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luce 2With the coming together of two celebrated wine families, the Mondavis of California and Italy's Frescobaldi family, Luce was always destined to be a monumental wine.

Though the Mondavi family are no longer involved in Luce after Robero Mondavi became a public company and subsequently acquired, the two families are still close, recently coming back together thanks to Decanter magazine to reminisce about Luce's success.

From its inception, Luce seems fated to be. In 1973, Robert Mondavi brought his sons to Italy, declaring that they would make wine there one day.

In 1993, the two families were introduced after Mondavi began scouting for regions to invest in and felt very drawn towards Tuscany and the Frescobaldis. 

Both Vittorio Frescobaldi and Robert Mondavi settled on the Castelgiocondo estate in Montalcino, which the Frescobaldis had purchsed in 1989. 

After noting how well Merlot was working in the terroir, the partners decided that their joint venture would be in the style of a SuperTuscan, which was quite fashionable at the time. Merlot would be paired with Sangiovese, which grew beautifully in the Montalcino elevation and well-drained soils.

Tim Mondavi, son of Robert, explained the decision by noting the Merlot had "fragrance and opulence" that was balanced by the Sangiovese that gave "finesse and structure".

The branding of Luce also seemed to come from a higher force: its name was decided by Robert Mondavi's wife while watching the sunlight burst through the clouds, declaring "Luce!". Its iconic logo was inspired by the church of Santo Spirito near Florence, where the altar held a design of a sun surrounded by flames. 

In 1995 a formal agreement to create Tenute Luce delle Vite was signed by the two families. Although it was Robert and Vittorio who signed the agreement, it was the partnership of their two sons, Tim and Lamberto, that developed Luce and defined the blend. 

Initially, a small production of Luce was made (29,000 bottles in 1994), but as each vintage sold out within nine months, production increasingly grew, climbing to 130,000 by the year 2000.

After Mondavi's departure from the partnership in 2004, Lamberto Frescobaldi (now sole owner of the brand) fine-tuned production and steered the estate to a more biodynamic focus. Volumes of Luce have also been reduced to 80,000 bottles and the oak-ageing has been refined. The biggest change to the brand though was the introduction of a Luce Brunello with the 2003 vintage, a move Lamberto explains as a desire to "reinforce the link between Luce and Montalcino". 

With such an impressive history already behind it, Lamberto Frescobaldi has a respectful hope for Luce's future: "the wines have been well received from the start, and my goal now is to reposition them on even better wine lists".

Arquilla congratulates the Frescobaldi family on this impressive milestone and look forward to a bright future with Luce.


Source: Decanter Magazine (April 2015)