Winery of the Month: Umani Ronchi
Marche & Abruzzo, Italy
The Umani Ronchi story is one of ancient vines, land and people. Seasons waxing and waning. Harvests changing. Wines coming into being. The story began more than half a century ago at Cupramontana, in the heart of Verdicchio Classico country, and has spread further. Today Umani Ronchi is the wine estate owned by the Bianchi-Bernetti family, who since 1957 have been making superb-quality craft wines, coaxing the best out of the Verdicchio and Montepulciano that find their finest expression in Marche and Abruzzo.
In the end of the Fifties, Gino Umani Ronchi set up a small farm in the Marche region at Cupramontana, in the heart of Verdicchio Classico country. A few years later, the farm was taken over by the Bianchi-Bernetti family, who acquired the label as well as the land and brought new energy to the estate’s production and commercial activities. On 4 January 1968, Umani Ronchi was reconstituted as a wine estate. Barely a year later, the registered office and administration were transferred to Osimo, where the Rosso Conero cellar was opened. Capacity at the existing Verdicchio cellar in Castelbellino was also increased.
The man in charge of all this was Massimo Bernetti whose vision, foresight and entrepreneurship focused on three macro-objectives. Number one was opening non-domestic markets – Germany and the United Kingdom in particular – to Umani Ronchi wines. The second was increasing output by flanking Verdicchio with Rosso Conero. Bernetti also worked to expand the estate’s area under vine, which would quickly rise to 210 hectares in Marche and Abruzzo. At the same time, Massimo was focusing on the entire production chain to improve wine quality and expand the estate’s offering, starting with the reds and in particular Rosso Conero. Nineteen eighty-two saw the first vintage of San Lorenzo, followed in 1985 by Cumaro. Verdicchio acquired a new dimension with Cru and Riserva selections, Casal di Serra appearing in 1983 while Villa Bianchi’s first harvest came in 1985.
By the early Nineties, Massimo had been joined by his son Michele, newly graduated from Ancona University with a degree in economics and back from an internship in London at the sales department of Umani Ronchi’s UK distributor. With input from university research centres, Massimo began to explore advanced vineyard and cellar management techniques, and to identify the best grape-growing sites. Michele began to play a bigger role and, looking beyond the borders of the region, initiated a fruitful collaboration with Giacomo Tachis, the creator of Solaia and Sassicaia, among other wines
Investing for innovation
From Serra dei Conti in Marche to Roseto degli Abruzzi, Umani Ronchi has a total surface area under vine of 210 hectares nestling between the hills and the sea along the Adriatic coast. The 185 km of rows are distributed across ten districts, each with its own vocation and terroir. These are numbers that tell of our ceaseless, almost feverish efforts working the finest wine lands with the help of cutting-edge vineyard management and winemaking techniques. Umani Ronchi has doubled its estate and replanted 85% of its old vines since the Seventies. We have invested in Verdicchio and Rosso Conero and recovered the Pecorino and Lacrima di Morro d’Alba varieties, always setting ourselves ambitious wine quality objectives.
Organic, a choice of quality
All their vineyards, from the Verdicchio to the Montepulciano, are farmed organically. For them, this was a technical decision rather than an ideological one. Organic farming requires balance in nature and a range of crops, trees and herbs that make up a biodiverse environment. The plants thrive on Umani Ronchi lands leaving space for a viticulture that gets the best out of the grapes they grow without compromising the quality of the wines. At Umani Ronchi, organic means quality.
Umani Ronchi is driven by a strong sense of ethics and respects the environment lavishing attention on the territory and biodiversity. Their approach is highly practical when discussion turns to precision viticulture, machine management, vineyard treatments and organic fertilisers. Sustainability also underpins their choice of materials. Light glass bottles have a lower impact in terms of CO2 emissions and their synthetic cane sugar stoppers are 100% recyclable. Their energy is supplied by a photovoltaic array. Everything reflects a sustainable way of thinking and acting.
People, the most authentic value
Umani Ronchi continues to be family-run. At the helm is Michele Bernetti with his father Massimo acting as chair. The management style is balanced. Harmonious. Solid. Far-sighted. A style that has put the land and individuals in the spotlight. Innovating. Experimenting. Investing. Making space for training, particularly for the team of young agronomists and oenologists who are the added value of any wine estate.