Monday, March 12, 2012

Tasting Wines where Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa was Born – With Wine Maker and General Manager Francesco Nardi at Vignamaggio Estate in Chianti Classico, Italy

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Vignamaggio General Manager and Wine Maker Francesco Nardi

Following the 2011 European Wine Bloggers Conference in Brescia, I spent three days in a beautiful and exciting location – in the Chianti Classico zone in Tuscany, at the invitation of the Chianti Classico Consortium. We visited several wineries and tasted perhaps as many as 70 different wines from Chianti Classico producers, both big and small.

While in Tuscany, I dined and wined (1) with the Chianti Classico Wine Consortium at the Santa Maria Al Prato Convent in Radda in Chianti, at (2) Badia a Coltibuono, at (3) Castello di Brolio, where Bettino Ricasoli came up with the original Chianti Classico blend, at (4) Castello di Ama, where we saw an amazing Contemporary Art Collection, at (5) Vignemaggio, where Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa was borne, at (6) Dario Cecchini’s Solo Cicca Restaurant in Panzano and (7) at Caparasa, with Chianti Classico niche wine producer Paolo Cianferoni.

This posting covers a tasting at Vignemaggio Wine Estate; it is the seventh in a series of postings. I have already posted:

Blogging, Wining and Dining at the European Wine Bloggers Conference (#EWBC) October 2011 in Brescia, Italy – A Tour D’ Horizont

Wining, Dining and Blogging in Chianti Classico (#EWBC), Tuscany, Italy

Dining and Wining where the Royals Eat: Dario Cecchini’s Solo Cicca Restaurant in Panzano – the Butcher of Chianti Classico

Meeting Wine Maker Paolo Cianferoni at his Caparsa Estate in Chianti Classico, Italy

Wining and Dining at Badia a Coltibuono in Tuscany with Wine Makers and Owners Roberto and Emanuela Stucchi Prinetti, Italy

Extraordinary Art and Wines at Castello di Ama in Chianti Classico, Italy

Sienna, Florence and Chianti Classico

The Chianti Classico region covers an area of approximate 100 square miles between the city of Florence to the north and the city of Siena to the south. Historically, the Chianti Classico zone is where the production of Chianti started.

In 1716, Cosimo III de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, issued an edict legislating that the three villages of the Lega del Chianti as well as the village of Greve and a 2 mile hillside north of Greve as the only officially recognized producers of Chianti. This delineation existed until the 1930s when the Italian government expanded the zone. Subsequent expansions throughout the twentieth century would eventually bring the Chianti zone to cover almost all of Tuscany. The original zone of the edict of Cosimo III de' Medici would eventually be considered the heart of the Chianti Classico region.




Pictures: Vignamaggio Villa

The Chianti Classico zone is a truly unending source of culture, scenery, architecture, gastronomy and wines. Here lie the lines of defense of the two Republics, Siena and Florence, which have scowled at each other through its woods and vineyards for centuries. Interspersed with the countryside are castles: some are still occupied by the noble families whose ancestors built them in the feudal middle ages; others - ruined, perhaps in battle centuries ago, and abandoned - still dominate their hilltops with proud arrogance. There are numerous hill towns and hamlets, villas and farmhouses, guarded by sentinel cypresses, by people who may make their living tending the vineyards, or have already made more than a living and have retired to beautiful old houses.

Sangiovese - the Soul of Chianti

Sangiovese is the signature grape of Chianti. It is the soul of Chianti wine. The Sangiovese grape, like the Pino Noir, is not an easy grape variety, but has the potential of producing world class wines.


Pictures: Vignamaggio Cellar

Since 2006, the use of white grape varieties such as Malvasia and Trebbiano has been prohibited in Chianti Classico. The share of Sangiovese can range from 80% to up to 100%, with the remainder either other native red grapes, like Canaiolo and Colorino, or international varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Wines that do not comply with these rules – of which we tasted a number during the trip - cannot be sold as Chianti Classico.

