Stefano Bellotti – An Appreciation
Stefano Bellotti understood farming and the language of nature at a fundamental level; he made wines that were wild, long-lived and spoke deeply of their origins. He was the spirit of real appellation and fought hard to maintain the integrity of that word, often finding himself deeply at odds with bureaucracy. He was a kind of wine-poet and warrior-philosopher, and inspired huge devotion amongst those who knew him intimately.
Stefano produced fine wines respectful of nature for more than forty years. His Cascina Degli Ulivi was a true polycultural endeavour, a self-sufficient farm, growing vegetables and cereals, breeding animals for milk, meat and eggs, and making bread and cheese.
The agricultural product is a flower that blossoms from the encounter of love between the creativity of nature and that of man. ~ Stefano Bellotti
Stefano left Genoa in his late teens. He was always attracted to the rural life and returned to the tiny abandoned family farm originally purchased by his parents after the war in Novi Ligure. Noticing that the vines were thriving he chose to make his living through wine predominantly but also to combine that with a closed farm approach with a vegetable garden and orchard, ancient varieties of cereals and spelt and to keep ducks, chickens, donkeys, cattle and a horse. At this time (the late 70s) farming throughout Italy had become increasingly influenced by chemical and industrial methods, something Stefano, in his desire to return to more peasant ways, eschewed. By 1981 he was working organically, very much in isolation, as there was no organic movement at the time, no exemplars to follow.
Stefano focused on bringing as much biodiversity as he could to the land in order to promote a healthy soil and developed a rotation system where certain rows of vines were left alone in order to give the soil the opportunity to revitalise itself. Biodynamic preps were used to encourage microbial activity.
As for winemaking he once said in an interview: “Humans don't make wines: microorganisms do. This is a sacred world we don't understand anything about!"
“I've always said that our force is the truth. When you start drinking natural wine, or eating natural cheese, natural bread, natural food… When you start eating REAL food, products from the earth that have a true link to their terroir, you don't go back.”
Stefano Bellotti always advocated leaving his wines to breathe naturally rather than using a carafe: "Discovering a fine wine is like starting a conversation with a wonderful person you just met", he was wont to say: "I want to leave the wine the time to slowly open up and make me discover its wonder. The wine will be different after 15 minutes, then different after 30 minutes, then different after 1 hour. There is no rush, let the charm act naturally!"
Like Stefano. Once you made time to know him you would gradually realise what a wise, poetic soul lay beneath his craggy features. He made the place where he lived part of himself and allowed his wines express the unique magic of nature and the landscape. He was a farmer to his fingertips and to the very depth of his free spirit.
We, and so many in the natural wine world (and beyond), will miss Stefano’s presence. He thought about the role of wine and farming in the wider context, and expressed his opinions fearlessly. Whenever we open a bottle of one of his wines now and sense the power of the vineyard being unveiled for our pleasure, we will remember him, and appreciate what he sought to achieve in his wine, and, in his life.
“The farmer, for me, is the freest person there is, because he lives in the open air and has to do with the plants, the sky, the rains, the snow. Which man can feel freer than a farmer?” ~ Stefano Bellotti
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