Italy, Trentino
Tenuta San Leonardo

The estate is over 300 hectares, situated in the Dolomite Mountains of Trentino. About 20 of those hectares are planted to vine on fairly loose-packed hillside soil. The vines face north-south at between 150 and 200 metres above sea level. Higher up, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon are grown on sandy soil while merlot has found a welcoming home on the pebbly soil slightly lower down.

The area has its own specific "terroir", characterised by relatively unfertile, well-drained chalk and clay soil, and "mammeloni", river benchlands with sandy sediment that built up in stages through the lateral action of alluvial cones. It has long been home to the native and non-native vine types that today enable our winemakers to create truly great wines.

The estate, founded in 1724, is owned by the Marchesi Carlo Guerrieri Gonzaga, whose lineage dates back many generations in the region and beyond. Early historical reference to the estate dates back almost 1500 years, and the winery today seeks to preserve its long, storied history through its classic winemaking style and prescience.

About 1500 years ago, a group of prisoners from Trentino were captured by French armies. On their release, the former captives decided to give thanks to the patron saint of prisoners, Saint Leonard, by erecting a chapel. The earliest evidence of the estate dates from the ninth century of the Christian era, when Nottingus, the bishop of Verona, granted in usufruct to the bishop of Trento the woodlands, meadows and vineyards he owned at Sarnis in Vallagarina. Three centuries later, the Fratres Cruciferi, an order with adherents all over Europe and which remained at San Leonardo until 1656, expanded grape growing and adopted a modern approach to viticulture at their monastery. Today, the Romanesque apse survives, with its hanging arches on the outside and fragments of frescoes inside. The ancient monastery hospice, which once gave shelter to the destitute, is the cellar where our wines mature in their barrels.

Historically, this area has been an ideal environment for varieties like Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Grigio and Lagrein, later Chardonnay and Pinot Nero were also introduced. The varieties planted are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. These grapes go into San Leonardo in the respective proportions of 60%, 30% and 10%. In particular, Carbenet Franc gives Tenuta San Leonardo wines longevity and elegance as it ripens to perfection and acquires a markedly less green, rustic personality than usual on the terroir.

There have been two consultant winemakers at Tenuta San Leonardo, Giacomo Tachis and Carlo Ferrnini. Tachis, a renowned oenologist responsible for creating some of the influential wines such as Sassicaia, Tignanello and Solaia, has been a consultant winemaker at Tenuta San Leonardo since 1983, in charge of areas of vinification and blending, by virtue of his long-standing friendship with Carlo Guerrieri Gonzaga. Carlo Ferrini, a Florence-born agricultural science graduate, has been manager of the technical office at the Consorzio del Chianti Classico, where he conceived and implemented the "Chianti Classico 2000" project and is a member of the Accademia della Vite e del Vino. A consultant winemaker at many of Tuscany's leading estates, Carlo Ferrini is active in Chianti Classico, Montalcino, Montepulciano, Arezzo and Pisa, as well as the Morellino di Scansano area of Maremma, where his skill and experience with Sangiovese grape are matched by his expertise with the Bordeaux varieties, Cabernet and Merlot.

Tenuta San Leonardo was the first estate to introduce the Guyot system of cane pruning into the province of Trento. The age of the vines ranges from 10 to 25 years and planting densities vary from 4,000 to 5,500 vines per hectare.