Winemaking in Chianti
an interview with Giacomo Trambusti
by Marla Norman, Publisher
Driving through Chianti’s rolling hills, peppered with deep green vineyards and caramel colored swaths of cyprus and olive trees, is a rare pleasure. Some might say the drive is vastly better than the wine produced there. Decades of mediocre wine production have badly tarnished the image of Chianti.
Wines produced in Chianti subregions, such as Brunello di Montalcino and Montepulciano are better made, and have consequently become more popular. The “Super Tuscans” made in the region are even more in demand. These wines are produced outside the Italian wine classification regulations. Super Tuscans break the “rules” and use varying percentages of Sangiovese (the primary grape varietal of the region) or none at all in their blends. They may also include combinations of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Wines such as Sassicaia, Soliaia, Sammarco and Tignanello have become the darlings of wine connoisseurs.
But Tuscany is essentially the home of Chianti. Fortunately, there is a new wave of winemakers dedicated to raising the caliber of Chianti. Additionally, in 2014, a new category of Chianti Classico was introduced to govern winegrowers called Gran Selezione (similar to a Premier Cru level in France). One of the Chianti vineyards awarded this class, is Trambusti. Recently I had a chance to visit the Trambusti vineyards and to speak with Giacomo Trambusti, the company sales director, whose grandfather founded the winery.
The Trambusti family wine business consists of four generations. Could you explain a bit about the family dynamics regarding wine production, sales, marketing? Who does what and why?
The company Chianti Trambusti SRL includes my father, Giovanni Trambusti, who is still the main owner of the company, and then me, my brother Francesco and my sister Veronica. I’m the oldest and I manage sales in the EU, China and Japan. My sister is in charge of accounting and she also manages the agritourism at our estate Tenuta Poggio ai Mandorli. Francesco is involved in the production process and is responsible for the bottling lines.
Why do I take care of sales instead of administration? Very simply, I don’t like to stay in the office! I like traveling and visiting people in other countries.
What are some of the most noticeable changes that have occurred in recent years for your family — both in terms of wine making and marketing.
In 2005, we bought an estate – Tenuta Poggio ai Mandorli. We then became a producer of Chianti Classico wines. (Editor’s Note: Prior to the acquisition of the Tenuta Estate, Trambusti only purchased grapes to produce their labels.) Tommaso, my older son, began working for the company in 2013. So now we have the fourth generation. He’s following me in marketing and sales. Lorenzo, my youngest son, is studying oenology and will soon be joining the company. Obviously he’ll be in charge of wine production, vineyards, etc.
What markets are you looking to expand into?
The market we are mostly looking to is China.
What is the long term plan for your Tenuta Poggio ai Mandorli Estate wines? Are you personally in charge of that program?
The long term plan at the Estate is to build a new cellar. It’s a project which will require at least two years.
Is more emphasis put on the Estate wines than for the wines you produce with grapes from other vineyards?
Yes of course! Poggio ai Mandorli is where my grandfather Orlando (the founder) was born. I have much more interest in selling a bottle of the wine where my grandfather was born than a bottle from a negociant’s label.
What is your opinion of the new Gran Selezione classification? How will it change the Tuscan wine landscape?
The Gran Selezione is good news inside the world of Chianti Classico, and it will represent the top quality wines. This will grow the image of Tuscan wines, but on the other hand the price is not very cheap!!! The reality is that we’ll only understand if this category has been a good idea after three or four years. For the moment, as we travel around the world, we notice great enthusiasm for the Gran Selezione.
What needs to happen to make Chianti more viable, more competitive in the world arena?
I think that the most important thing to make Chianti more viable must be the stabilization of prices. In other words we cannot change price two to three times a year with our clients.
You also produce olive oil. Is it for personal satisfaction, historical preservation or is there a goal to expand that business?
At Tenuta Poggio ai Mandorli we have 1,900 olive oil trees which are sufficient to cover our family needs and to have a little business in Tuscany, where we sell our olive oil to the best Florentine restaurants. Unfortunately the small production doesn’t permit us to expand this business.
Trambusti wines are available through Trader Joe’s, who carries their Estate Chianti Classico Gran Selezione. Other Trambusti wines, including their estate bottled Chianti, Rosso di Montalcino, Super Tuscan Sentimento and Vernaccia di San Gimignano can be purchased through onlinewine.net.
The family also rents out three beautifully appointed apartments at their villa on the estate. Each unit includes 4-6 beds, a living room, kitchen, bathrooms with shower or tub. A pool is available to guests as well.
The property is situated in the midst of the Trambusti vineyards, with extraordinary views. The villa allows for easy access to Siena, San Gimignano, Montalcino and other Tuscan attractions. Arrangements can also be made for wine tasting and catered Tuscan dinners at the estate. For more information, see “Vacation in a Tuscan Villa” in this issue.