Terrabianca – A Tuscan Star
Oct 24, 2019
Roberto Guldener’s Journey to Winemaking
This beautiful estate just outside Radda Village, one of the three original “Chianti towns,” was founded in 1988 by Roberto Guldener—born in Zurich, Switzerland to a family of specialized cloth and textile merchants whose trade was high-fashion tailoring and dressmaking. At 20 years old, and hungry to experience the world, Roberto left Zurich to visit London and Paris where he hoped to advance his understanding and learn the secrets of the best fabrics, wools and cashmeres. His development was furthered at universities in Perugia, Rome, Turin and finally, Spain where he met Maja—his future wife and partner. From there it was back to Zurich, where Roberto was expected to help with the family business that had become hugely successful.
Life was great during these heady times, and Roberto was making a good income; but when he turned 40, he suddenly realized there was a missing piece in his busy life. He needed something different, and he had to find out what that was. So he set out on a “voyage of discovery” with the ultimate aim of enriching his soul. This inspiration sent Roberto on a trip to Italy that led him to Radda in Chianti, where he found a beautiful farm for sale. It was called Terrabianca.
Terrabianca’s Rise to Success
The first document identifying a rural property called “Terra Bianca,” meaning “white soil” due to the light-colored native topsoils, is dated 1223. By the time Roberto bought the property (almost 800 years later), its vineyards were mostly rundown and vines too desiccated by a virus to produce decent wine grapes. The last re-plantings were in the early 1960s, but even then, the farm had been tilted toward quantity rather than quality. Roberto was happy to find what he was looking for, but he had his work cut out.
From the late 1980s to the early 1990s, the winds of change were blowing fiercely in Tuscan viticultural circles. New and big changes were happening quickly. Roberto latched on promptly and soon became a champion of a new planting system designed to increase vine densities by using modern clonal material. His efforts were successful and within 10 years his vineyards were producing the kind of high-quality grapes he felt were best suited for the uncompromising wines he wanted to make under his Terrabianca label.
The rest of the story is classic and bears sharing. Very quickly after Terrabianca’s debut, the little winery in Radda became a major Tuscan star. Terrabianca wines began to win an avalanche of awards in important wine competitions. This attracted attention and, in due course, high praise followed from the worldwide wine press. Both Roberto’s striking labels and his showy wines were extremely well received by key retailers and consumers.
A Bright Future for Terrabianca
But by 2009, after an exhausting decade, Roberto and Maja were ready to move on. The life of top Tuscan wine impresarios was exciting but utterly demanding. Roberto and Maja needed a break, so they sold Terrabianca and planned to retire. Eight short years later—in the spirit of John Lennon’s lyrics, “life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans,” Roberto Guldner was reeled back into the wine business when the man he thought he sold Terrabianca to could not meet his obligation.
Now firmly back at the helm, Roberto and Maja Guldener have happily reconnected to Terrabianca and are facing a future with terrific promise. They say it takes 20 years for a new vineyard to reach its peak, and that from age 20-40 is when the best things happen. How fortuitous that same timeframe coincides perfectly with the Guldener’s return to the farm they replanted in 1989.
Today the original Terrabianca estate covers 307 acres of vineyards, olive groves, and scattered woodlands in the hills outside Radda. More recently, Roberto added a 260-acre second estate, 43 miles west in Maremma along the Tuscan coast. He named the second property “Il Tesoro,” meaning “Treasure.”
Terrabianca’s wines reflect the two estates’ soils, which consist of compressed layers of chalk and sand interspersed with dense pockets of clay in Radda and rich alluvial deposits in Maremma. More supple wines come from the coastal grapes, while the ones grown in Radda’s ancient soils offer finesse and spine. For years Radda’s depleted terroirs have been a classic sandbox for wines characterized by heightened perfumes and rigorous structures—the kind of wines that can age for decades.
Sangiovese plantings are dominant in Radda, but Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot plots are starting to emerge. Everything, of course, is planted with a south/southeast exposure for maximum sunlight. The village doesn’t make a lot of wine (only 29,000 cases), but like those from Terrabianca, the quality is top class.
A TASTE OF TERRABIANCA
“…Subtle aromas of sliced strawberries, candied blueberries and elderberries. Dark plums, too. Full body, polished tannins and a pure, clean finish. Nicely done for a tough vintage…” 91pts James Suckling
“… Aromas of violets and lavender on the nose. Hints of rosemary. Crushed berries. Medium to full body. Firm tannins with hints of wood.notes of blackberry, cacao, and roasted almonds. Balanced, harmonious and with good structure…” 93pts James Suckling
“…deep aromas of blackberries and blue berries that turn into fresh mushrooms. Medium to full body with firm and velvety tannins…” 94pts James Suckling