Nestled in the picturesque hills of Urbino in the northern part of the Le Marche region, Tenuta Santi Giacomo e Filippo stands as a testament to centuries of history, tradition, and viticulture. This charming estate, with its sprawling vineyards and rustic charm, has played a pivotal role in promoting the winemaking heritage of the region.

The estate's vineyards are carefully manicured across the undulating landscape, benefiting from the region's rich soil and ideal climate. The varieties of grapes cultivated through organic methods include the local indigenous variety Bianchello, though they also grow Incrocio Bruni 54, Sangiovese, Montepulciano, and Verdicchio.

Over the years, Tenuta Santi Giacomo e Filippo has become more than a winery; it's a cultural hub with a wellness center. The estate hosts events, wine tastings, and cultural activities that celebrate the rich heritage of Urbino. It has become a gathering place for wine enthusiasts, locals, and visitors alike. Grape Collective talks to owner Marianna Bruscoli about the evolution of Tenuta Santi Giacomo e Filippo and the terroir of northern Le Marche.

Marianna, talk a little bit about the history of the family estate.

Marianna Bruscoli: My family decided in 1985, thanks to my grandfather, Antonio, to buy a little bit of the Marche region near the nearby historical center of Urbino. So our estate nowadays is more than 400 hectares, and we are placed 10 kilometers far from the city center of Urbino. And thanks to my parents and my brother before me, we now have an estate where we can find wines, of course, but also the restoration of an ancient village. So that means there is now a hotel that is spread out in more than six buildings, a wellness center, a swimming pool, restaurants, and of course a wine cellar.

(Marianna Bruscoli)

Urbino is an area that's famous for having produced some very culturally significant artists.

Yes, that’s correct. Urbino was the birthplace of Raffaello Sanzio and where the Duke Federico, decided to make this amazing Palazzo Ducale. So it's for that reason that we have been a UNESCO Heritage City full of historical monuments. It’s very beautiful, and Urbino also hosts a very important museum.

And talk a little bit about the terroir.

Urbino is where we set our wine cellar and we are in the northern Marche region. Our landscape is very beautiful with sunny hills and we are placed in a very special ecosystem. Our tenuta is inside a fauna oasis established in 1979 to preserve the fauna and flora ecosystem. So in this special terroir, soil, we decided to grow our farm in an organic way. And nowadays Urbino and Pesaro, the province, is one of the widest in terms of hectares of organic farming. So it is really important.

When we had the idea to root our grapes in a soil that has been organic certified for many years before we did, we had a good idea because the soil was free from any chemicals, residues, and preservatives. And nowadays we decided to root our grapes in a soil that has been along the river Foglia where it is sandier with more gravel and is perfect for white grapes. And for red grapes on top of the hill the soil is more clay. And we put our craftsmanship, our passion and our experience in our wine cellar every day to set the stage for our grapes to talk and this is the way our wines are born.

Many people know Le Marche for the Verdicchio growing area, Castelli di Jesi. Is there a great difference in terms of the terroir between northern Le Marche and Castelli di Jesi? 

The Marche region has parts very different from the others. In this case, when we speak about the Marche region, we have to speak about Verdicchio most, of course, and Urbino is placed in the north part of the Marche region. And for example, Verdicchio is more in the center of the Marche region. Of course you have also hills, but the terroir can change from of course, Metallica, DOC or DOCG, and Castelli de Jesi and you can have different combinations of soil, climate, and sunlight, and rains. You can also have also different soils from sand to clay to gravel.

What types of grapes do you work with?

We decided to root different kinds of grapes. Most of them are native grapes, but we also decided to root international grapes. So we have for white grapes, Bianchello, Incrocio Bruni 54 and Verdicchio. And for red grapes, we have Montepulciano and Sangiovese. But we have also grown Chardonnay for white and a little bit of Sauvignon. And for red, we also have Syrah and Merlot. We found a very special set for native grapes in this case. And we decided to focus on native grapes because most of our wines are from native grapes.

Talk a little bit about the philosophy of winemaking and the philosophy of viticulture at your estate.

Being organic has been very important since the beginning for us. So when we speak about organic certification, you have to be very focused on the idea of what you would like to bring home. So the most important thing to know is to assist, in the wine cellar, natural fermentation. And the only way to do it is to have great grapes first. And we can enter in our rows only with copper and sulfur, but we can also help our grapes with putting on the soil and have the grain menu of mustard and hay. So in order to put on the soil sulfur, that is really, really important for the grapes. The craftsmanship in our wine cellar is really important. But I always say that in our wine cellar is the wine lab. It means that we try to improve everyday techniques and we try to experiment in order to improve our wines every day.

You work with stainless steel and you also work with amphora.

Yes. For white aging, for white wines aging, we use stainless steel vats, but also amphora clay. And our amphoras permit micro-oxygenation of the wines. So the wines are not oxidated at all, but you have tertiary perfumes and a very smooth, a round palate and a very long aftertaste. Because vats are used to preserve minerality and higher acidity, in this case, you will have fresher, crispier, saltier wines. As for the red wines we use of course, stainless steel vats, but also wood. We produce for Fortecole, which is a blend of Sangiovese and Montelpulciano and is made from the beginning in the wood. So the fermentation process is in upright tank and we move it for aging, for at least three years in big oak barrels. The oak is not toasted.

You are making wines that are a lot lighter in terms of alcohol percentage than some of the wines being made in central and southern Le Marche.

So it depends what you would like to have from a wine. In my opinion, when you have a grape like Incrocio Bruni 54, that is a cross thanks to the winemaker, Bruno Bruni, who decided to do this cross, and of course you have a very powerful grape. So in this case you reach high alcohol. But if you have Bianchello it in my opinion, keeps the best with a low volume of alcohol. So we try to assist the harvest process in order to bring home grapes that could enhance no more than 11.5 or 12.5 volume of alcohol. So it's permitted for us to have more fruity, tropical, exotic notes and to have crispy and salty palates that bring to you a very easy-drinking wine.

You have 400 hectares of the total estate, but you're only growing vines on 14 hectares.

We are organic farming. So we produce cereals, vegetables and legumes. One part of the land is used for horse stables. We have a very big place where we organize horse competitions twice a year. So as for the production of cereals, we, for example, have different kinds of places where we can set our cereals and sell them. And we have, for example, wheat and pasta. We are in a place where many people work together and exchange products from the raw materials. And we also have extra-virgin olive oil and different kinds of honey, acacia and Millefiori and five different kinds of jams.

That's a lot of agriculture.

Yes, it is a lot, but it's amazing. So we are very proud of where we are and very happy to do this job.