Initially, “Villa Santo Stefano” was going to be a holiday resort, capitalising on its beautiful and ideal setting on the saddle of a hill, amidst the rolling landscape of the Tuscan region in close proximity to the walled city of Lucca. The elevated location of the villa giving spectacular views of the surrounding lush countryside and distant views of the sea add up to making it a perfect holiday setting.
However, when Wolfgang Reitzle und Nina Ruge for the first time sampled their own olive oil and wine produced by the estate, a wonderful opportunity presented itself and a somewhat different future was envisaged. This involved Wolfgang Reitzle rapidly assimilating knowledge of the art of viticulture and olive cultivation.
Being a perfectionist, Wolfgang Reitzle also sought the best possible advice and expertise available in the region to help him fulfil his ambitions. The Prunetti brothers were recruited to develop the olive oil production. For several generations, they have enjoyed a distinguished and expert reputation throughout the Tuscan region and extending worldwide, too. Their premium quality olive oil from San Polo in Chianti scores highly in the ratings list. They have introduced to Villa Santo Stefano the very latest in technology regarding olive oil production, including the use of inert gas to prevent oxidisation of the oil during storage, thereby keeping it in perfect condition.
The training regarding the wine was overseen by renowned oenologists Antonio Spurio was instrumental in providing advice and guidance regarding the expansion of the vineyard by the acquisition of more land from around the estate. He also takes care of the soil preparation for the planting of the vines, the selection of the grapes, the wine pressing and further development of the wine cellar itself. However, the responsibility for the day-to-day management of the vineyard and winery rests with the administrator of the estate Andrea Farnesi and Alessio Farnesi, both oenologists.
And what is the “philosophy” that guides the team of the “Societá Agricola Villa Santo Stefano”?
The culture which guides the team of the Societá Agricola Villa Santo Stefano originates from Wolfgang Reitzle – to be the best and achieve perfection at every stage. This aim is made all the easier to achieve by our working in such a beautiful environment – the Lucchesia!
Wine is life.
Life is too short to drink bad wine.
In northern Tuscany, specifically in the Lucchesia, there is a very special climate for people, olive trees and vines. The distance to the sea and its wide beaches is only 20 kilometres, the Apian Alps and the Apennines protect from cold northerly winds, so that the region around the Villa Santo Stefano benefits from a very sheltered climate.
The gentle layer of dew during the night and the powerful daytime sun as well as the favourable altitude of 270 metres offer ideal conditions for olives to mature to an exceptional quality. Thus, this region has developed over several centuries to become the centre of Tuscan olive oil production.
The quality of the extra virgin olive oil was so exceptional that the producers did not waste another thought on growing wine. Olive oil was a reliable and profitable source of income. It should be recalled, however, that although the “boot of Italy” was seen as THE country of wine and olive oil production since the times of the Etruscans, more than 2500 years ago. However, at that time, wine was seen as an affordable food which was consumed in considerable quantities, but without regard to higher quality standards. World class wines, which made Italy the star of the wine exporting countries, did not make their way to the international market in significant quantities until the 1980’s. Until then, the image of Italian wine e.g. in Tuscany was rather defined by the “Chianti” in 2 litre bottles sealed by a crown cap.
Against this background, Francesco Bertolli developed an exciting business model. Only a couple of years after opening his grocery store in the middle of Lucca he started the large scale export of his high quality olive oil to the United States. By this time, tens of thousands of Italians had already emigrated to the U.S. and they dearly missed their native Mediterranean home cooking. Very soon, “BERTOLLI OIL” appeared in the supermarkets in New York, Philadelphia and Chicago, followed by Canada and Australia, which were added to the growing export market. From the start, the oil was filled and transported in aluminium containers. In the 1950’s, Francesco Bertolli introduced glass bottles, making the advertising slogan: “Buy what you see!”
The Lucchesia became a huge business success, owing to its excellent olive oil and the distinct entrepreneurial skills of the Bertolli family.
Nobody had previously seriously considered growing wine there, and anyway, until the 1980’s there was little or no money in it. However, the conditions are fantastic: The quality of the soil is a vine paradise. Until 300 million years ago, this region was an ocean with many very active volcanoes, and so, to a large extent, the soil in this area comprises a rich mixture of mineral sediments from the sea and volcanic ash.
But this hidden and rich potential of the soil was not realised for thousands of years until one of the first wine producers gained attention with their excellent biodynamic wine, first produced around 2000.
So, it was almost obligatory that Wolfgang Reitzle decided – after extensive soil analyses – to abandon the idea of a small exclusive wine field in front of his vacation home in favour of developing a highly professional winery and vineyard:
The “VILLA SANTO STEFANO”