Producer Spotlight: Speri

Nestled in the heart of the Valpolicella Classico area in Verona, North-East Italy, Speri is a historic family-owned estate with a long legacy as a prioneering producer. One of the first to make the iconic wine that is Amorone della Valpolicella, it's a fascinating story of family legacy, an unwavering commitment to quality, unique grape varieties and age-old winemaking traditions.

We had the pleasure of sitting down with Luca Speri, to talk all about their wines, region, family dynamic and history. And if you've ever wondered what the difference between Valpolicella Classico, Superiore, Ripasso, Amarone, and Recioto is? Well, Luca's got you covered. In this interview, he's here to explain all.



Winery: Speri
Interviewee: Luca Speri
Role at winery: Export Manager


Sociovino: Luca, thank you so much for joining us! To start off, could you share some insight into your region, the climate, and the indigenous grape varieties you cultivate?

Luca: Yes, so Valpolicella Classico is a subzone within Valpolicella. We are located northwest of Verona, between the city centre and Lake Garda, with the Alps just to the north. Despite how far north we are in Italy, our climate is actually Mediterranean. The weather here is entirely different from any other wine region in northern Italy, when exploring the landscape, you will see lemon and olive groves among the vines, which is very distinctive. For this reason, we can cultivate grape varieties here that no one else have. Corvina, Corvinone, Molinara, and Rondinella are the traditional varieties that thrive here, and we only use these to make our wines. These grape varieties are particularly delicate, with large bunches and berries, full of juice, and thin skins, making them highly sensitive to climate and susceptible to disease. It takes very experienced growers to manage these vines and bring them to optimal quality levels.  


"It takes very experienced growers to manage these vines and bring them to optimal quality levels."



Sociovino: What traditional techniques are used in crafting your wines and how does that present in their flavour profiles?

Luca: I say this all the time, that I believe we are producing in one of the most fascinating wine regions in the world. With the exact same blend of grape varieties, we can make a spectrum of red wine styles. From the fresh and vibrant, everyday drinking Valpolicella Classico, to the bold and rich Amarone. The significant difference between the wines we make lies in the methods of production. 


"I believe that we are producing wine in one of the most fascinating wine regions in the world."


Valpolicella Classico wines are made in a very classic vinification style; grapes harvested upon ripening, undergo fast fermentation, usually in stainless steel, followed by just a few months of clarification and then the wines are ready for release. This winemaking approach preserves all the life in the wine, resulting in purity and freshness, with immediate approachability. These wines are not excessively high in alcohol and are very easy drinking. Valpolicella Classico represents the first expression of Valpolicella. The next tier would be Valpolicella Superiore, which, by law, requires a minimum of one year aging in wood, offering a richer profile with more structure.



Amarone della Valpolicella stands as our top-tier wine, proudly serving as the flagship of our region. A dry wine made using dried grapes – it’s truly unique. While we use the same grape varieties as those in our Valpolicella Classico, for Amarone, we meticulously select the best bunches of fruit and subject them to a 100-day drying process, before fermenting them with the skins to produce the wine. During this drying period, the grapes lose approximately 40% of their weight, imparting extra concentration to the resulting wine, more colour, more structure, and more intensity. This is the essence of Amarone della Valpolicella, a wine that has elevated our region and sits alongside some of the world's greatest and most iconic wines.


"This is the essence of Amarone della Valpolicella, a wine that has elevated our region and sits alongside some of the world's greatest and most iconic wines."


Then there’s Ripasso, a clever by-product of Amarone production. This traditional winemaking technique originated from past growers who sought to avoid wastage. They used the leftover unpressed skins from the Amarone production (which are like a sponge full of Amarone juice!) by passing them through Valpolicella Classico juice for around 10 to 12 days. During this period, the Valpolicella must takes on some of that structure, tannin, colour, and intensity from the Amarone skins. The resulting wine has heightened energy, which we further refine by allowing it to age for one year or more in wood.