Vignamaggio

The Vignamaggio Wine Estate is located in the hills near Greve in Chianti. The vineyard area totals 52 hectares and there are 11 hectares of olive trees. The winery dates back to 1404. Villa Vignamaggio is a charming restored renaissance villa with a beautiful garden. Vignamaggio also includes a restaurant and a hotel.

Villa Vignamaggio and Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa

Villa Vignamaggio is the birthplace of perhaps the most famous portrait sitter ever: Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa - Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo in Florence, although there are people who disagree with this claim.

The main part of the Villa Vignamaggio dates back to the 14th century. The Gherardi family, who bought the villa from the Gherardini family, built it to its present appearance. Mona Lisa, the daughter of Anton Maria Gherardini, was born on Vignamaggio in 1479. Again, there is a dispute as to where she was born.

Wine Making Philosphy

General Manager and Wine Maker Francesco Nardi introduced us to the wines of Vignamaggio: “Around 230,000 bottles of wine are produced every year, divided between Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany I.G.T. and Vinsanto del Chianti Classico DOC.”

“The vinification takes place in stainless steel tanks of various capacities. After devatting the grapes, the wine goes through the malolactic fermentation which normally takes around 20-30 days. After racking, the wine is refined in barrels of various sizes according to the type of wine. During these initial phases, numerous tastings are carried out in order to decide upon the destination of the various batches and, thus, the type of aging to which they are to be subjected.



Picture: Vignamaggio General Manager and Wine Maker Francesco Nardi

After light clarification, the wine is filtered in order to respect its particular characteristics, and bottled and is stored for at least four to six months, depending on the type of product.”

Wine Portfolio

Around two thirds of the wines of Vignamaggio are exported and a third is sold directly by the estate or on the Italian market. The main importers are: United States, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Japan, Holland, Austria, United Kingdom, Brazil.

Here are the wines.

"Il Morino" Toscana I.G.T.
"Terre di Prenzano" Chianti Classico D.O.C.G.
"Vignamaggio" Chianti Classico D.O.C.G.
"600" Chianti Classico D.O.C.G.
"Castello di Monna Lisa" Chianti Classico Riserva D.O.C.G.
"Vignamaggio" Toscana I.G.T. Cabernet Franc
"Wine Obsession" Toscana I.G.T.
"Suhaili"
"Levanter" Salento I.G.T. Primitivo
Vinsanto del Chianti Classico D.O.C.

The Wines We Tasted

Vignamaggio Chianti Classico 2009
Vignamaggio Chianti Classico Di Prenzano 2009
Vignamaggio Chianti Classico Castello di Mona Lisa Riserva 2006 
Vignamaggio Obession 2007



Pictures: The Wines


schiller-wine: Related Postings


The Wines of the 2010 Giro d'Italia

Italy's Top Wines - 2011 Gambero Rosso's Vini d'Italia Wine Guide

Meeting Winemaker and Owner Massimo “Max” di Lenardo from Friuli, Italy and Tasting His di Lenardo Vineyards Wines

In the Glass: 3 Easy Drinking Wines from the Soave Region in Italy

The Wines of casa 236 in Italy – Peter Schiller

In the Glass: 2010 Pinot Grigio, Venezia Giulia IGT, Attems, Italy

Kobrand’s Impressive Tour d'Italia 2011 in Washington DC, USA

The 2010 European Wine Bloggers Conference (EWBC) in Vienna

Blogging, Wining and Dining at the European Wine Bloggers Conference (#EWBC) October 2011 in Brescia, Italy – A Tour D’ Horizont

Wining and Blogging in the Soave Region, Italy

Christian G.E. Schiller’s Views on Soave – a Video Interview

Wining, Dining and Blogging in Chianti Classico (#EWBC), Tuscany, Italy

Dining and Wining where the Royals Eat: Dario Cecchini’s Solo Cicca Restaurant in Panzano – the Butcher of Chianti Classico

Meeting Wine Maker Paolo Cianferoni at his Caparsa Estate in Chianti Classico, Italy

Wining and Dining at Badia a Coltibuono in Tuscany with Wine Makers and Owners Roberto and Emanuela Stucchi Prinetti, Italy

Extraordinary Art and Wines at Castello di Ama in Chianti Classico, Italy

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