A Special Touch for a Special Wine

A Special Touch for a Special Wine

Graziano Filippi, Cantina Santa Maddalena/Bolzano: the pioneer of Santa Maddalena

There are only very few cellarers whose name is as inextricably linked with a certain wine as the name Graziano Filippi is with Santa Maddalena. Filippi dedicated his entire career to this strong variety made from Schiava (Vernatsch) grapes typical for the Bolzano/Bozen cultivation area. For 36 years, he was responsible for developing this particular type of wine and has been setting completely new standards in the process. Now, his son Stephan, the cellarer of the Cantina Bolzano, is responsible for keeping up the yardstick.

There is no doubt that the Santa Maddalena is also inextricably linked to the city of Bolzano or, more specifically, the hilly grounds in the northeast of the city where it originates from: the cultivation area of the Schiava grapes that this variety is made from. Since 1971, this has been the area of cultivation as defined by the “controlled designation of origin” (DOC) for Santa Maddalena wines.

Back when the DOC designation was first applied, Graziano Filippi had been the chief cellarer of the then Cantina Santa Maddalena for almost two decades. He learned his trade very early on: from his father, who worked as a cellarer in Eppan/Appiano, and at the San Michele school of viticulture, where Graziano became a student in 1946. “The school was very strict, but I had already gathered some practical experience working for my father,” says Filippi.

As early as in 1953, Graziano became the cellarer at the Cantina Santa Maddalena. He worked in this position until 1988, setting numerous important milestones during those years. For example, he was one of the first cellarers to put quality over quantity. “This was a solid base for us to build on, and I am really grateful that my father did that,” says Stephan Filippi, Graziano’s son.

Stephan is the current chief cellarer of the Cantina Bolzano, the successor of the Cantina Santa Maddalena. When he first started out in the profession, he worked alongside his father, who showed him all the secrets of the trade during his last year as a cellarer. “I showed him how it’s done,” reminisces Graziano. And Filippi jr. adds: “I learned a lot from my father. He taught me that it takes time for the wine to unfold its taste.”

An interesting fact: during his last years as a cellarer, Graziano Filippi took what was a highly revolutionary step for his winery at the time: in 1985, he made the first white wine at the Cantina Santa Maddalena – a Sauvignon, which the winery – originally known exclusively for its red wines – is widely recognized for. “My father successfully launched a high-quality, highly praised white wine,” his son Stephan remembers. Filippi sr. had thus demonstrated that the cultivation area of the winery offered very interesting soils for white wines, which now constitute one of the key pillars of the Cantina Bolzano.

In spite of this breakthrough and his successful work with white wines during the later stages of his career, the name of Graziano Filippi is inextricably linked to the Santa Maddalena variety. His son Stephan emphasizes that this wine played a very important role for his father throughout his life. And this passion remains, even at a very old age now. Graziano Filippi’s credo is simple: “All’s well as long I can still enjoy a Santa Maddalena.”
Another taste?
More from the world of Alto Adige wine
Back to the list
Impressions of Wine:Experienced, enjoyed, shared
Always up to date with the Suedtirol Wein newsletter