Cantine Giorgio Lungarotti S.R.L. History

Via Mario Angeloni, 16
06089 Torgiano

Telephone: 39-075-988-0348
Fax: 39-075-988-0294

Private Company
Incorporated: 1962
NAIC: 312130 Wineries

Company Perspectives:

Created by Giorgio Lungarotti, an entrepreneur with exceptional capabilities, the Company has become identified with its founder and his family, which is completely involved in the management. Today with the determination and communicative skills of sisters Chiara Lungarotti and Teresa Severini and the culture expressed by the Lungarotti Foundation embodied by their mother Maria Grazia, the Company is advancing in a logic of entrepreneurial connections that has always made this family known as a veritable "volcano" of ideas.

Key Dates:

Giorgio Lungarotti establishes a winery and begins experimenting with grape varieties and growing techniques.
Cantine Giorgio Lungarotti's Rubesco becomes one of the first Italian wines to receive the DOC appellation.
The company opens the Lungarotti Wine Museum.
The company begins aging a "single-hill" wine, Rubesco Riserva Vigna Monticchio.
Rubesco Riserva Vigna Monticchio receives the new DOCG appellation; the company opens the Olive and Olive Oil Museum.
Giorgio Lungarotti dies at age 88 and daughters Chiara Lungarotti and Teresa Severini become the first women to operate a major winery in Italy.
The company releases a new label, Giubilante.

Company History:

Cantine Giorgio Lungarotti S.R.L. has literally put Italy's Umbria region on the winemaker's map of the world. The Torgiano-based company is behind the region's renaissance as one of Italy's most well-known winemaking regions. Lungarotti is also the area's dominant winemaker, with more than 300 acres of vineyard owned or directly controlled by the company. In this way, Lungarotti ensures a near-autonomous supply of grapes for its production of fine wines. The company limits its wine production to just a few labels, including the company's strongest seller, Rubesco DOC. Other labels in the Lungarotti stable include Aurente, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Giubilante, Grappa di Rubesco, Pinot Grigio, Rubesco Riserva Vigna Monticchio DOCG, San Giorgio, Torre di Giano, and Vino Santo. Many of Lungarotti's wines are aged for some ten years before they are bottled. Lungarotti targets the higher-priced bracket of the wine market, with prices ranging from $12 to $60 per bottle. The company also produces a fortified wine, Grappa di Rubesco. In addition to its core winemaking operations, Lungarotti produces olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The company also has developed a number of tourism initiatives, including the four-star Le Tre Vasalle; the Lungarotti Wine Museum, considered by many as one of the best in the world; the Olive and Olive Oil Museum; and La Spolla, a gift shop featuring traditional handcrafts. Cantine Giorgio Lungarotti is led by the founder's daughter, Chiara Lungarotti, who serves as company CEO. Stepdaughter Teresa Severini, who became the first female Italian oenologist in 1978, serves as the company's winemaker.

Restoring the Umbrian Wine Legacy in the 1960s

The Umbria region, south of Italy's more well-known Tuscany wine region, had developed its own winemaking culture stretching back at least 3,000 years, during the Etruscan period. The region's caves, formed naturally in the volcanic rock, served as ideal wine cellars. During the Roman era, the region's winemaking practices--such as a tradition of mixed agricultural use of the land--were codified, and remained in place, for the most part, into the late 20th century. The mixed agriculture also gave rise to the region's prominence as a major Italian olive oil producer.

In the late 19th century, an outbreak of the phylloxera virus decimated Europe's vineyards, including those in the Umbrian region. Winemakers replanted, but with inferior quality and nontraditional grape varieties. While Umbrian olive oil retained its prestige into the 20th century, the region's wine reputation suffered. Overshadowed by the more popular and respected wines from the Tuscany region, Umbria's wines earned a reputation as "perennially mediocre," as Town & Country put it.

If Umbrian wines nonetheless achieved a worldwide reputation by the dawn of the 21st century, it was through the efforts, in large part, of Dr. Giorgio Lungarotti, who held doctorate degrees in oenology and agronomy. The Lungarotti family had long been a prominent agricultural family in the region, and Lungarotti himself had made a fortune as an olive oil producer in the years following World War II.

In the 1950s, Lungarotti became convinced that his lands could also produce high-quality wines as well. Lungarotti recognized that such a transformation required abandoning the region's traditional agricultural methods, in particular the mixed-used farming method, where vines were spaced widely apart and surrounded by other plants and crops. Lungarotti began experimenting with new planting techniques, as well as new vine varieties. Lungarotti also brought a scientific approach to developing his vineyards, performing soil analysis and other testing procedures in order to match vine and soil types.

Lungarotti began buying up additional lands in the area, a move that enabled the company to develop a near-autonomy in its grape production. This also allowed the company close control of planting, growing, and harvesting techniques. In the early 1960s, Lungarotti became one of the first in Italy to begin importing grape varieties, such as the Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay grapes. Yet Lungarotti also was inspired by the Umbrian region's long winemaking history, and began planting vineyards based on varieties used before the phylloxera outbreak in the 19th century. The success of these early initiatives convinced Lungarotti to set up his company, Cantine Giorgio Lungarotti, in 1962.

