Meeting Bibi Graetz


This month, we announced our exclusive partnership with Bibi Graetz. During his latest visit to No.3 St James’s Street, we caught up with Bibi on his latest experiments, the power of terroir, and his legacy of turning Tuscany on its head. 

Bibi Graetz is far from your standard Tuscan winemaker. Since founding his eponymous winery in 2000, he’s chosen to defy the trends of the region: you won’t find a Chianti or a Super Tuscan here. Rather, he has become a champion of Tuscany’s old vines, native grapes, and lesser-known terroirs.   

Bibi was one of the first in the region to focus on fresher, elegant styles of Tuscan wine. These styles are now as intrinsic to the Bibi Graetz name as the labels that emblazon each of his bottles. Colourful, vibrant and playful, they mirror Bibi himself, who is almost as well-known today for his eccentric, creative personality as he is for his wines. 

An unusual history  

It’s often the case that an artist, in following creative pursuits, defies what’s expected of them by their peers. As with everything else, Bibi turned this trope on its head.  

“My family is a family of artists,” he says. “My grandfather was an artist, my father’s an artist.” Bibi’s beginnings did lie in art; he studied at Florence’s Accademia d’Arte. “But I never became a professional. In all my life, I’ve been painting, and I never sold one piece.” He smiles while remembering. “I was jealous, and kept them to myself.” 

Instead, he found winemaking a more amenable way to share his artistic talent with the world. . “I’m a winemaker, but I’ve never opened a book of oenology,” he continues. “I do wines like a painting.” He, with his team, spends months at the blending table each year, meticulously mixing and layering his wines, like he would a painting. “It’s very precise work, very focused on quality.”  

How did a budding artist come to realise his future lay in wine? “I never thought of being a winemaker, until the day I decided. If you would have asked me a few days before that, I would have thought that you were crazy. But then, I went to visit a winery.” 

It was Bibi’s first glimpse of what happens ‘behind the scenes’. His childhood home near Florence had had its own vineyard, but his experience with it had been limited to “playing around” on a tractor, while his mother managed things. The winery visit opened his eyes. “I totally lost it. I fell completely in love with it. In just one day, I decided I would become a winemaker.”  

Leaving Chianti behind 

Bibi started his search for suitable vineyards in 2000. “I fell in love with the idea of making wine from old vines right at the beginning,” he says. “It’s one of the key things in my work.”  This love, at the time, was unique – Tuscany was still gripped with a “Super Tuscan fever”.  

“Everybody was talking about new clones, about Cabernet, Merlot, high-density vineyards,” he says. “I didn’t know what the hell clones were, and there were no high-density old vines. But by chance, I fell in love with it.”  

The old vines Bibi acquired weren’t the popular Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, but old Tuscan varieties, which dominate production at his winery to this day. He lists them as we speak: Sangiovese, which Bibi calls the “King of Tuscany”, Canaiolo, Colorino, Ansonica. Almost as if by fate, the areas in which these flourished were the sites that Bibi was keenest to spend his time in. 

“My fear, when I started doing wine, was that I would be stuck in Florence, when I was in love with the sea and in love with the mountains,” he says. His discovery of old Ansonica vines in Giglio, a tiny island off the Tuscan coast, placed Bibi firmly by the sea and rectified one half of this problem. He located the solution to the other half in Fiesole, closer to home – quite by chance. 

“We bought this land behind Fiesole, for the new winery, and discovered this new terroir afterwards. Behind it, we found this hill that goes up, with all these paths, and grass, and cows – it gave me a feeling of the Alps.” His eyes brighten as he talks; it’s clear that this place holds a very special place in his heart. “There’s an incredible terroir there: really fresh, always windy. You feel like you’re in the mountains. Well, there’s no snow.” But he’s got a solution in mind for that, too. “Maybe one day I’ll do a Champagne in Norway.”  

The Bibi Graetz style  

The winds, altitude and coastal influences provided Bibi with cooler vines, helping him craft something quite different: “acidic, and transparent, but with such an incredible energy and freshness.”  Yet this style, now a hallmark of his brand, came about by accident.  

“In 2009, we had a very weak vintage in Tuscany,” he reminisces. “And I realised I’d made this different style of wine – it was really fresh, very Burgundian in style. People loved it.” Now, he considers this fresh character one of the “four elements” of his winemaking, alongside old vines, his unique sites, and – linking back to his roots – his art.  

“When I started to do my wine, I actually felt that I should paint my labels by myself.” Each of his bottles’ colourful labels is a Graetz original – he’s encouraged the rest of his artistic family to get involved, too. “Sometimes my children also paint the labels. It’s an ‘all in-house’ kind of thing.”   

A playful future for Bibi Graetz

The latest of these labels can be seen on Bibi’s Casamatta wines, newly redesigned this year. These are wines that, in Bibi’s opinion, perfectly encapsulate the terroirs of Giglio and Fiesole. Yet it’s when we discuss his latest project that he really lights up with excitement.  

In 2020, Bibi turned his back on his blending table for a new experiment. “I called it ‘Balocchi’,” he explains. “Balocchi means toys, the toys of Bibi Graetz!” He began to play with the grapes he had to hand, rather than consigning them all to his famous blends. 

“Testamatta and Colore [Bibi’s flagship wines] have many vineyards, many different plots, that we keep separate. And every time with these, you feel like – ‘wow, I would like to make this wine by itself. It’s so good!’” His first single-varietal wine was the Balocchi Cannaiolo, followed swiftly by a  Sangiovese, then a Colorino. Now, he’s pushed boundaries again, releasing his first ever wine from one of Bordeaux’s famous varieties: the Balocchi Cabernet Franc. 

He loops back to Fiesole. “In this vineyard, we found just a few rows of Cabernet Franc, a few rows of Cabernet Sauvignon, a few rows of Merlot – but really, two rows each, you’re talking about a tiny, tiny, tiny production.”  

It won’t be his last venture into new varieties: a Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are soon to follow, he says. It’s clear that he has no intentions of resting on his laurels just yet. Whatever comes next, it’s certain, will be as playful and unique as the rest of his wines – all of which, Bibi describes happily, as “very, very fun.”

Bibi Graetz’s wines are available to buy now on If you want to find out more about our Italian wine offering, browse our past articles here.