Luciano Sandrone

One of the things I want to write in summarising my trip is to talk about some of the amazing people I met who imparted some of their wisdom and experience in wine and life. I am still in the process of looking back upon my blog archive which is taking me a lot longer than it should. But as it happens one of the people I intended to write about is making his first ever visit to Australia and I was lucky enough to be invited to a masterclass showing his wines here in Melbourne by the importer Bibendum Wines. This man is Luciano Sandrone, and after introducing him I will talk about why he had such an effect upon me.

Luciano Sandrone and myself when I visited in April 2012

The Sandrone family have a long agricultural history in the Piedmont region in the north-west of Italy, specifically in Alba. This history was actually in timber which in a way is not unlike any other agricultural product where the right sight and right variety will benefit quality. Luciano’s entry into wine came in 1977 when he had the opportunity to purchase a small plot in the fabled Cannubi vineyard from which he began making tiny quantities of wine in the 1978 vintage. As he began to accumulate new vintages in the cellar of his own home, and as he gained more experience with making the wines, he decided to commercially release the 1982 vintage at Vinitaly, all 1500 bottles of which were sold to merchants for the US and Swiss markets. This was the beginning of Luciano’s meteoric rise to become one of the most important producers in Italy.

The Sandrone name is known all over the world

In the following decades Luciano’s business grew in many ways. Firstly he acquired more vineyards from which to make wine, including four within the Barolo DOCG and several more within Roero. He also began working with dolcetto and barbera to add to the nebbiolo already part of his repertoire, but kept it to these three varieties all kept separate. His daughter Barbara and younger brother Luca joined him in his endeavours as he increased production and pushed into new markets. A new cellar was completed in the late ’90s which was designed to utilise gravity-flow and thereby minimising the handling of the fruit. Today the winery produces up to 100,000 bottles from 27 hectares of vineyards, 75% of which are owned. Quality is of the utmost importance with low yields in the vineyards and very careful selection of the fruit and wine, with only the best being kept and the rest being sold in bulk.

Wines sit in bottle before release in the cellars

I visited the winery in April of 2012 during a particularly grey and rainy period. Piedmont was probably the region I most looked forward to visiting on my whole trip and I wasn’t disappointed, it ended up being my favourite place I visited. Of the many reasons I loved the region it was probably the people that made the biggest difference. I found Italians in general to be incredibly hospitable but it was the combination of humility and commitment to excellence that set the Piemontese apart. Luciano welcomed me personally and gave me one of the most memorable visits, partly because of his personality and pedigree, but also because the visit was almost entirely in Italian which I speak very poorly. The epitomy of grace and honesty with an uncompromising approach to producing the best wine, his passion is both infectious and gentle at the same time. One of the most important things he teaches is that you should see very little of his own influence as a winemaker on the wine. Only the barbera wine sees any new oak and he flies in the face of fashion by using larger tonneau barrels instead of barriques. Adding to his integrity is his program of holding back a portion of each vintage for later release to key customers, something rarely seen from a producer of his stature.

A visual representation of how the business has evolved

The current release wines I tasted at the masterclass this past week were all those I tried at the winery almost one year ago (we get the wines a little later all the way down here in Australia). It was interesting to compare my original notes with my new ones. Here is the original post where I visited Luciano, and here are the most recent tasting notes.

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