Obituary: Giulio Gambelli

Tuscan consultant and champion of Sangiovese Giulio Gambelli has died aged 86.

Considered one of the greats of Tuscan winemaking, Gambelli was a staunch supporter of Sangiovese and sought its recognition at a time when it was considered nothing more than a bulk wine.

Nicknamed “Bicchierino” – Little Glass – Gambelli became involved in wine when only 14 and never studied oenology properly, relying solely on his sense of smell and taste which were widely acknowledged to be considerable.

Born in 1925 in Poggibonsi in Siena, he began visiting the region’s largest winery Enopolio de Poggibonsi where he learnt to taste wine with the institute’s director, Tancredi Biondi Santi, who eventually made him assistant in the institute’s laboratory.

In 1942 his talent for tasting was spotted by Pier Tommaso Marzi and the pair began producing Chianti Classico in Bibbiano, to which Gambelli maintained a link for 60 years.

He had a profound love of Sangiovese and during his lifetime he consulted for many of Tuscany’s top estates including: Villa Rosa, Poggi di Sotto, San Donatino and Ormanni.

He helped inspire a great many producers in the region to focus on Sangiovese, raising it from relative obscurity, and his own appreciation for it as a grape was no doubt inspired by his mentor Santi who cultivated Sangiovese in his Il Greppe vineyard in a region later made famous as Brunello di Montalcino.

Gambelli himself never wrote any of his methods down, still less wrote any memoirs so his legacy will have to continue in the practices at the estates at which he consulted.

His life was documented by his friend, the food and wine writer Carlo Macchi, in ‘The man who knows how to listen to wine” (pictured above) a review of which described Gambelli as a man of: “humanity, honesty, simplicity and great soul, far from the spotlight and not appreciated as he should be.”


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