Yesterday we took a close look at Brunello's most staunchly traditional side. Today we turn to the best example of a more modern interpretation, still thoroughly grounded in traditional practices. La Gerla's history is incredibly rich. Its wines today flaunt a silken frame, great approachability, still complete with the tension and whisper of austerity that makes Sangiovese from this village so esteemed. I'm thrilled to be able to offer the 2010 vintage today, undoubtedly one of the most spectacular here in the last several decades.
La Gerla, on Montalcino's north side, was originally owned by the pioneering Biondi-Santi winery, who in fact created the very first "Brunello di Montalcino". The story behind the sale is an amusing one with Franco Biond-Santi's disgruntled sister selling this small slice to Sergio Rosso in 1976. Sergio made immediate changes to the farming and cellar practices to upgrade everything and two years later in 1978 the first commercial La Gerla Brunello di Montalcino was released.
In the mid 1980's a parcel on the south side was purchased and since then the two sides have been blended for the estate's Brunello, giving a complete snapshot into the entirety of Montalcino's terroir. Today the estate encompasses 12 hectares, all of which are organically farmed. Only 3,000 bottles are produced annually of the Brunello.
The name La Gerla refers to the historic small wooden picking bins that vineyard workers would wear on their backs. The name is an hommage to the sacrifice made by the men and the women in the vineyards who worked tirelessly to ensure the best raw materials were brought into the cuverie. It's this reflection on the viticulture effort that makes itself clear visiting with winemaker, Alberto Passeri. There's a genuine respect here on the farming practices, community, and exacting approach in the cellar that's so refreshing to see. A thorough tour of the estate with Passeri was as in-depth and informative as any during my stay in Tuscany.
At first glance the cellar appears to be the model of tradition - the Brunello and Rosso are aged exclusively in large Slavonian botti. The reason La Gerla has elements of the more modern qualities of the region come down to fermentation. Instead of the very traditional 30+ day maceration after de-stemming and crushing, here the whole berries see a week long cold soak. Then they're fermented for 2 weeks regularly employing delestage, a method where the entirety of the juice is removed off the skins and then replaced (also known as "rack and return"). This endows the wines with a rounder and softer tannin quality. But, the aging in large format really helps to maintain a sense of verve and snap to the wines, one that for me is so often lost with the more modern choice to age in small, new barrique.
Technical notes aside, La Gerla really impresses for perfectly finding that balance between these two styles. In their youth they offer an upfront drinkability that's rare.They're also one of the very few that sit in this category still lining the cellar racks of the most devout collectors of Tuscany's most traditional wines. Being able to offer the home run 2010 vintage today, two years after its initial release, is a real pleasure. It's the ideal vintage to dive into right away to see a more luscious and generous side of Brunello with classic roots.
2010 La Gerla Brunello di Montalcino
$56 per bottle.