The Saint of Sangiovese Gambelli

Yesterday, I received yet another round of remembrances of the great Giulio Gambelli (who passed away a few days ago), including one by my good friend Francesco Bonfio, president of Vinarius, the association of Italian wine shops.

    He was an exquisite, deeply humble person whose humility was rivaled only by his extraordinary knowledge of Montalcino and especially Chianti Classico. Every time I saw him at the presentations of new vintages he would whisper to me the names of two or three wines that I should taste. But he didn’t just say the name of the farm: he noted the vintage, category, and often the vineyard, specifying this one, yes and this one, no. And they were all his wines. But at the same time, being the great gentleman that he was, he would also point out wines from wineries that he had just tasted — wines, although not his own, that had piqued his interest. Honestly, I’d have to say that he was more apt to praise these than his own creations.

For all the bitter discord that inhabits Montalcino and Chianti Classic and the continuing acidic debate over the inclusion of international grape varieties in Montalcino and Chianti Classico, the hagiography of Gambelli has united the entire spectrum of Tuscan grape growers, winemakers, wine writers, and lovers.

If, in vita (in life), this man championed Sangiovese in purezza (in purity) as Tuscany’s greatest and ultimate vinous expression, let us hope that in morte (in death) his legacy will continue to inspire all of us to transcend our earthly weakness.

Sit tibi terra [tuscolana] levis Juli.

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