The Padelletti family is one of the oldest of the old town of Montalcino.
Down the generations they were physicians, lawyers, judges and University
professors and often because of their work or because of political
defeats, they had to live in other towns, but a member of the family
always remained in Montalcino to take care of the land the family
owned. The bond with their land is strong and has remained unbroken.
They always took an active part in the political life of the town.
For many centuries there was a feud between the Papacy and the German
Holy Roman Emperors about the ownership of Tuscany. As the Padelletti
family sided with the Emperors, in the 13th century the head of
the family had to take refuge in Germany at the court of the Staufers
and those who remained had, for a long time, to keep very quiet.
But, in the year 1529, when Montalcino fought the Spaniards for
independence, a certain Giovanni Padelletti came back to take part
in the defense. As he was an architect, he was given responsibility
for the defense of a part of the town walls and two gates (which
still belong to the descendands of the family). However in the year
1559, the Spaniards defeated the King of France and, by the treaty
of Chateau Cambresis, Montalcino was given to the Spaniards, who
ceded it to the Medici. Again the Padelletti family had to lie low
and much of their property was confiscated. Nevertheless, by the
year 1572 the Padelletti family was again listed among the owners
of vineyards, olive groves and
tillable land who were paying a tithe to the Hospital of Montalcino.
Since then, the name Padelletti vineyards and wine have gone together.
Already by the 16th century, Montalcino was famed for the specialties
"Moscadelletto di Montalcino" and "Vinsanto".
The bulk of the red wine production was made following the same
systems as Chianti: that is using several types of red and white
grapes together. The primary reason for this was that having vineyards
with grapes maturing in different periods, the dangers from late
frosts and hail were reduced. Another reason was that the "Sangiovese"
grape did yield a very good wine but only after some years of ageing.
The addition of white grapes enabled the
production of a drinkable wine after only a few months. The landowners
were forced by the prevailing poverty to turn their crops into money
as soon as possible. The markets were also limited by the lack of
roads suitable for horse-and ox-drawn carts. Over the centuries,
however, because of the climate and soil, it was noticed that the
Sangiovese grape had changed and could produce a wine that differed
from that obtained from the same type of grape in other parts of
the country. However, it still remained imperative to age the wine
for several years to achieve the best flavour and taste, and, yet
this ageing process itself poses another problem. Normally the wine
casks were made of chestnut wood, abundant in the region, but this
wood contains a lot of tannin which, in the long run, gave the wine
a disagreeable taste. To avoid this drawback, the wood from a special
oak, that did not grow in the region, had to be used. And it was
costly. And the resulting expense limited the possible sales. So,
special wine, was made only for the landowners themselves and some
of their friends. It was noted that, when correctly aged, one of
the characters of this special wine was that it took on a reddish-brown
colour instead of the ruby red of Chianti - hence the name "Brunello"
(Browny). This wine was of no
commercial interest. So, it did exist, but in very limited quantities,
and was never sold (marketed). For a couple of centuries the Padelletti
prospered producing magistrates, bishops, many notaries and doctors.
The 19th century was not kind to the main branch of the family.
Antonio was killed in a riding accident; his son, Pierfrancesco,
after having held one of the highest positions in the Grand Duchy
of Tuscany, died suddenly while still young. Of Pierfrancescos
sons; Guido, who was a professor at the universities of Pavia, Bologna
and Rome, died before he was 35 of wounds he suffered when fighting
with Garibaldi for the independence of Italy; Dino, who was a professor
at Naples university, died equally young, of the plague. There remained
Professor Domenico, Pierfrancescos brother, who was Rector
of Pisa University and Carlo Augusto, Guidos son, who was
still an infant. Professor Domenico Padelletti retired to Montalcino
to take care of the family patrimony and assist his young great-nephew.
Professor Domenico made many improvements. He planted new vineyards
and olive groves and bought more land. So, by the time Carlo Augusto
reached 21, he inherited a large estate of well-kept land from his
great-uncle. Carlo Augusto intensely pursued a wide variety of activities.
