In the soil, amidst the vines: the story of Stefano Casadei and the spirit of Olianas | Olianas

Stefano Casadei at Olianas


In the soil, amidst the vines: the story of Stefano Casadei and the spirit of Olianas

written by Jessica Cani

A talk with Stefano Casadei: the ever-enduring bond between the human essence and the richness of the land

In Italy’s grape-growing and winemaking landscape, rich in centuries-old stories and tradition, one occasionally finds stories that capture the very essence of the bond between man and land. One such story is that of Stefano Casadei, the founder of the Olianas project in Sardinia; his life and career are a journey between Tuscany, his homeland, and Sardinia, his chosen land.  This section of the blog is a little like our home, so we felt it was only fair to welcome you in and introduce ourselves as if you were with us in the cellar, where Stefano would never leave you without a glass. "When someone comes to Olianas, whatever the time, I offer either a coffee or a glass of Vermentino. This is my customary routine: I believe that both suit any time of the day and all circumstances."
This is the beginning of our talk with Stefano.

Stefano Casadei’s philosophy

His story is that of an agriculturalist who turned his intimate connection with nature into a commitment to quality wine production. His philosophy, focused on respect for the environment and the distinctive characteristics of the land, is the cornerstone of the foundation of Olianas. His life between Tuscany and Sardinia is a dynamic balance, where nature and rurality provide both the context and daily inspiration. This dual territorial bond has radically influenced his approach to viticulture and the rhythm of his life, allowing him to adapt and thrive in two history-rich, yet very different, environments.

Olianas entrance
Olianas: beyond wine

Olianas was founded in 2001 and stems from a vision that extends beyond wine production. For Stefano, wine is a pretext to explore and enhance biodiversity, promote sustainable practices, and establish a fair and constructive relationship with the local community. The project is based on a holistic approach that considers sustainability from three key angles: environmental, economic, and social. Stefano emphasizes that “From a social point of view, creating links with Gergei and the neighboring villages, and enhancing a sense of community, is very important to me, to us." From an economic viewpoint, sustainability is essential: it ensures the continuity of work, which is inextricably linked to environmental responsibility: to Stefano this means working within natural time frames without using synthetic products.

Travel, experiences, and inspiration

Stefano is a tireless traveler. To him, travel is a unique opportunity to learn and grow both personally and professionally. From Burgundy to Oregon and California, each experience abroad provides a chance to engage with different winemaking environments, and thus enrich the Olianas project with fresh ideas and new perspectives. His curiosity and desire to learn become sources of inspiration and insight, and allow him to bring new techniques and novel vision into the Olianas project. “I am a traveler, but I don't like to travel to simply visit cities. I like to travel to understand the social features of a place and gain insight into the history of the wines and that of fellow producers around the world: how they work and how they interpret their wines."

Taste of the wine in amphoras
Roots and passion

Stefano’s passion for wine has deep roots: it dates back to his childhood, spent in the vineyards with his father. Such memories, combined with his educational experiences in France and, later, involvement in the management of the family business, have defined his path, making him an authentic and passionate winemaker. I was born in wine; I don't think I could have taken any road other than this one, because wine has always been a part of me. I used to follow my father and learn" says Stefano, and then shares a funny anecdote. "There’s a story my mother tells me, something I have no memory of, but it always makes me smile. Apparently, I got drunk when I was two years old. My father was an agronomist, and often took me to business lunches. One Saturday when I was with him, I drained all the bottoms of the glasses that had been left behind. He found me lying in the beaten wheat. There even were a few tense moments, because they couldn't tell whether I had fainted." he says, laughing. "Then, when I was six or seven, my father was in the office and I was in the cellar with the workers. It was harvest time, and I liked that intense fruit smell so much that I tasted it. It was sweet and foamy, I loved it. Then I rode home on my bike, and fell so many times that I showed up in front of my mother covered in blood."

The bond with Sardinia

Sardinia was chosen for emotional reasons and out of the firm belief that it offered a unique and unexplored terroir that could yield wines of extraordinary quality and character. "Famiglia Casadei initiated a far-reaching project that first involved traditional grape varieties, and then international ones; after that, I was looking to focus on indigenous grape varieties. It was a way to close the loop. I looked in Campania, Calabria, and Sicily. I traveled to Sardinia to help a Sardinian friend who lived in Florence and had a family vineyard. I had never been to Gergei before and fell in love with it. That's how Olianas came to be."

Landscape at Olianas
Resilience and innovation

Despite the setbacks and hardships he faced along the way, Stefano gained a keen awareness of his role and responsibilities towards the land, his company, and his family. These challenges strengthened his resilience and highlighted how important innovation, change, and listening are in a journey toward sustainability and excellence. When we ask him which moment in his career he values most, he says, "There are crossroads that leave a mark. In 2009 our group went through a major crisis. That was when I cut my teeth and learned how to do business. I had to lay people off and, at the same time, take a gamble and hire young people who believed in me. We came out of it in 2012, it was an enlightening moment. Everyone out there was waiting for me to make decisions: when you’re there, you’re all alone and making choices. Still, I do think everyone should go through it once because when you’re finally out you’ve learned how to find the way out. I felt alone, there were so many people waiting for me to choose, and I had to make choices as a good family man too. That definitely marked me. Failure does not exist if you accept change and can interpret it and go along with it. You understand it by traveling and talking to people."

A journey through the flavors of Sardinia

We started our chat with Stefano with a glass of his Vermentino, and end it with him taking us to a place he particularly loves in Sardinia: "Do you know where I go to unwind, have an informal meal, and a drink? I go to Pbread in Cagliari to get together with the owner and baker Stefano Pibi. I eat great pizza or bread, and we always open a fine bottle or two.

 Stefano Pibi, a tech entrepreneur, chose to quit his job and pursue his dream. I couldn't help but admire him, plus people who make bread and wine both work with yeast, and though these seem like two entirely different things, they’re very similar. I like talking to people who put ideas, know-how, expertise, and love into what they do."

Via Stefano Casadei, Olianas stands as the steward of a tradition that blends a sense of change and a deep respect for the land. Its story serves as a reminder of the values of sustainable agriculture, community engagement, and passion as driving forces for life and work. Each glass of Olianas wine mirrors Stephen's vision, self-sacrifice, and love for his craft. Olianas is not just a winery: it is an example of how, even in the most traditional industry, one can pursue the ideals of innovation, sustainability, and integrity.

Olianas and the vineyards