In The Vineyards with: Gabriele Buondonno (Tuscany)


To what extent are our lives ruled by luck or labour? Do we end up in that job because we’ve worked blood sweat and tears for it, or because someone once gave us a lucky break?

The same question can also apply to our love lives: are you in a relationship because you’ve made every compromise and sacrifice to make it work or because you found The One that made everything else fit into place?

For me, I definitely had my lucky break when I was given my first job at the Cave Augé. Admittedly we all know how that turned out, but it was Marc being ready to take a risk on me that gave me my leg-up in the wine industry. (I’ve worked my ass off since then… just for the record!)

Buondonno Winery

For Gabriele and his wife Valeria, it seems it was a dream that came finally true.

They bought the Casavecchia alla Piazza in 1988. It is situated in the heart of the beautiful rolling countryside that is Chianti Classico, perched on the hilltop, and can trace its history back to the 1500s, when it was owned by the Michelangelo family.

The estate comprises a total of approximately 20 hectares of which only eight are planted with vines (Sangiovese, Colorino, Canaiolo, Merlot and Syrah.) The rest is given over to olive trees and farmland.

One of my first questions was to ask Gabriele why two born-and-bred Neapolitans would come north to make wine.

Chance played its role apparently – that the estate would be up for sale, that they were able to move with their three children. Nevertheless, being agronomists, they were certainly up for the challenge. They had a clear vision of how the vineyard should be managed, becoming organic from the very get-go (1989).

Buondonno Tasting

The resulting wine is a far cry from the astringent liquid that they used to serve in Italian restaurants with red-checkered tablecloths from a fiasco. The range is made up of the Chianti Classico DOCG, a Riserva, a Syrah-heavy Campo ai Cilegi and a Merlot. Relatively long fermentations, vinification in barrels and barriques… each has its own character and personality but every one I tasted was solid and well-balanced.

Watching Gabriele in the vineyards, everything starts to fit into place. The pride he takes in his wine, the fondness he has for his dog (who follows him everywhere) his horse and the chickens. You see how the winery plays host to his family-life (cf. the skateboards and basketball hoop by the winery) and equally how his family is implicated in the winemaking (his daughter started with the last vintage.) This is no fluke. He was made for the job.


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