There are few Italian farms where you can admire vineyards that stretch away into pristine hills, see a herd of free-ranging Chianina cattle, and immediately afterwards, look at lithographs by Picasso, silk screens by Warhol and engravings by Mantegna. To put together such elements requires not only a marked entrepreneurial gift, but also a unique sensibility. These are characteristics that the Ferragamo family has always demonstrated both in the fashion world and the hospitality sector. A few years ago, they entered the universe of wine.
Il Borro is an agricultural enterprise in the area of Valdarno Superiore, run today by Salvatore Ferragamo. It is a microcosm of vineyards, olive groves, woods, prize cattle, an organic vegetable garden and an elegant Relais. Its history can be reconstructed from medieval documents. Salvatore told us its modern story. “It all depended on my father Ferruccio’s love for this land. This was where we spent our summers.” In 1993, the Ferragamo family bought the 750-hectare estate of Duke Amedeo di Savoia-Aosta and began its renovation. By 1995 they began planting the first vineyards. Today vines cover 45 hectares of the Valdarno di Sopra territory, a zone that was already recognized in 1716 by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo III dei Medici, in a document that regulated the Tuscan areas of greatest importance for winemaking.
A change of direction came in 2012 when the Ferragamos decided to make the entire estate run as an organic farm. They put enologist and agronomist Stefano Chioccioli in charge. “That was the most wonderful challenge I ever faced,” he told us. “It called for the total transformation of a conventional farm to an organic one.” The rebirth of Il Borro coincided with a philosophy that Salvatore Ferragamo aimed to carry out in every farm activity. He stated, “The love for this land means, above all, respect: renewable energy, natural fertilizers, no pesticides.” Thanks to a solar energy installation, Il Borro has negative carbon dioxide emission. Chioccioli explained, “Whoever flies from London to Il Borro produces CO2 emissions that will be balanced out by the end of the second day here in our Relais&Chateau. We can describe our farm as ‘autocratic’”.
We produce the seeds of the legumes and barley that we use to fertilize the vineyards. Our Chianina cattle furnish us with the manure we need to bring back microflora to the soil. But we also use it in biodynamic practices such as the cow horn manure method to increase soil fertility.” Other techniques include implementing sexual confusion, introducing antagonistic insects to fight parasites, and using small quantities of copper to control downy mildew. “We mix organic and biodynamic approaches,” Chioccioli said. “Our only goal is to increase the complexity of the vineyard ecosystem and reduce environmental impact to a minimum.” Cellar work also uses a low-intervention strategy.
“The role of the enologist changes from actor to spectator. We verify that everything proceeds according to natural processes, integrated with the correct doses of technology. Vinification is traditional, with long, delicate maceration on skins. Then the wine ages in amphorae or in small and large barrels. That’s what it amounts to, attention and respect for the terroir.” Salvatore Ferragamo added, “The estate is in continual evolution. We have many projects that will involve us in the near future. We’re continuing with our franchising of Il Borro Tuscan Bistro. Organic farming will bring new products to the marketplace. Our honey is already a reality. Inside the estate we continue to work to guarantee the standards of the services we offer and increase the opportunity for visitors to have a memorable experience at Il Borro.”
“Since 2015, all our labels display organic certification. The first four to show the official phrase are Rosato del Borro, from sangiovese grapes, Lamelle, a chardonnay, Borrigiano and Petruna,” Stefano Chioccioli told us. These last two labels also represent a further change, having been designed to complete the range of labels and to continue down the organic road with even more commitment. Borrigiano '15 is the first Borro wine to have the Valdarno di Sopra denomination on the label, the only Italian DOC requiring organic cultivation of its grapes. It is a blend of merlot (40%), syrah (35%) and sangiovese (25%), aged in large wooden casks. The wine is expressive and fresh, fragrant with ripe dark berry aromas, with hints of pepper rendering the bouquet even more intriguing. The palate is smooth, with fine tannins, and taut, thanks to balanced acidity. Spicy sensations return on the finish. Petruna '15 is a monovarietal Sangiovese vinified in amphora and aged on its skins for a year. On the nose, it displays cherries and ripe strawberries. In the mouth, although the vintage year was quite hot, it has little dynamism and seems slightly braked. We tasted the 2016 year as well, directly from the amphora, and we’re sure it will give great satisfaction.
Art: from Mantegna to Warhol
From Mantegna to Goya, from Rembrandt to Dürer, even Picasso and Warhol – these are only some of the great names that look down from the walls of the Galleria Vino&Arte on the Il Borro estate. The exhibition space emerged from an idea of Ferruccio Ferragamo’s, Salvatore told us. “With the planting of the first vineyards, my father began to buy rare engravings, etchings and other works of art on the theme of wine. Over the years, he also received many as gifts. They express the deep connection between art and wine, something that has inspired artists in every era.” The space is dedicated to Bacchus’ nectar and its importance in daily life, a journey that takes the visitor to sections about the Bacchanalia, Christian traditions, and domestic life even including considerations about the abuse of wine and the addiction that can come from drink. The exhibition, curated by MartinaBecattini, represents “the estate’s jewel in the crown,” according to Salvatore, “and a perfect introduction to a visit to the cellars underneath it.”
The Relais: 360° of Beauty in the name of the nation
“Since 2013, Il Borro has been part of the prestigious Relais&Chateaux circuit. In the same year I also was its ambassador,” Salvatore Ferragamo told us. “We became part of a welcoming, warm, gourmet world whose members share a passion for their enterprises and for the territory they are part of.” Set in a pristine Tuscan landscape, Il Borro, besides being a working farm, also offers guests the opportunity to stay in one of the many buildings that have been elegantly restored over the years. La Dimora Il Borro is the central nucleus of the estate, a villa built in the mid-19thcentury that houses luxurious suites. Down from the villa and across a little stone bridge, we come to a medieval village, a place suspended in time, a hotel complex set in perfectly preserved cobblestone streets and romantic piazzette. The estate also has comfortable villas and farmhouses that fit perfectly into their rural setting. The spa, swimming pools and top-quality food complete a full experience. “Tuscany, Italy and Made in Italy are values in which my family has always believed. In many different ways, we have always sustained and promoted our region,” Ferragamo explained. “Today, more than ever, with travelers who are looking for history, authenticity, genuine flavors and a pristine setting, we see that my father’s vision was ahead of its time.”
In this unique place in the Loro Ciuffenna (Arezzo) zone, there had to be excellent eating places. L’Osteria del Borro, the Tuscan Bistrò and Vincafè are the three options offered to guests on the estate and to outsiders by chef Andrea Campani. They each provide a great culinary experience, his idea of cucina. L’Osteria del Borro is the gourmet soul, with dishes in which Andrea looks deeply into Tuscan tradition and renders it more evolved, cleaner and more refined, spotlighting its ingredients. Many products are grown organically on the estate itself. Campani doesn’t deviate or build too much on these classics. VinCafè, instead, is more informal and adapted to quick, light meals. And finally, there’s Tuscan Bistrò, a blend of restaurant, wine bar and bottega, in which Tuscany’s most genuine and traditional wine and food is celebrated. Already present in Florence, a branch of the bistro recently opened in Dubai, inside the luxurious Al Naseem Madinat Jumeirah Hotel. Here authentic, product-based cucina carries the banner of Italian food, winning our prize for best Italian Restaurant in Dubai from our guide Top Italian Restaurants, coming out in the fall of 2017.
Il Borro | Loro Ciuffenna (AR) | fraz. San Giustino Valdarno | loc. Il Borro, 1 | tel. 055 977053 | www.ilborro.it
by William Pregentelli