In the Roman era, the wine of celebration was a sweet wine known as Vinum Raeticum, essentially the ancestor of our Recioto. Think of it as the sweet counterpart to Amarone. The Romans pioneered the drying process that we still employ today to concentrate grapes, encouraging the loss of water and reaching the necessary sugar levels for producing sweet wines. What enables us to achieve this is the composition of our indigenous grapes. As mentioned earlier, they are notably large and very juicy, which means even after 100 days of drying, we still retain enough juice to make wine. Imagine attempting this with Cabernet or Merlot, for instance, which have much smaller berries; after 30 days, you'd be left with no juice! This really is the uniqueness of our grape varieties and why we continue with these ancient techniques.



Sociovino: Speri has a long history in the Valpolicella area, notably being among the first to produce Amarone della Valpolicella, in 1958. How did it all start for Speri? Tell us about the history of your family estate?

Luca: Today, we, the seventh generation of the Speri family, proudly represent the estate which is solely dedicated to wine production. However, we began as an agricultural family, farming a bit of everything, winemaking made up a small fraction of production. After WW2, everything changed, great steps were made by my grandfather, my father, and uncles (four brothers), who together drove the idea of focussing on making wine, and within that quality being the key. They were pioneers in the industry, moving towards this philosophy at a time when 90% of wine production was focussed towards volume. In the 1950’s my grandfather built our ageing cellar, and for this he was considered a crazy guy! Many thought the idea of aging wine to be unconventional, as the prevailing belief was that wine needed to be produced quickly and sold even faster to make any money. This marked a turning point for Speri, and it set the stage for several distinctive choices to follow.

One such choice was the decision to work with single vineyards - an uncommon practice not only in our region but also globally. In our cellar, we still have bottles of Sant’Urbano dating back to '74 and '75! Another significant shift occurred when we transitioned from producing a variety of styles to suit every consumer, including white wines, to focusing solely on a select few red wine styles that are typical of the area, which would ultimately become DOC and DOCG. We also made the strategic decision to exclusively use grapes grown on our estate, cultivated by our family, on our own soils, with the aim of making the best wine possible. This restructuring was pivotal and established Speri as the benchmark winery that we are proud to manage today.


"This restructuring was pivotal and established Speri as the benchmark winery that we are proud to manage today."



Sociovino: The winery is quite special in that it is managed by multiple generations of the same family, working across all aspects of the estate’s operations. Give us an insight into the familial fold, and who’s running which departments behind the scenes?

Luca: We are a big family; nine members of the family are currently actively involved in the business. What’s important to note is that every single one of us started from the bottom. All of us have worked in the vineyards and in the winery, to gain that fundamental strength in knowledge of each step of the production, this is really important to us. After this, we all naturally progressed to different positions across the business. We are very interchangeable for that reason. For example, I am the youngest of the sixth generation and today I am the Export Manager, but five minutes ago I was on the bottling line!

My cousin Alberto, together with his son Giuseppe, are our winemakers. Because our grapes, techniques, and processes in Valpolicella are so unique, its important our oenologists are internally sourced and trained. Nowhere else in the world make wine like we do. You might find the best winemaker in Bordeaux but bring them to Valpolicella and they would have no idea what to do! The same principle applies to our vineyards, and here another cousin of mine, Giampietro, takes care of the vines. 


"Nowhere else in the world make wine like we do."


In the office, Gianpaolo, another cousin, is in charge of everything from banking, accounting, all the paperwork (the stuff I hate!). Then my sisters Chiara and Laura manage our sales and marketing department, they help me a lot! I frequently travel, so they prepare and put everything together for me. Gianpaolo has two children, Francesco and Sarah, who are both young and currently finishing their studies, but they’ve been getting involved in travel too and helping a lot with social media. My father retired more than 10 years ago, but he still wants to know everything that’s going on with the business – retired but still the boss!




