They strive to make wines that are true expressions of the vintage and the terroir. Fermentation takes place naturally without any oenological additives and without the addition of sulphites. At the very heart of Cascina degli Ulivi is Stefano Bellotti who inherited his lands and has nurtured, loved and encouraged every single vine throughout his 43 year career as a winemaker. Considered as one of the founders of the natural wine movement in Italy, today Bellotti's farm is an important educational site, where the public is invited to visit and stay. The small agriturismo offers homegrown produce and plays an important part in the farm's self-sufficient philosophy.
We spoke to him about who he’d have around the table for dinner and what they’d be drinking.
What made you want to be a winemaker?
Well what else would I have been able to do? I have been devoted to my destiny. Since I was a child I have always been attracted to the hills, vines and rural life. [Becoming a winemaker] was the logical outcome.
How many years have you been making wine?
I started such a long time ago that I’m almost embarrassed to say! It would mean that I am old… In reality the first time that I got my hands dirty I was a child, during the 60s. I started to take part in the harvest and vinification when I was 12 and in 1975 when I was 17, I managed my first harvest and vinification.
Have you worked for any other producers previously?
No (he makes a joke) - I started too soon to have time beforehand!
Which other producers do you admire and why?
Providing that they respect the soil, plants and the natural process of vinification, I admire all of them.
If you hadn’t become a winemaker, what would be your dream job?
Ah well I was pretty into music…playing…or maybe I would have been a hobo, although that would have perhaps been too boring.
What do you like best about your job?
Every day is different and in general you never know what you’ll do from day to day.
You need to free yourself from fears and be happy in the knowledge that anything could happen.
What is your favourite type of wine to drink?
Gigondas, without question.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
Well now that I’ve been crazy enough to create 30 different agricultural jobs, I’d say that the hardest part is managing everyone. When I’m in the vineyard it feels like a holiday! There is always more and more pressure on legalities and bureaucracy.
What is your winemaking philosophy and approach to making wine?
All this philosophy business! For us farmers the only philosophy is getting on with it! When you’re in the cellar things need to be balanced. You need to free yourself from fears and be happy in the knowledge that anything could happen.
Is there one person who has influenced your style of winemaking more than anyone else?
Thank you so much for this question! Yes, many! I have looked out for them, waited for them and tracked them down. Pietro Toccalino; my friends Alfredo Roagna (winemaker in Barbaresco), Luigi Brezza (winemaker in Monferatto), Claudio Rovero (winemaker Asti) and Jean Pierre Frick (winemaker in Alsace); my political ally Leonello Anello (agronomist and biodynamic wine expert)…and so many more.
What do you do in your free time?
When is that then?! Well yes, indeed at night I sleep! When I was younger I had more time and I used to allow myself to go for a few nice walks in the mountains. These days it’s rarer and rarer though. Reading: luckily, if even a little, I continue to read and learn.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned during your winemaking career?
Wine travels and gives visibility, much more than growing a courgette would! It’s best not to let that go to your head.
Other than wine, what’s your favourite drink (alcoholic or otherwise)?
Erm…I don’t want to seem like a wine fascist but I don’t have one. Occasionally a tea or a herbal tea, but this happens maybe once a year…
If you were a grape variety what would you be and why?
Wine varieties don’t exist, it’s the place that exists, but if I really have to give an answer, well I’d be Barbera. Why? Because it’s generous.
If you were stranded on a desert island what three wines, which would you choose to be stranded with?
Gigondas (think of Dany Chastan), Lambrusco (think of the masters at Quarticella) and why not also a bottle of 25 year aged Montemarino (100% Cortese).
If you had to choose your last meal what would it be?
(Speaking in dialect) Ha! You can make the last dinner!
If you could have a dinner party with any four people (dead or alive) who would you pick and why?
Obviously we are talking about people in the wine world? Well in that case, Claudio Rovero, Luigi Brezza, Chantal and Jean Pierre Frick. Why? Well because they are good and intelligent people, which are the necessary prerequisites for a nice evening in company.
Where is the most beautiful place in the world?
My bed! Hahaha, well in reality I have simple loves; I fall in love with places. Nevertheless, aside from certain places in Liguria and between the Apennines and sea, it would be Abruzzo.
The film that changed your life?
Modern Times by Charlie Chaplin.
Imagery courtesy of (small) HESH HIPP 2017 for The Real Wine Fair and (main) Keiko & Maika for Cascina degli Ulivi.
Interested in finding out more about any of wines made by Stefano? Buy online here or contact us directly…
Retail: [email protected] / 01483 554750