Gianni Brunelli Le Chiuse di Sotto 2010-2020

Italy, Brunello di Montalcino

Gianni Brunelli Le Chiuse di Sotto 2010-2020

Once upon a time Gianni Brunelli asked Laura for a cigarette in Siena’s famous Piazza del Campo. This was the beginning of a 30-year relationship and a lifelong love for each other and the land they so lovingly tended.

Constant Love

With a name like Gianni Brunelli, one cannot help feeling it was his destiny to make Brunello di Montalcino. Originally from Montalcino, Gianni Brunelli, and his family moved to Siena, and it was there that he met his future wife, Laura, who had come to Siena from Sardinia to study biology. “Gianni Il Brunelli,” as she liked to call him, asked her for a cigarette in Siena’s famous Piazza del Campo. This was the beginning of a 30-year relationship and a lifelong love for each other and the land they so lovingly tended. 

Gianni was ambitious and had dreams to open an “old fashioned inn” in Siena and serve some of the best local dishes, but he had no money. However, with the help of two local shopkeepers who trusted and invested in Gianni’s ideas, in 1977, he and Laura set up what was to become one of Siena’s best-loved restaurants, Osteria Le Logge. In the early days, Elvira, Gianni’s mother, did the cooking, and Gianni and Laura were brilliant at looking after the front of house. The restaurant was a great success and is still going strong today. 

Tragically, in 2008 Gianni Brunelli died unexpectedly, leaving Laura to manage and run the estate.

But Gianni had always wanted to buy back a piece of land to the northeast of Montalcino originally planted by his father in 1947, which his father had been obliged to sell, something Elvira always regretted. In 1987, Gianni achieved his dream when he bought the five hectares known as Le Chiuse di Sotto, planted with two hectares of Sangiovese and the rest with olive trees from which they make their own olive oil. Ten years later, Gianni and Laura were able to buy Podernovone, a 4.5-hectare property on the south-eastern slopes of Montalcino, not far from the historically famous Biondi Santi estate. The Podernovone estate is made up of four vineyards, Olmo, Oliva, Quercia, and Gelso, mostly planted with Sangiovese for their Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino wines but also with some Merlot.

Tragically, in 2008 Gianni Brunelli died unexpectedly, leaving Laura to manage and run the estate. But, with the help of her brother-in-law Adrian Brunelli and a small team, the Gianni Brunelli Brunello di Montalcino have become some of the very best in the region. Laura and I had a connection through the late Nick Belfrage MW and Nick Bielak MW, whom we both thought the world of. Their company Vinexus was her UK importer, and Laura felt a deep loyalty to Nick Belfrage, who had supported her when Gianni died. Some other importers had been unwilling to take a chance on her, but Nick stood loyally by and continued to import her wines into the UK. This she never forgot. She still refers to Belfrage as “the master.” 

Having tasted and loved their wines for years, meeting Laura and her brother-in-law for the first time was a thrilling experience for me. We were still in the period of the pandemic, and COVID was still on everyone’s minds, and people were very tentative about meeting each other. I remember Laura and Adrian greeted me wearing masks; because it was cold, they wore bobble hats, and Laura wore a thick headscarf that covered her ears. I was also wrapped up in scarves, which made us all look a little surreal against the backdrop of the lush vineyards below Montalcino, with its rolling landscape of vineyards and olive groves surrounded by dense woods and its big open skies framing distant views of Monte Amiata, sacred mountain to the Etruscans.

Laura, Adrian, and the team spend a lot of time in the vineyards and do a lot of sorting and selecting there before the grapes come anywhere near the winery. Laura believes very much in respecting what nature gives them in each vintage and in trying to reflect that in the wines. In 2020, for example, spring frost and then high temperatures in the summer and lack of rain greatly reduced quantity. But, as Laura explains, “Thanks to the meticulous work carried out in the vineyard, the quality of the grapes was excellent, but the conditions…caused lower yields of grapes and therefore also of wine.”

"This is part of the beautiful work of a wine grower: to follow the rhythm of nature and trying to stay in harmony with it, to fight different adversities every year and rejoice in the work achieved, even when there are years with a lower production like this."

And in the winery itself, they are meticulous about cleanliness and hygiene. When you walk through the winery, everything is in its place. The floors are pristine, with not a drop of water, which one often sees in working wineries. Everything is spick and span and super-clean, almost as if Mary Poppins herself had click, click, clicked everything into place with a snap of her fingers. Yet the feeling is not clinical, just pure and transparent.

Amor Costante, the name of their IGT Merlot and Sangiovese wine, means “constant love” or “love is constant” and is an idea dedicated both to Laura’s beloved late husband but also to the constant and attentive love of the land that is necessary to produce these limpid expressions of Sangiovese and Merlot. Yet Laura sees herself as more of a caretaker:

"We are only renting this land from God, only borrowing it, and we have to respect what we have."

Her wines have an intense purity about them, a transparency and brilliance of fruit expression that is quite rare. They are like raindrops of purity and clarity in expressing both a sense of place and the character of the vintage. 

Article & Reviews by Susan Hulme MW
Photos by Svante Örnberg

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