Project Impressive ambitions
Defining Agricola San Felice as a "project" means that it is far more than a simple agricultural operation, and alludes to the multi-faceted activities to which it is committed.
More specifically, since it became part of the Gruppo Allianz S.p.A., San Felice's viticultural ambitions have grown in quantity and quality, focusing in particular on scientific research.
At the same time, it has turned its efforts to hospitality services, livestock breeding, and environmental protection.
All of this is made possible only by highly professional organisation and experienced personnel, as well as by a highly evolved business philosophy, a sophisticated work ethic, and shared goals, all of which are an exemplar of entrepreneurial excellence of which we are most proud.
The soundness of the San Felice project is amply demonstrated by its success, its uninterrupted growth, and by the many accolades it has won.
Yesterday, today & tomorrow
Like every locale in this land that boasts ancient cultural roots, San Felice too offers material evidence that goes back to the region's Etruscan origins. But it was in the 10th century that documents emerge that show the Pieve San Felice in Pincis, dedicated to the martyr San Felice da Nola, as one of the oldest Chianti-area foundations. Its properties and the medieval borgo that grew up around the church experienced the same historical vicissitudes as the surrounding areas. They passed through various types of control, from that of the religious orders to that of powerful local families, a case in point being the Sienese Cerretani family, whose oversight lasted until the 19th century. The Del Taja family then assumed control, and turned the estate into a highly successful enterprise, right into the first half of the 20th century, their prestige symbolised by the fact that they were among the founders of the Consorzio del Chianti Classico,with its famous black rooster logo.
After the Second World War, however, San Felice went through a period of decline, along with the entire Chianti region. But its fortunes turned with its acquisition in 1968 by a large financial group, and then in 1978, when it was acquired by RAS.
Enzo Morganti, a far-sighted manager with long experience in growing sangiovese, launched in that year the re-structuring of the enterprise and its transformation from an entity largely focused on quantity to one fully dedicated to high quality. He laid the foundations as well for systematic scientific research, which was initially directed at developing the full potential of the sangiovese variety.
Today, Agricola San Felice, widely recognised for its innovative approach and for uncompromising quality, has achieved remarkable success, as well as business performance, as its growth in the Italian and global markets has made clear.
Always uncompromising quality
San Felice's philosophy is embodied in its overall commitment to pursuing total excellence, a goal achieved by means of research and experimentation, as well as by our determination to maintain a vital relationship with the local terroir and with local wine typicity.
We have consistently followed, from the 1970s right up to the present day, a policy of continuous improvement, constantly updating our vineyard management practices and modernising winemaking technology.
Ours are efforts always directed towards growth and development, but at the same time they are informed by a sense of responsibility for our land and by a desire to preserve the traditions that have been passed down to us, a heritage that should not only be preserved but to which we must contribute as well.
Agricola San Felice is a multi-faceted enterprise with activities spread over various locations:
above all, of course, the tenute, or farm estates, with their prized vines and olive trees;
the Vitiarium, where most of the scientific research is carried out;
the winecellars, where all of the production takes place, from vinification to maturation in barriques and bottling;
the frantoio, or olive-oil press; the borgo, the company headquarters and retail enoteca, but, in particular, a medieval hamlet transformed into an elegant hotel complex; and, finally, the livestock operation, centred on raising prized local breeds.
San Felice encompasses a diversity of terroirs. These constitute its most precious resource, since its real passion, above all else, is to grow grapes and wine in three of Tuscany's classic areas: the main resource is found in the Chianti Classico zone: the principal tenuta, San Felice itself; then of course the Campogiovanni tenuta in prestigious Montalcino; and finally, Tenuta Perolla, which lies in the magnificent and wild Maremma.
Right next to the borgo, we can visit the San Felice cantina, or wine cellar, with its winemaking and ageing facilities.
