An Italian Classic: 1999 Guerrieri Gonzaga – San Leonardo

San Leonardo is one of the most recognisable Bordeaux-blends of Northern Italy. It is admired by oenophiles and wine critics alike for its elegancy, longevity and consistency between vintages. In today’s article, we take a closer look at a particularly fine vintage of this Italian classic.

Since 1982 has the noble Guerrieri Gonzaga family been producing San Leonardo with the help of some of Europe’s most renowned winemakers at their state-of-the-art winery in Broghetto, a small village about 50 km south of Trento. The Villa Gresti estate was built in 1874 in Liberty style and is overlooking the scenic Dolomites mountain range.

Here in the Lagarina Valley (Vallagarina in Italian), the various Bordeaux varieties find excellent growing conditions. It was in the early 1980s when Giacomo Tachis, one of Italy’s greatest winemakers of all time, realized the great potential that the terroir of Villa Gresti has for French varieties. Soon, the Guerrieri-Gonzaga family hired Tachis as winemaker which was the birth of San Leonardo as we know it today. Tachis created Italy’s very first Bordeaux-style blend and inspired hundreds of other wineries to work with Bordeaux varieties in Italy. When he retired from winemaking in 1999, Carlo Ferrini took over from him and became the winemaker at Villa Cresti.



The beautiful Lagarina Valley. Photo by Portobenso. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

San Leonardo is the winery’s top blend and only produced in favorable vintages. This is why the wine was neither produced in 2009 nor in 2002, among other vintages. The blend has changed only a few times over the decades of its existence.

Tasting Notes: 1999 San Leonardo – Vallagarina IGT

1999 San LeonardoFor the 1999 vintage, it is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Carmenere and Merlot. The grapes are fermented and aged separately. Aging takes place in new and used French barrique barrels for 18-24 months, depending on the grape. 13% ABV.

The wine was decanted for roughly two hours prior to pouring the glasses.

Intense ruby red color with garnet hues in the glass. No sign that the wine is already 17 years old.

On the nose, San Leonardo has a great intensity with aromas of blackberries, rosemary, sage and leather. As the wine keeps evolving in the glass, tobacco and ripe berries become more present.

1999 San Leonardo BackThis is a medium-bodied, highly complex Bordeaux-blend with well-integrated tannins, a fine mineral note and a medium acidity. The 1999 vintage is vivid, harmonious and highly elegant. The wine has a silky texture. Flavors of figs, pepper blackcurrant and cocoa. Lingering aftertaste.

4.5 / 5 stars      

The current vintage of San Leonardo (2010) retails in the price range of €40-50, older vintages are still sold by some wine merchants but for much higher prices.

Find San Leonardo on Wine Searcher.

Parting Words

San Leonardo remains one of my favorite wines from Trentino-Alto Adige. The complexity and elegancy of this wine is wonderful. Its personality is remarkable and the consistency between vintages is great. Last July, I reviewed the 2006 San Leonardo, another fascinating vintage of this Italian classic.

Have you tasted San Leonardo before? How did you like it? Let me know in the comment section below. Cheers!

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