Beauty ranks high on Brunello Cucinelli’s list of priorities.
So much so that even the vineyards planted in Solomeo back in 2011 must please his scrutinizing eye. Also, he believes time must never be rushed, especially if one wishes to offer a top-quality wine. In fact, 11 years after those first seeds, Cucinelli unveiled in Milan the 2018 vintage of the Rosso del Castello di Solomeo, which will be selectively distributed starting next year.
Cucinelli emphasizes that the vines in Solomeo, the medieval hamlet near Perugia, in Italy’s Umbria region, that he has restored over the years and that is also home to his namesake company’s headquarters, “are cultivated according to the classic principles of viticulture, which I consider a true art; I like to think that our grapes can finally tell their own story of beauty. I believe there is nothing more beautiful than sharing this precious fruit, born out of a long process of care and custody, with lifelong friends and loved ones.”
The vineyard covers an area of 5 hectares — 6 considering the gardens — in which three types of soil alternate: alluvial clay-sandy, alluvial clay-silt and marly arenaceous, each carefully matched to a specific vine variety.
The aerial view is stunningly beautiful. More than 20,000 vines wind along the undulating rows of the Solomeo vineyard “according to nature,” explains Cucinelli, who had the rows arranged following a wave pattern that “makes the vineyard similar to a garden that requires periodic and specific manual maintenance and allows the plants, thanks to their exposure, to receive the maximum amount of light whilst favoring aeration.”
The production capacity stands at about 9,000 bottles a year.
The grapes chosen for the Castello di Solomeo wine are cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon and merlot, from which the prestigious Bordeaux blend is made; the Sangiovese vine is then added as a tribute to the culture and winemaking tradition of Central Italy.
“Brunello Cucinelli does not do anything just the normal way,” says renowned oenologist Riccardo Cotarella, who advised the entrepreneur on this project.
“When Brunello called me, it was very clear that he wanted and was hoping for a great red wine that would represent a symbol for Umbria,” says Cotarella. “He is exacting and has very clear objectives in mind. Brunello loves the land where he was born, and he does all he can to add value to and highlight Umbria — his parents were farmers and the love for the land has remained ingrained.”
Cotarella says that preserving the beauty of the territory is of utmost importance to Cucinelli and that “all the plants, the vineyards, the olive trees needed to be precisely and perfectly placed in a semicircular way, which was also the best way to capture the rays of sunshine.”
This venture, he continues, stems from Cucinelli’s passion. “I work with more than 100 companies in the world and I have never found this incredible precision, down to the smallest detail, in anyone else,” observes Cotarella.
He further explains that “there are no red grapes that can give this kind of result in Umbria, except for Sangiovese” and that the process of planting these grapes must be done “in a scientific way, which is what makes the difference,” citing, for example, the “very low position of the plant.”
An additional meticulous step involves working “not the cluster of grapes, but the best single grape, manually separated.”
Cotarella also says that Cucinelli insisted on keeping the wine in the bottles for four years, “which is a very particular choice, waiting for the perfect maturity, and he was right. Wine is not simply a drink but it’s a cultural symbol of tradition and innovation.”
In 2018, Cucinelli presented an additional step in the restoration of Solomeo’s outskirts, recovering 173 acres of land near his manufacturing plant and tearing down six old industrial buildings, planting vineyards, olive trees, sunflowers and wheat, among other things.
He set up the Cantina, or wine cellar, with a statue of Bacchus placed at the entrance and visible from the hamlet. At the time, he said Pliny the Elder in his “Natural History” wrote that “the grapevine is the symbol of work, the nobility of cultivation, and worship. The wine cellar is the temple that I dreamed of dedicating to Mother Earth.”
Indeed, in the pamphlet to introduce the wine, Cucinelli expresses his love for the earth. “The fruit of the vine, together with oil, which I have been producing for many years, is a primordial symbol of the Earth that has been handed down to us from time immemorial. I imagine wine from Solomeo as an act of filial sacredness toward the Earth, which inspires me in every choice, in life, in work, in the enchanted landscape.”
Always mindful of the changes taking place, he says he felt he could “see the dawning of a bright future where high-tech, in harmony with biology, will increasingly be a precious tool for humanity, aware of the great symbols, the great ideals, the congenital values of the human species. Among these values wine is one of the noblest, source of that wisdom whose father was Dionysus, and which, regulated by Apollo according to what Nietzsche tells us, is the most human and complete form of knowledge.”
This being Cucinelli, who’s known for his interest in philosophy and ancient civilizations, he quotes Greek rhetorician and grammarian Athenaeus of Naucratis, who in the third century AD wrote in his “Deipnosophistae” that it was “on the sea the color of wine that Dionysus brought all that is good for men.”
Just as it was back then, continues Cucinelli, he likes to “imagine that this wine of ours can gladden the most pleasant symposia of people renewing this most human of rituals.”
More practically, Cucinelli once again touts the decision to publicly list his namesake company in 2012. “Without the initial public offering, which helped us create longevity for the company, we could not have done so many things,” he said simply. “And if we don’t sell our pullovers, we can’t make wine and oil,” he quips.
Distribution and prices are being fine-tuned at the moment.