Winemaker Interview: Gabriele Tacconi

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 06-07-2019

Gabriele Tacconi

Gabriele Tacconi

As our regular readers know, from time to time, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker to probe their winemaking philosophy and to gain insight into how they became who they are. This week, we are featuring Gabriele Tacconi, the chief winemaker at Ruffino.

You have undoubtedly seen at least some of Ruffino’s wines in wine shops and restaurants. But you may not have known that Ruffino was founded by Ilario and Leopoldo Ruffino in 1877 — more than 140 years ago — and that Ruffino has continued traditional winemaking while collecting prized vineyards. And while you may be familiar with Ruffino’s Prosecco, Riserva Ducale (Chianti Classico Riserva), or Riserva Ducale Oro (Chianti Classico Gran Selezione), you may not have known that Ruffino also makes Lodola Nuova (Vino Nobile), Modus (Super Tuscan), and Greppone Mazzi (Brunello).

Gabriele has been with Ruffino since 1998. After eleven years, in 2009, he became Ruffino’s chief winemaker, handling production of all of Ruffino’s wines, and he has continued in that role for ten years now.

Check out the interview below the fold!

Where were you born and raised?

I was born and raised in Modena, Italy—land of great food (tortellini), sparking wines (Lambrusco), balsamic vinegar, and fast cars (Ferrari and Maserati).

When and how did you get into wine?

As a child I helped my granddad with his small Lambrusco vineyard. I love the countryside and food and wines… What else I could have done as a job other than being a winemaker!?

What has been your career path to where you are?

I worked a couple of year as junior winemaker in Sicily. And then, in 1998, I came across Ruffino with its iconic Tuscan wines, and the rest is history.

In your view, what makes your vineyards special?

A number of reasons. Our vineyards are planted with amazing native grapes such as Sangiovese. They are located in Tuscany — a favorable and wonderful region with diverse soils and exposure. And the fruit from these vineyards is then crafted into our fine wines with the help of a very talented team at Ruffino using state-of-the-art wineries.

What is your general winemaking philosophy?

My philosophy is based on a lot of time spent in the vineyards tasting grapes and even more time spent in the cellar tasting every single fermentation tank. The classic Tuscan wines, such as Chianti Classico and Brunello, are steeped in tradition yet they have to stand in the future. As a winemaker, I am devoted to honoring Ruffino’s heritage while embracing innovation.

What’s your biggest challenge as a winemaker?

The seasonal differences especially with the very sensitive Sangiovese grape is a challenge. For instance, Tuscany often experiences spring frosts, summer heatwaves, and at harvest-time, rain. This can make things very tricky as Sangiovese can be very temperamental and with its thin skin, it is especially sensitive to environmental changes.

Who are your favorite winemakers in history, through personal account, or their wines?

Good question. My favorite winemakers are the ones who dedicate their talent to working in synergy with the land. While there are a lot of these talented winemakers, if I have to say only one name it would be Genevieve Janssens — she has been with Robert Mondavi’s winery for a long time and has made Mr. Mondavi’s dream possible.

What new winemakers are you most excited about, and why?

In my opinion new winemaker are very excited about the incredible attention that is around wines and food. More than ever now, food pairing, is the most interesting part of the challenge!

What’s your favorite wine region in the world – other than your own?

Alto Adige, a region that sits at the foot of the Dolomites in northern Italy, is my favorite. White wines such as Kerner, Riesling, and Sauvignon, and reds like Lagrein are incredible! Second place is the Champagne region, and third place for Emilia Romagna with sparkling Lambrusco.

What’s the best wine you’ve ever tasted? The most interesting?

For me tasting every wine is an experience. And, it’s often a combination of friendship, food pairing, taste pleasure, and more. I have had a lot of these great experiences and can’t say which was the best one.

What’s the oldest bottle in your cellar? The most expensive?

The oldest vintage in the “Riservetta” (old cellar) is a 1947 Riserva Ducale Oro; the most expensive is Alauda (an IGT Toscana made from Cab Franc, Merlot, Colorino) that is $100, and Romitorio Gran Selezione (90% Sangiovese, 10% Colorino), but that wine is not presently available in the US.

What’s open in your kitchen right now?

2018 Ruffino Chianti Organic, perfect for enjoying with food!

If you had to pick one red and one white to drink for the next month with every dinner, what would you choose?

The red: Ruffino Romitorio di Santedame Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2016 (90% sangiovese-10% colorino). The white: Ruffino Prosecco Bio (Organic) Extra Dry.

Is beer ever better than wine?

I love beer. They are great with a lot of food but I consider wine a better food companion.

How do you spend your days off?

Riding motorcycles, hiking in the Dolomites (Italian Alps).

What would people be surprised to know about you?

Perhaps that as a winemaker my life is not a full-time tour of wine regions, visiting wineries, organizing wine tastings with friends, etc. My activities with wine and those that are not related to wine are complementary — I need them both for balance.

If you weren’t making wine for a living, what would you be doing?

It’s a long list! 1st place brew master, 2nd place chef, 3rd place musician in a rock group, 4th place motorcycle mechanical engineer. I have a lot of choices…

How do you define success?

Success is not given to you; you almost entirely make it by yourself. It is a balance between talent, respect, inspiration, drive, attraction, kindness, attention, and listening. It’s a sensation of happiness and be satisfaction. There’s no room in it for arrogance, lack of true values, or isolation.

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