“The wine you make looks like you, especially if it is a natural wine. I would never be able to make a wine that I don’t like and I wouldn’t even be able to sell it. “Silvia Stefini, the owner of the 1701 Franciacorta winery, is sure of it. Almost a decade after the beginning of this adventure, she is satisfied and happy. Indeed, she defines her work, namely that of the winemaker, as the most beautiful ever.
It all began around 2010 when Silvia and her brother and co-owner Federico took an interest in buying a vineyard in Franciacorta, their homeland. The gentle hills of Franciacorta, as the wine critic Andrea Grignaffini defined them in the preface to the book ‘The Origins of Franciacorta in the Italian Renaissance’, are among the world’s great sparkling wine territories.
Nestled between the Mella and Oglio rivers and Monte Orfano, they enjoy a unique microclimate, softened by Lake Iseo just up north. “Since the Middle Ages – writes Grignaffini – a sweet and biting wine was knowingly prepared here, which also had ambitions in ageing, so much so that for this purpose black grapes were preferred to be vinified in white. This wine was the ancestor of contemporary Franciacorta”.
According to various historical testimonies, the remains of cloisters and Benedictine abbeys (such as Santa Giulia in Brescia) or Cluniac priories are the original sites of a wine-growing that has survived until today and still delights national and international palates. Silvia and Federico became the new custodians of an extraordinary three-hectare vineyard in the centre of Cazzago San Martino, surrounded by 11th-century walls, together with ten others in the hills and an adjoining winery, in 2012. Their initial idea of buying a small vineyard just to produce a few bottles of wine, vanished when the Vettoni Cazzago Earls, an ancient noble family of the area, put their estates up for sale. 1701 was born. “We started a little unconsciously, with the heart and the passion for wine, but above all with love for our land. We are inevitably linked to Franciacorta and its production method, we would never have thought of buying land in another region of Italy, it would not have made sense to us.”
The 1701 winery, whose name takes inspiration from the year of first vinification of Brolo, the three-hectares vineyard, is Silvia and Federico, but also Marco Benedini – the agronomist who worked for the Vettoni Cazzago Earls and welcomed biodynamics right from the start. “Knowing how to surround ourselves with capable and valid people who embrace your project as if it were theirs, this is our great fortune, and I would say skill. I think it is essential to surround yourself with the right people, from a technical point of view, of course, but above all from a human one. They are 1701, 1701 is us.”
What started out as a gamble taken with a pinch of recklessness, turned into a radical change in Silvia’s life in just a few years. She left her Milanese job in communications to entirely devote her time and skills to the new winery, but also and above all, to a way of making wine linked to nature, to the land and to its rhythms, rather than to market logic and artificial interventions. With a genuine manifesto, the intention of 1701 was immediately directed towards the respect for the land and its peculiarities. Therefore towards organic (certification in 2015) and shortly afterwards, biodynamic (certification in 2016 just one year after organic). The latter brought Silvia and Federico’s gamble to an important milestone, making it the first biodynamic winery in Franciacorta. The Stefini brothers’ vision, as simple as powerful, has always been clear: to bring back the focus on agriculture, to rediscover spontaneity and unforced growth, the sensitivity that the old farmers had in observing the land, to understand what territory can express through the enhancement of its biodiversity, and to trace the culture of wine that can be learned inwardly, through taste and senses. And why not, rediscover the value of life and the passing of time, inspired by the centuries-old history of this unique land. 1701 wines are slow wines, they require patience and listening, no forcing. Only in this way will they be able to fully express their vitality, character and virtue.
there is a mystery
in the terroir, you get close
but never quite.
listen, it calms you down:
wine is not what it is
you want it to be, it is he who gives.
Today, production reaches around 60,000 bottles a year and is made up of six different types plus two new entries.
Brut Nature, a real ambassador of the winery’s oenological choices for its full and balanced taste given by the perfect union between the balanced grapes of Chardonnay and the stronger ones of Pinot Noir.
Satèn, a Blanc de Blancs obtained from the vinification of Chardonnay grapes only, ample and aromatic.
Rosè Natur comes from the rather radical choice of vinifying Pinot Noir in purity on the grape skins.
Riserva, or otherwise called Vintage, limited edition, it’s the result of a scrupulous selection of the best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir harvested in the Brolo and Collina vineyards only in the best years.
All not dosed, therefore without the addition of sugar in the disgorgement phase.
Sull’erba, a Chardonnay refermented in the bottle with the frozen grape must from the harvest: a great success that grew from 1,000 bottles of production to more than 8,000 today.
Surnàt, IGT Sebino, Chardonnay vinified and aged in terracotta amphorae (a practice not used by anyone in Franciacorta), a way of giving the wine the freedom to fully express the characteristics of the terroir and the fruit.