Santa Giulia Winery | at the heart of the Brunello wine region Q&A w/ Gianluca Terzuoli, owner
One of the producers of Brunello di Montalcino. One of maybe one hundred smaller family run wineries in the Montalcino area with 8 to 10 hectares of vineyards. There are roughly a total of 220 wine producers in the relatively small area of the municipality of Montalcino in the province of Siena which lies on the slopes surrounding the stunning hilltop town of Montalcino.
Gianluca likes to describe himself as “Owner” but with only 2 full time employees – numbers obviously swell for seasonal work in the summer and autumn – it’s clear that in his definition of “owner” he is the one who does everything that may be required, from tending the vines, to doing the accounts, to fixing the tractor and much more.
Q | How did winemaking start for you?
A | My involvement with the family business was not a given from the start despite being the only child.
My grandfather bought the vineyard in the post war years which was of great struggle for Italians. My grandfather and my father only produced grapes to sell to other winemakers.
After starting my studies of Economics and then Political Sciences at University I had no intention of joining the family business and as a boy I was bold enough to declare that I would do anything as long as it wasn’t working for the family in the vineyard.
However, the call of this land and the vines were too strong and with 25 I returned home. My passion was always there, because when you are born in such a place it remains inside of you and you cannot abandon it for too long. It was good for me to return home with fresh eyes and ideas for the business, because I think it took us to another level, creating our own wine in 1999 with an initial production of just 1733 bottles of Brunello with which I worried about how I would be able to sell at that time. (No problem there as it turned out of course!). Today our production is of about 35,000 bottles having extended production of grapes beyond the Sangiovese Grosso variety to also include Merlot. Rosso di Montalcino was introduced in 2000 and Merlot more recently in 2015. (More about Merlot later)
Q | How important was it for you to meet Kae, your wife?
A | Contrary to what people might imagine, we did not meet with her arriving at a wine-tasting as an overawed Japanese tourist.
Instead the story is more unusual, fact being sometimes stranger than fiction.
Fifteen years ago there was a very popular Manga (Japanese comic book in print) which featured one edition set in Montalcino. And 5 or 6 wineries were cited including Santa Giulia which thus became extremely well known as a producer of Brunello wine in Japan. Meanwhile, Kae, who during her university studies had spent a semester at Siena University, had decided to remain in Tuscany to further her Italian experience.
She was working for a Japanese lady who ran a Bed & Breakfast and Kae was also a tour guide for Japanese tourists. She and the B & B owner decided to go and meet the owners of Santa Giulia as it was so famous amongst their clients... They developed a good rapport with us, leading to wine tastings with their Japanese clients, where until that moment there had only been tastings with American clients, and after getting to know each other better over a period of time, I would say that love began to blossom.
Q | What can you say about Merlot at a wine region where Brunelli grape variety is king?
A | We decided to add this grape variety and make this wine to mark the arrival of our first born. We called the wine “Quarto Giro” (literally 4th time around) with the idea that Cesare could be the first of the 4th generation at Santa Giulia winery. Anyway I am amandant that all 3 of our children (2 boys – Cesare and Valerio, and one year old baby girl Livia) will be free to choose their future careers, regardless of the fact that the current value of a hectare of vineyards in Montalcino is currently at about 800,000 Euros per hectare, which means that they are assured of a rosy future whatever they may choose.
Q | Speaking about children and the love we have for them, how do you see the future for Montalcino as a wine region due to the fact that we see more and more big players investing in it, investments that come from Germany, Argentina or the USA?
A | I can’t compete with them! We have seen in the last 2 decades millions and millions of Euros invested in wineries in the Montalcino area. They have been drawn by the fame and high value of the Brunello wine.
But I think that it isn’t only money that’s important because apart from the consistently high quality of our wine it’s natural and right that it should taste a little different every year as a result of changing factors like climate etc.
Q | What is the most important aspect in winemaking for you?
A | I would say that for us, as a small family business, the personal touch and our own particular story is the most important aspect when making wine. This expresses itself in 2 ways: I am able to maintain full control over the whole wine making process, as the winery is small enough not to have to delegate and therefore lose my personal control over every detail - which makes the difference to a good wine made by paid experts - and my own wine that is special and specific to my family and winery.
And then there is Kae who takes care of all the public relations, social media etc with great personal involvement. She calls the wine tastings “wine experience” because she welcomes people literally into our home, with the wine tasting room upstairs and our children still curious to meet the guests. Both she and I see the importance of sharing our story and the story of the winery we are both so passionate about.
Q | What can you tell us about Montalcino terroir?
A | It is known that the terroir of Montalcino is blessed by just the right conditions for superb wines. It is situated not far from the sea at about 70km and yet partially shielded by the strong winds coming from the sea by mountains nearby.
I also think that it is very important to take care of the land and the soil itself. For that same reason I have moved to organic farming as more and more local producers are doing. For example, it is very important to allow the grass to grow around the vines as the grass roots allow movement and oxygenation of the soil.
Although this change was made only 3 years ago, my organic Brunello will not be on the market before 2027 as it needs five years after harvesting to be ready for drinking. Also there is a strict certification process in Italy, following European directives for becoming officially organic. I think this trend is holding despite the higher costs of organic farming which are only sustainable for me and fellow producers, due to the high value of the Brunello wine.
Q | What do you usually do in your free time?
A | In our daily life me and Kae try to be coherent with our personal values. That is why we have an organic vegetable garden and we also grow our own organic grain, from which Kae has just started making bread. We also have our own pigs and chickens. We hope to go even greener in the near future with plans to invest, as soon as we can, in voltaic panels and other renewable energy resources.
Santa Giulia Brunello ia Montalcino Riserva 2013 DOCG
Tasting Notes: This wine pours a deep ruby red color and gives intense, elegant, spicy aromas. The palate is dry, warm and soft with a wonderfully well balanced body. This is a very elegant wine with fantastic structure. It is suitable for long aging due to the presence of ripe tannins and acidity.
Grape Variety: 100% Brunello
Aging: 24 months in Slovenian oak barrels, plus 12 months in small French barrels, plus a minimum of 12 months in the bottle and a total of 6 years from harvest to release