Sociovino: What strengths can you draw from that family bond? And what difficulties do you face at the same time?

Luca: Our strength lies in our shared clear goals and close-knit unity. As a large family, we've grown up together, sharing everything. While we may have strong opinions and occasional disagreements, our upbringing keeps us together, allowing for openness and honesty which is invaluable. Also, having multiple generations working across the company, with a near on 40-year plus age gap, we find is a huge bonus our business. This diversity in opinions, perspectives and generational insights really enriches our company. Of course, with a large family comes a multitude of views and ideas, which can present its challenges. However, it also means we have a wealth of problem solvers at our disposal!


"The diversity in opinions, perspectives and generational insights really enriches our company."


Sociovino: Tell us what inspired the designs behind the labels?

Luca: The artist was one of my uncles, who actually disobeyed my grandfather’s wishes to join the family agriculture business and went off to study art. He was pretty much exiled from the family, but my father stayed in close contact with him, and eventually commissioned him to design our first Amarone label. So, we can say even our labels are homemade! Of course, with time they have been updated but they remain linked to the original.



Sociovino: You became officially Organic Certified in 2015, what does this commitment mean to the company?

Luca: The decision to transition to organic farming was straightforward for us. Firstly, our family live amongst the vineyards, making the quality of the air and environment paramount to our well-being. Secondly, our vineyards represent our most valuable asset, and safeguarding their health is essential to their productivity for generations to come. Then we saw the response to this transition; the vines were stronger than ever, the soils healthier, the flowers flourishing, the animals thriving – everything was different.


"Today, we can proudly say we are the most important organic estate in the region."


Today, we can proudly say that we are the most important organic estate in the region. We made sure we took time to perfect our practices and make it work for our land's unique characteristics, without compromising our commitment to quality. Because of this and our size, companies now come specifically to us to test new machinery and techniques. For this reason, we really are pioneers in our area.



Sociovino: For readers who have never tasted your wines before, tell us about Speri’s range and what they can expect from these wines?

Luca: Yes, so I told you all about the difference in styles earlier but overall, what I love about our wines is their finesse, balance, and elegance. My grandfather always said, “the best Amarones are the ones you put on the table, and you can easily finish the bottle”. We are talking about a rich and intense style of wine here, but with acidity, freshness, and finesse, they can be very approachable. Technically speaking, our Amarone is one of the driest out there, lowest in residual sugar, not overly alcoholic, and has great acidity. These elements make for finesse and elegance, this is our goal, and this is what people can expect from our wines.


"the best Amarones are the ones you put on the table, and you can easily drink the whole bottle"


Sociovino: Alright, let's talk food. What are the ideal pairings to compliment your wines?

Luca: Valpolicella Classico is a wine for any occasion, it’s very easy to drink so can be an aperitivo, and also really easy to match with food; pasta, pizza, salami. I love to have it a little bit chilled too! Ripasso and Superiore have more structure, so can stand up to heartier dishes, meats, stews, and even some Asian dishes with a little spice to them. Amarone deserves something indulgent, red meat like steak, or game, and mature cheeses. Or if you have a bottle that is 15-20 years old, you don’t need anything else, just Amarone. Recioto is a sweet wine so chocolate, or biscuits. I would not advise pairing it with anything creamy, like Tiramisu, otherwise you’ll be in bed in five minutes.



Sociovino: Looking forward, what does the future have in store for Speri?

Luca: We aim to further develop our identity, gradually expand our vineyards, continuously enhance our sustainable footprint, and strive to create the best possible workplace for our employees. We also want to continue to give back to our local community, which has fostered us for so long, in our village we help with education and courses focussed on wine and things such as this. We are always growing, always moving, and always trying to give back where we can.


"We are always growing, always moving, and always trying to give back where we can."


If you've enjoyed reading about Speri’s past, present and future, we know you'll enjoy trying their wines! You can explore the full range here. 
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