This historically important complex goes back to 1800 and has been restructured at various reprises. A complete, but historically sensitive, modernisation was carried out in the 1970s, so that the cellar today ranks among most state-of-the-art in the area.
Inside, the modern equipment stands side by side with large Slavonian oak botti and French oak tonneaux and barriques, in which San Felice's Chianti Classicos and other wines are matured.
Just a short distance away, in Villa La Pagliaia, one can admire the impressive late 19th-century estate residence, which belongs to the San Felice tenuta. Here too is the olive press that produces San Felice's extravirgin olive oil.
Its location is crucial, for it ensures that the olives will be pressed the same day they are picked, a critical factor in obtaining the highest quality oil.
The ancient millstones have given way to more modern technologies. Today, centrifuge extraction allows a greater protection of the olive's delicate flavours and aromas, which abound in our elegant estate oils.
Within the enchanted spaces of the venerable Borgo San Felice, opposite the Giardino delle Erbe Buone, where chef Antonio Fallini gathers the herbs and spices for his succulent dishes, guests and visitors may visit, year-round, our well-stocked enoteca, where they can taste and purchase everything that the estate produces.
Enter this charming ambiance, with its ancient walls and vaulted ceilings, admire the meticulous and historically faithful restoration, and you will find yourself welcomed by the knowledgeable and ever-gracious Jamil Ghanem. He is always delighted to chat with visitors, dispensing information and recommendations regarding the fine wines and olive oils of San Felice.
The compact borgo grew up around the ancient Pieve in Pincis church, dedicated to the martyred San Felice da Nola, and it preserves to this day the fascination of this land with its centuries-old humus of culture.
After a magisterial, painstaking restoration, the borgo represents a small architectural gem perfectly preserved within in the jewel-box of Chianti's magic landscape.
A section of the borgo was re-structured, in the late 20th century, into an elegant hotel affiliated with the world-famous international chain of deluxe hotels, Relais & Châteaux. Guests here enjoy every amenity, a health facility and swimming pool, sports opportunities, and, of course, an outstanding restaurant, the Poggio Rosso, where the imaginative dishes of celebrated chef Antonio Fallini, accompanied by San Felice wines, never fail to delight guests.
Science & experimentation
San Felice has always engaged in experimental research projects, most of them directed at developing the full potential of sangiovese. These efforts were certainly groundbreaking, given that they occurred in a period when attention in the area was generally directed at introducing the so-called international varieties.
A pioneering spirit, then, which flowed quite naturally into a campaign to recover and preserve the genetic heritage represented by the local native grape varieties, with the goal of distinguishing and establishing their qualities, especially within the context of contemporary winemaking.
Viticultural research is, without a doubt, one of activities of which San Felice is most proud. The first experimental vineyards were planted as far back as the early 1970s, in order to carry out research into vine training systems, crossing of varieties, and planting densities, all with the goal of improving the sangiovese grape.
From the 1980s on San Felice enjoyed a very fruitful scientific collaboration with the Dipartimento di Ortoflorofrutticoltura of the University of Florence. Its purpose was not simply to preserve local biodiversity resources but to demonstrate as well that local native varieties, if subjected to modern scientific examination, could bring to light surprising discoveries.
All of the results of this research and experimentation have been applied systematically over the course of the years in the estate vineyards, with the goal of improving our quality. The challenge we set ourselves has certainly paid off, as wines such as Vigorello, Poggio Rosso and more recently Pugnitello amply testify.
Grape variety museum
The Vitiarium is the most important of the research projects that Agricola San Felice has undertaken, beginning in the late 1980s, in close collaboration with the University of Florence. This estate experimental vineyard is home to research that has as its goal the classification of grapevine germplasm, or the genetic makeup, of the native vines that constitute Tuscany's heritage.
Unique for its varieties and size (over 2 hectares), the Vitiarium hosts more than 270 varieties sourced from old vineyards in Tuscany, which have yielded valuable data that will improve current vineyard practices.