Besides obtaining no less than four doctorates from various universities,
he was a diplomat, a judge, a lawyer and a physician. He was also
an industrialist creating many new industries in a region that had
none and which seemed to aspire to nothing beyond agriculture. The
of Montalcino was poor with high unemployment, and whose only source
of power was human or animal. By-passing steam power completely,
Carlo Padelletti chose, instead, to back the newly discovered electrical
generated by that new source of energy, the internal combustion
engine. As fuel, he used the gases generated by the burning of waste
from the timber industry. All this was before the end of the 19th
century. In fact, by 1899 Carlo Augusto Padelletti had created a
good electricity supply. As a first step, he
lit the town of Montalcino with electricity when Rome and Florence
were still illuminated by gas. Then, using his abundant financial
resources, he started setting up industries that would increase
the profitability of Montalcinos
agricultural production. A lot of wheat and cereals were produced,
but it was only in winter, when the streams were full enough to
drive the water-wheels, that wheat flour could be ground in the
mills. So, he built an electrically-powered flour mill in Montalcino,
and an olive press and a saw mill. When he needed more bricks, he
built a brick furnace. He developed an industry to utilize forestry
by-products. Then he started a large printing and book-binding industry
and, finally, a movie theatre! During this time, Carlo Augusto Padelletti
had also modernized agriculture. He introduced iron ploughs,
internal combustion tractors and harvesting machines. In the meantime,
the creation of the railway network somewhat improved the opportunities
for the export of Montalcinos agricultural produce even though
Montalcinos hill-top position did reduce this benefit to some
extent. Carlo Augusto Padelletti also did much to improve the wines
of Montalcino, presenting wine and olive oil at many Italian exhibitions
and also winning prizes abroad from London to Geneva. He opened
a sales office in Geneva to optimize the distribution of Montalcino
wines. Like other far-sighted landowners, he continued to produce
Brunello but always in small quantities. The vineyards were still
a mixture of grape varieties and the Brunello grapes were gathered
before the main harvest. It had been noted that the alluvial soils
at the foot of the Montalcino hill
produced the best Brunello, strong but agreeable. The wine from
the south slopes was too strong and from the higher slopes, too
landowners on these particularly favoured locations (the Biondi
at "La Chiusa" estate; the Padelletti at "Paradisi"
and "Rigaccini"; the Anghirelli at "Il Cigaleto")
produced the best Brunellos but never viewed it as a commercially
viable enterprise. It was true that Brunello could be aged for longer
than most other wines but, because of its high price in comparison
with better known wines and because of the general level of poverty,
making Brunello on a large scale was not a winning proposition.
Another factor was the dwindling production of grapes following
the destruction of the vineyards by phylloxera together with the
rumors of war and later, the war itself which discouraged the owners
from planting new vineyards, In 1925, Carlo Augusto Padelletti,
unable to cope with all his initiatives because of his age, had,
with some other
landowners, founded a "Cantina Sociale" and its management
was entrusted to Dr. Tancredi Biondi. Just before the Second World
War this winery had to be
dissolved because of the lack of grapes. After the war there were
almost no vineyards left in Montalcino. Some courageous landowners
then started replanting, but only Brunello grapes. The economic
situation improved rapidly and the "Italian Miracle" took
place. There was money for both investment and consumption. New
and improved vineyards were planted and new cellars with new oak
casks were made. Demand was met by increased production, but far
beyond the boundaries always considered most suitable for Brunello.
Dr. Avv. Carlo Augusto Padelletti, by now over 80, entrusted the
management of his land to his son, Guido, who continue d with the
planting of a vineyard in the original location where the best Brunello
had been produced, years before. After the division of the paternal
estate with his brothers, he was left with the "Rigaccini"
estate. He has 6 hectares of beautiful vineyards but, because of
his professional commitments abroad, he limits himself to the production
splendid Brunello grapes, using only one fifth of the best of these
to make an average of 8.000 bottles a year and selling the remainder
to other Brunello
producers. His cellar is under the family house in Via Padelletti,
on the city walls where so many generations of his family have lived.
Guido Padelletti still thinks that quantity is the enemy of quality
and tries to maintain the high
standards set by his own ancestors.