14 April 2021
In Conversation with Gigliola Giannetti
with Inspiring Women in Wine
Gigliola Giannetti is the founder, owner and winemaker at La Tenuta “Le Potazzine”. Gigliola is a trailblazer yet a traditionalist; an entrepreneur yet focussed on her family. She shows that you can achieve genuine greatness by focussing on all that you love. Gigliola did not come from a winemaking background but she found her way by learning from the best. In 1985 she worked for the legendary Franco Biondi Santi and in 1987, she opened a wineshop in the heart of Montalcino and worked for the Consorzio di Vino Brunello di Montalcino. There, she befriended Giulio Gambelli, who inspired her to find her own estate. In 1993, the same year her daughter Viola was born, she bought her first parcel of land. In 1996, the year her second daughter Sofia was born, she bought her second parcel of land.
1997 was the first vintage of Le Potazzine, Brunello di Montalcino. Potazzine is an Italian name for the colourful and vivacious local Tuscan birds and the name Viola & Sofia’s grandmother used to lovingly describe them. Though the 1990s in Brunello saw the rise of the modernists and the emergence of Brunello’s love-affair with barriques, the young Gigliola remained a firm believer in traditional Brunello and remained steadfastly attached to her old Slavonian casks, which she felt gave a purer expression of Montalcino. Gigliola aims ‘right from the first vinification at Le Potazzine, to make a wine in the most natural way possible, seeking balance, elegance and outstanding personality’. Today Gigliola works with both her of her daughters at Le Potazzine and the hard work of these three women is now recognised by the critics. Italian expert Ian D’Agata writes that ‘Despite its short history, Le Potazzine is universally regarded as one of Montalcino’s top dozen or so wineries. The estate is known for remarkably refined Brunellos that speak of vintage, place and grape variety with utmost precision.’
- What was your earliest wine moment?
Since forever, I was born in Argiano and I worked for Biondi Santi when I was young.
- What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a winemaker?
The biggest challenges are for sure the typical ones that all the producers face; take care of the vineyards and make a great harvest (which is not so easy in the last few years because the climate is changing a lot). Everything is amplified because I’m a woman.
- Who has had the greatest influence on your winemaking career?
The examples and the philosophy of the greatest characters of Montalcino like Franco Biondi Santi, Piero Talenti, Gianfranco Soldera and Giulio Gambelli, all influenced my career a lot. They are the people who gave a lot to this territory.
- With all your experience running two wineries at opposite sides of the world… regardless of cost, what makes a great wine?
- Do you have a fact, historical or otherwise, about Potazzine that you wished everyone knew?
A recent fact is that we invested in a new small plot, which has the peculiarity of being at almost 600 metres above sea level, which is as everybody knows, to the limit of the mandatory to produce Brunello di Montalcino, which since a couple of years has been changed. We hope not to make the harvest in the Easter season.
- What is the first question you ask another winemaker when you visit them, and why?
I always try to listen as much I as can because there is always something new to learn.
- I am sure you have drunk many memorable bottles, but which bottle inspired you to do something different and why?
Each territory has its own peculiarity, which often cannot be reproduced and it is a unique product in its genre. For sure, I often prefer elegance to power, so this is why all the wines which have those features are my favourites.
- We have had a tough year behind us. What was your favourite lockdown bottle?
For sure we’ve drunk a few good bottles from our winemaker friends in Italy, but also from other countries. Brunello 2004 of Soldera is a wine guaranteed to thrill, now more than ever since Gianfranco is not with us anymore.
- Finally, what advice would you give your younger self?
Each period has its own characteristics and issues to deal with. For sure if I have to suggest something to a young woman who undertakes this job, I’ll tell her to never give up and to get ready to prove at least 30% more than a male colleague. But to always do that with a big smile!