Wine Spectator: Soave's Free Spirit
The Filippi family has a long relationship with their historic property in the Colli Scaligeri sub-region of the Soave. The family’s roots to this land date back to the 1300s when the noble Tuscan family Conti Alberti moved to Castelcerino. In the beginning of the 20th century, the Conti Alberti family sold the estate to their cousins the Visco family. Winemaking at the estate began in the early 1900s after the Visco family bought the property. The current head of the estate, Filippo Filippi, is related to both families – the Visco and the Conti Alberti. His mother’s maiden name is Visco.
Filippo Filippi began bottling his own wine in 2003. Filippo is doing things differently than his Soave neighbors. Filippo strives to make wines that identify more with the distinctive terroir of his land rather than the Soave DOC. He chooses to produce wines that embody principles of organic and biodynamic farming, old vines and low yields in a region that reports some of Italy’s most sizable and unmemorable wines. The results are incredible; Filippo’s wines are often rich and honeyed yet some of the most structured and mineral-driven of the region. They often require time to open up and can last for days with just a cork in the bottle. The wines certainly over-deliver for their price in terms of complexity and pedigree, and all of them, the entry-level Castelcerino included, should improve with age (certainly 5-10 years).
Cantina Filippi towers above the valley floor at 1300 feet. Located in Castelcerino, the estate and vineyards are at the highest elevation in Soave. The property is unique in that there is a rich biodiversity including wooded areas surrounding the vineyards. This is a critical aspect to the estate’s practices (biodynamic and organic principles with organic certification in 2007), as it allows for the vineyards to exist in harmony with the surrounding nature. The soil in the vineyards is mostly rocky, volcanic clay with parts that are rich in limestone (particularly the Vigne della Brà). The high elevation and unique soils certainly come through in the brightness and focus of the wines.
Filippo Filippi grows old Garganega and Trebbiano di Soave, almost all of which were planted in the 1950s. The 16 hectares of vineyards are subdivided into different Soave crus (view vineyard map in image gallery). Each is characterized by different soils, which affect the minerality of the wines. In addition, there are small plantings of Chardonnay and Merlot. The scarce quantity of Amarone produced by Cantina Filippi—only in good vintages—hails from half a hectare vineyard in Valpolicella that Filippo rents and cultivates.
Filippo Filippi takes a non-interventionist approach to winemaking as well. The grapes are all harvested and sorted by hand. Fermentation occurs with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks. The wines are held on their lees for an extended time, especially their top single vineyard wines. He allows each wine to mature at its own pace, bottling only when he feels the wine is ready. All of the Soaves are 100% Garganega even though the appellation allows up to 30% of other varietals such as Trebbiano in the blends. Filippi in fact does have some Trebbiano planted as well, but he reserves it for the special cuvee ‘Turbiana.’
"Organically farmed (certified since 2007) old vines of Garganega and Trebbiano di Soave are just part of the secret to Filippi’s enduring success. The relatively high altitude of the Castelcerino zone (roughly 400 meters - 1,312 feet - above sea level) also plays a role in helping to fashion fresh, penetrating Soave wines of real interest that are amongst the most mineral of the whole denominazione. Let them decant for at least an hour or so and try them the next day as well, as Filippo Filippi’s wines have an uncanny knack for improving with aeration."
“Filippo Filippi’s Soave estate is where volcanics, organics and a few other things combine to produce intense, dry white wines of textural completeness.”
Beyond Barolo and Brunello by Tom Hyland (2012)
"Filippo Filippi is one of a small group of artisan producers in Soave that are crafting offerings that are several steps above the light, refreshing wine many people still associate this area with. Filippi is constantly experimenting with various styles-some of his wines are made from late harvest grapes-and the results are quite special. I first encountered his wines when I tasted his 2008 Castelcerino Soave, which had a chalkiness in the finish that was very similar to a first-rate Chablis: it was then I knew I had to visit this estate and find out more about this winemaker and his products."