Vineyard Tour of Capezzana:
No trip to Tuscany is complete without a tour of a vineyard. In our case, we went to Capezzana, mostly because my travel companion, The Hedonist had stayed close to there before, but had been unable to visit. That, so he told me, despite enjoying the wines daily. So this visit to Capezzana was to put right that situation for him as well as introducing me to a winery of some reputation.
As you reach the top of the hill, the road winding through fields of ancient vines, the estate comes into view. A Renaissance villa with adjacent farm and olive mill, the Tuscan winery of my dreams. Of the 670 hectare estate, around 80 to 100 are vines and 140 olive groves. The vines are planted on the slopes of Monte Albano, close to the Apennines, in the commune of Carmignano, where the high altitude means that daytime temperatures in summer are high while nights are cool. A micro-climate that produces a very high quality wine, slightly earlier than the rest of Tuscany.
We were greeted by the daughter of the Count who asked us to wait while a party of Americans finished their lunch. Capezzana is a truly historic vineyard. As our party went into the winery, she pointed out a parchment fragment, the reproduction of a rent contract dated 804 which shows that oil and wine were produced at Capezzana at that time. The original parchment fragment was found by her sister and is now conserved in the Florence State Archives.
The building itself dates back to the early Renaissance, when Monna Nera Bonaccorsi built the first house together with the wine making building and farmhouses.
As we went down into the historic cellars she explained that they span the large courtyard where we had waited. The winery currently produces up to 9 types of wine and a Grappa, but the cellars contain bottles dating back to the 1920s and 1930s
The Capezzana Philosophy remains constant: to uphold tradition, yet keep improving.
“One must not lose the identity of the wine or the characteristics of its production area, since tradition is the accumulation of innumerable improvements and innovations that have taken place over the centuries and have been passed down through the generations. We believe that we should continue to “change for the better.” This has always occurred and is made ever more possible by modern technology. This is our family’s philosophy, which derives from the passion which we put into our work. Together we try to make our mark in one of the most exciting and difficult professions’. -Ugo Contini Bonacossi
As such the wines are not organic, although cultivation techniques are sustainable, production techniques are modernised as appropriate.
The Carmignano wines have been recognised for centuries but in the early 20th century the label declined so that in the 1930s the historic Medici Carmignano lable was incorporated into the Chianti D.O.C. Recognition of the Carmignano D.O.C and D.O.C.G again took until the late 20th century and Ugo Contini Bonacossi is recognised as having played a fundamental role in revitalising the D.O.C
Beside the D.O.C and D.O.C.G. Carmignano varieties produced, which have to contain a minimum of 70% of sangiovese (80% for the D.O.C.G) the winery also produces Super Tuscans, IGT labels, where at least 85% of the grapes are a local variety but the remaining grapes may be made with any variety of grapes from anywhere in the world, either blended or pure, matured in oak barriques.
Upstairs, above the cellars, is the huge ‘vinsantaia’ (where the D.O.C. vin santo is made), from ‘selected’ white grapes, mainly Trebbiano, which are dried for several months in the traditional manner on cane matting. The must is then fermented and matured for over four years in cherry-wood, oak and chestnut 100 litres kegs.
After our tour of the winery, we went on to see the more modern oil mill, where some of the processes we’d watched a few days earlier were automated. I was just a little disappointed not to taste any of the wines, though we bought a bottle of the Barco Reale to take back to Il Monte. And, perhaps we should have been a little more patient and asked!
In any case, Il Monte was the perfect place to enjoy the Barco Reale, on a rather damp and windy November night, with a large plate of pasta with fresh tomato sauce.
With thanks to TuscanyNow, who sent us to Il Monte for this trip, one of their portfolio of villas in Tuscany. This trip was a prize for writing an article on why I wanted to visit Tuscany but I had no obligation to write about the trip.