Then 52 years old, Lungarotti built a modern winery and began bottling his wines by the mid-1960s, launching the flagship wine label, Rubesco, from the Latin "rubescere," meaning "to blush." The quality of the company's wines was instantly recognized, and by 1968, Lungarotti became one of the first in Italy to achieve the newly instituted Demoninazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) established by the Italian government.

Lungarotti married Maria Grazia in 1970. Grazia's own background was as an art historian, and her association with the company led Lungarotti to establish its own wine museum in 1974. Under Grazia's curatorship, the Lungarotti Wine Museum soon became world famous, and was considered one of the finest museums devoted to wine and winemaking in the world.

New Generation for a New Century

Grazia's daughter, Teresa Severini, also became an important part of the company. In 1978, Severini, who studied agronomy at the University of Perugia and winemaking at the University of Bordeaux, became the first woman in Italy to receive a degree as an oenologist. Severini's acceptance in the company's operations was by no means guaranteed. As Lungarotti's daughter explained to Decanter: "Initially both my sister and I had to prove ourselves as winemakers. My father was a conservative and rather prejudiced. It took him time to accept that both his daughters were worthy winemakers."

Yet both recognized Lungarotti's importance in developing Umbria's new reputation as a quality wine region. As Severini told the Sarah Jane English Newsletter: "I like quoting our friend author Hugh Johnson who said my father put Umbria on the world wine map. Father realized our region's potential at a time many Italian wines had a mediocre image, especially abroad. His transformation of the family holdings to specialized interests differentiated the product line to reach higher stan- dards. He believed that wine and culture were inherent to each other and planned our company to include the development of cultural and hospitality activities. Giorgio was a great, great entrepreneur, an enlightened man who 40 years ago understood the necessity of change, maintaining at the same time an intelligent respect for roots and tradition. He considered his family his precious collaborators. We carry on."

Daughter Chiara, born in the early 1970s, also became an important part of the family business. As she explained to Decanter: "The winery was my world. This is where I grew up. Some of my most precious memories are of being hoisted onto my father's knees as he drove the tractor through the vineyards." Chiara, who also went on to study agronomy at the University of Perugia, joined the company in 1992, gaining experience in all aspects of the winery's operation.

Lungarotti continued developing new wines through the 1980s and into the 1990s. The company's willingness to age its wines for ten years or more before bottling them became something of a company hallmark, and helped enhance its reputation for high quality wines. The company released its Cabernet Sauvignon di Torgiano, initially planted in 1970, which received its own DOC designation. The company also continued to experiment with its growing and planting techniques. This led to the creation of a new wine, Rubesco Riserva Vigna Monticchio, in 1983. While featuring a similar blend to the company's earlier Rubesco, the new variety featured grapes from a single hillside, called Monticchio, with particularly fertile soil. The new label, aged for a minimum of ten years, received the new DOCG (Demoninazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) designation when it was created in 1990. The DOCG designation was made retroactive to the first Monticchio vintage in 1983.

Lungarotti continued to contribute to the region in other ways, especially its tourism infrastructure. In 1990, the company opened its second museum, dedicated to olives and olive oil. Lungarotti also developed its own four-star hotel and restaurant, La Tre Vassale. After Lungarotti died in 1999, his daughters took over as operators of the winery--marking the first time in Italian history that a major winery was run by women. Severini became the company's top winemaker, and Chiara Lungarotti became company CEO.

Into the 2000s, Lungarotti continued to attract recognition from the world of wine. The new generation of family leadership also emerged as capable winemakers in their own right, releasing a number of new wine types. These included the Giubilante, a blend of five grape varieties, released in 2001, and the "supervinodatavola" Rosso dell' Umbria IGT, created from a blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo, and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. In the meantime, the Lungarotti tradition appeared set to spread beyond Umbria--in 2003, Chiara Lungarotti married Matteo Lupi Grassi, owner of a wine estate in Tuscany.

Principal Subsidiaries: La Spola; Le Tre Vaselle; Lungarotti Wine Museum; Olive and Olive Oil Museum; Poggio alle Vigne.

Principal Competitors: Antinori S.p.A.; Diageo PLC; Gruppo Italiano Vini Soc. Coop. S.R.L.

Further Reading:

  • Bergonzini, Renato, "Giorgio Lungarotti: 'Tutti assieme appassionatamente,'" Premiata Salumeria Italiana, March-April 2002.
  • Collins, Glenn, "A Wine Lover's Dream," Town & Country, May 2004, p. 105.
  • Ejbich, Konrad, "The Good Doctor of Lunarotto," eye, September 24, 1992.
  • English, Sarah Jane, "Lungarotti--A Travel and Wine Destination in Umbria, Italy," Sarah Jane English Newsletter, April 28, 2001.
  • Gismondi, Anthony, "Turning Away from Tradition Paid Off for Producers," Vancouver Sun, May 2004.
  • Passmore, Nick, "Stunning Umbrian," Forbes, March 12, 2003.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol.67. St. James Press, 2005.