Vinnie and I have seen all kinds of different approaches to wine-making in our travels across Italy, everything from minute one-person operations to some very sophisticated businesses indeed. Some have integrated agriturismo-style accommodation so that they can take in paying guests; however, Filodivino Wine Resort, situated in the languidly undulating hills of the Marche countryside, is in a class of its own. The owner has taken an idea and turned it into something very special. It is called a wine resort and there are a number in Italy but this is the first that we have had the opportunity to visit. Think of it as a vineyard and winery integrated with a health resort and spa. It really is very luxurious and also features an infinity pool – with semi-submerged loungers – set amongst the vineyards, with fabulous views across the surrounding hills. The resort also features local culinary delicacies prepared by a team of expert chefs.
But first of all, give some thought to the name. Italians love wordplay as much as the English and Filodivino gives plenty of scope for different interpretations. If we start with filo divino then the translation is ‘divine thread’ with all its spiritual implications going back to the ancient Greeks and the fates spinning the thread of life. However, when you learn that the founder, Alberto Gandolfi, made his fortune in textiles before selling up and starting the winery then another interpretation presents itself. Finally, if you split the word into filo di vino then the meaning becomes a drizzle of wine.
However, as always, we were visiting for a very specific reason. In this small area of the Marche there is an unusual grape variety called Lacrima or ‘tear’. Apparently, it was given this name because of the propensity of the berries to burst thus appearing to be shedding tears. Nearby is the small town of Morro d’Alba that has lent its name to a very local wine, Lacrima di Morro d’Alba, which was awarded DOC status in 1985. Alberto founded Filodivino in 2014 with the express intention of showcasing Lacrima and the other local vine, Verdicchio, and from the outset the vines have been cultivated organically. The immaculately manicured vineyards now extend to over 19 hectares of which 7 are planted with Lacrima vines. In total, for the whole of the DOC, there are only 200 hectares of this grape in all of Italy. By any standards this is a niche wine.
Annual production of all wines at Filodivino is only around 19,500 bottles because the emphasis here is on quality. Amongst the team ensuring that quality, we were delighted and not a little surprised to meet Ginevra, the talented oenologist. We last ran into her when she was working at the Roccapesta winery in western Tuscany but she has moved on to bigger things and it was great to see her again.
The land here at Filodivino consists of gently rolling hills at about 200 metres above sea level and is about 20 kilometres from Senigallia and the sea. The underground winery, with the tasting room above, is a very beautiful piece of modern architecture which has been skilfully integrated into this landscape. Combining steel, wood, and glass, the building is a work of art in its own right; the gentle low arch of the roof emerging from the grass echoes the soft curves of the surrounding countryside whilst the tasting room nestles comfortably underneath, protected from the worst excesses of the summer sun. Inside is a veritable temple to the production of wine. I particularly liked the backlit terracotta amphorae on the lower level serving as a reminder of the thousands of years of history of wine-making and, at the same time, drawing attention to the latest use of these as fermentation vessels.
Returning to the upper level via the impressive external steel spiral staircase it was time to taste some wine. The philosophy underlying Filodivino is to celebrate the uniqueness of this part of the Marche and to do that they concentrate on the two native grapes, Verdicchio, which is white and red Lacrima. Of the two, Verdicchio is by far the more common and so it was the wines made from the Lacrima grape on which I focussed my attention.
One of the major sources for the tannins that add a degree of astringency to a wine is the skin. Given that Lacrima is known for its thin skin, it will come as no surprise to learn that the resultant wines are not rich in tannins and are generally considered best drunk young. Filodivino has called the first of its wines Diana and it is made from grapes harvested from 12-year-old vines. These grapes are then fermented and matured in steel to emphasise the natural qualities that Lacrima has to offer. I sampled the 2020 and it had the full ruby colour that the skins of this grape give generously to the wine, as well as a hint of purple, indicating its youth. Low in sugar for freshness, the bouquet is of plums and cloves and on the palate the tannins are present but soft with a pleasant salinity and a touch of pepper. Try pairing this Lacrima with a rack of lamb.
The other traditional Lacrima is a DOC Superiore called Soara. This is made from grapes selected from vines anything from 12 up to 20 years in age. After fermentation in steel, 15% of the wine is matured in Austrian oak, which gives a little more tannins to the final result, while the majority remains in steel. I tried the 2019 and the wood has added a touch of vanilla to a bouquet of cherries and pink pepper. In the mouth the tannins are slightly enhanced over the previous wine with the taste of bitter cherries. This is a wine to enjoy with roast duck.
Filodivino is no slave to tradition and has also produced a spumante made with Lacrima as well as a rosato made with 50% Lacrima and Shiraz. It also has a range of wines made with Verdicchio and so a visit will be very rewarding. If you’re visiting Marche then make a point of visiting Filodivino. It is a complete Italian experience.