The Queen of Brunello
Devoted to Sangiovese, entrepreneur Elisabetta Gnudi Angelini has four wineries and many relais and agritourism in Tuscany.
Born in Rome with Bolognese origins, his grandfather was one of the founders of the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (Labour National Bank). During the last 23 years she succeeded to build a wine empire all by herself.
Life is not a movie, but the life of the entrepreneur could be a story to show on the big screen.
She started her career as a film and theatre producer, travelling for ten years around the world alongside the actor and producer Luca Barbareschi. Then, she worked in the Pharmaceutical sector, in her husband Paolo Angelini’s company. She remained widow at a very young age with two underage children, she rolled up her sleeves deciding, at the age of forty, to invest in wine: a passion that has turned into business.
Fascinated by the countryside and its universe of solid values, she preferred Tuscany over Piedmont. Currently, the properties extend over 1,100 hectares, of which 254 are cultivated with vines, with a production of about one and a half million bottles. The companies follow the first four letters of the Italian alphabet: Altesino in Montalcino, Borgo Scopeto in Chianti Classico, Caparzo in Montalcino and Doga delle Clavule in the heart of Maremma. The wineries and the medieval village of Chianti, which Gnudi has turned into a luxury dwelling, are the result of a series of efforts and bets that make her one of the women who most contributed to change the image of Italian wine.
Her labels made history and enhanced the concept of cru in Montalcino: Montalcino of Altesino is always present among the Top 100 Wine List in the world according to the Bible of Wine.
Over the years, the entrepreneur has managed to carry on her another passion: culture. She financed, with the Civita Association, some important restorations. After all, wine is an Italian cultural expression and must be protected and enhanced as a work of art.
The 65-year-old is a force of nature and wine is alongside other businesses. She does not intend to stop and tells MAG her desire to continue to invest in wine, catering and hospitality.
Your life was meant to be devoted to wine…
My mother’s last name was Uva (Grape) and I was born in September, the month of the harvest, of 1955, the year that led to the birth of the myth of Montalcino’s Brunello, with the 1955 reserve of Biondi Santi, the only Italian among the twelve best wines of the 20th century according to Wine Spectator.
When did the opportunity arise?
In 1997 I bought Borgo Scopeto in Chianti Classico, between Siena and Vagliagli, which is now a relais. It took about 30 million euros but most of all a careful conservative restoration: I chose every detail, from materials to furnishings. Around the vineyards there are 7 thousand olive trees that occupy about 40 hectares of land.
And it’s just the beginning…
In 1998 I also bought Caparzo, my “first love”. Founded in 1970, it is among the twelve historical wine cellars of Montalcino that have contributed to the creation of the myth of Brunello and, since its beginnings, has always distinguished itself for experimentation and innovation.
Four years later you scored another shot…
Yes, in 2002 it was, instead, the turn of Altesino, small and important Winery of Brunello whose vineyards in part border with those of Caparzo. Altesino is part of those small-medium-sized companies that have established themselves thanks to the high quality of the product. The pride is undoubtedly Montosoli: the first cru of Brunello obtained in 1975 from the vineyard of the same name.
The last purchase was a bet…
The fourth property is Doga della Clavulle, between Scansano and Grosseto. The farm in the Maremma, of more than 130 hectares, did not own vineyards and I planted the rooted. I was sure about the Etruscan territory and of a good Morellino of Scansano.
Why do you own two competing companies?
I could not let Altesino be sold to the French, Chateau Margaux, and that they would become my neighbors. So, even though I already had Caparzo and I was heavily in debt and with mortgages, I bought it in 2002.
By the way, two important anniversaries fall this year. Isn’t that right?
Altesino celebrates the 40th anniversary of Brunello di Montalcino “Montosoli”, the first cru born in Montalcino, with the harvest 2015, while Caparzo celebrates the 50th anniversary of the winery. About Caparzo, over the years I have expanded the vineyards and production hectares, bringing them from the initial 46 to the current 93, of which 32 are registered in the Register of Brunello and 18 in Rosso di Montalcino. This choice has determined for Caparzo – distributed by Duke of Salaparuta – the huge advantage of having vineyards in almost all the most suitable areas of Montalcino: this means that we can manage even the most demanding harvest at best, being able to make the best use of the different microclimates and terroir.
What are your main markets?
American, Canadian, all Europe, China, Japan and Russia. The percentages see the export in continuous and constant growth: from 2009 to date, exports have more than doubled. Currently the business divides between 75% of the production sold abroad and 25% in Italy.
It is curious how cinema has returned in your life…
Borgo Scopeto Relais was also the set for a part of the film “Letters to Juliet”, released in 2010. The film, which was much appreciated in the United States, recorded a growth in sales of my Brunello in the US.
Borgo Scopeto is also a large farm that produces Chianti Classico, extra virgin olive oil and a restaurant led by chef Pietro Fortunati.
As we told in the interview in Ceretto (see Mag 144), the Union of wine and art is confirmed…
Yes, an example of concrete help is the Civitas project, born from the collaboration between the Civita Association, supported by more than 130 Italian public and private companies, and the Tenuta Caparzo di Montalcino, one of the historic wineries that have contributed to the creation of the Brunello myth. Every year, a part of the proceeds from the sales of Civitas wine finances the restoration of a work of art.
I understand you’re not going to stop…
No, I still have so many dreams in the drawer to realize, starting from the work of extension of the relais. I have my two sons, Alessandra and Igino, by my side. My son is an environmental engineer. Thanks to him, Caparzio has been the first winery in Montalcino to equip itself initially with photovoltaic panels for the production of clean energy and then with a system for the total recovery of water. Today all companies produce energy, resulting partly autonomous in the name of sustainability, taking inspiration from mine.