In the annals of winemaking, Roberto Anselmi is a legend, a charismatic motorbike-riding rebel whose uncompromising quality-over-quantity approach has helped redefine the image of north Italian white wines.
Since taking over management of his family's winery in the Soave district of northeast Italy's Veneto region two decades ago, Anselmi has been motivated by an emotional and professional commitment to tapping the unrealized potential of the wines he grew up with. This has entailed a significant parting of ways with traditional vineyard and winemaking practices that have historically characterized the Soave district, and given birth to a new generation of north Italian white wines of unprecedented quality, character and finesse.
Roberto Anselmi's long-term goals have required the kind of investment and self-assurance that would pass for folly in men of lesser vision. In his drive to upgrade quality, Anselmi reduced output at the very same time that other producers, capitalizing on a white wine boom, were increasing theirs. Limiting production, however, has enabled Anselmi to be more selective in the vineyards, cutting yields and discarding all but the finest fruit to achieve an intensity of flavor, fruit and bouquet rarely, if ever, encountered in the wines of Soave. Anselmi took this limited-production approach to the next level when he became virtually the only producer in the Soave Classico zone to develop "cru" or single-vineyard wines, notably with the release of the highly acclaimed Anselmi Capitel Foscarino.
Other major initiatives undertaken by Anselmi have included the purchase of hilltop vineyard plots, conversion of vineyard trellising from the customary pergola system to densely-planted horizontal spurred cordons, resulting in major reductions in yields, scrupulous clonal selection, reduction of irrigation to an absolute minimum and the pioneering use of small new and semi-new oak barrels in the vinification process, generating wines of singular structure and complexity.
Then in 2000, Anselmi made headlines with a personal declaration of independence, choosing to label his wines Veneto IGT rather than continuing to work within the confines of the Soave DOC. It was a bold maneuver, taken to protect his unmitigated authority over winemaking practices, and it was a decisive statement from one who many in the international wine industry regard as "the conscience of Soave." Latest initiatives include construction of a new 50,000 square foot winery, collaborative research into alternative wine closures and ongoing experimentation into new methods for reducing the presence of sulfites in wine.
In recent years, he has been joined at Anselmi by his daughter, Lisa, a business school graduate who assists with marketing, administration and customer relations. A son, Tommaso, also looks set to join his father in the years that come.