THE WINES OF CASTELLO DI VOLPAIA
“By any measure, Volpaia is a company town. It’s just happens to be a company town in Chianti Classico, and the company — Castello di Volpaia — happens to make some of Italy’s best wines.
“Oh, and Volpaia is tiny — roughly 30 ancient stone buildings crowning a hill, surrounded by vines and olive orchards. The lifeblood of the town is wine, olive oil, vinegar and the tourism that follows.
“I haven’t been there yet. But last spring, at a trade event here in Denver, Federica Mascheroni Stianti took me there with her effortless prose. The daughter of Castello di Volpaia’s owners — Carlo and Giovannella Stianti Mascheroni — Federica was manning the Castello di Volpaia trade table in a room crowded with many of Denver’s sommeliers and wine buyers. In my hand was a glass of “Il Puro,” the top-of-the-line Chianti Classico Gran Selezione that is only made in the best years and which retails for a hefty $120. Yet it may be the best sip of Tuscan wine I’ve ever had.
“Seemingly the only one in the room in pursuit of a good story, I pressed her for more information. And so she told me about how tiny little Volpaia was established in 1172. How the castle was a defensive outpost for the Florentine Republic against Siena. How there was a small church built in 1443 by the Canigiani family so that they could join the Knights of Malta, and now it was deconsecrated and its basement was used as their wine cellar for aging the very Chianti Classico I had just sampled. And how they set up wineducts across the village at harvest time to connect various buildings — a medieval-meets-modern way of gravity-flow winemaking.
“I want to visit,” I remember proclaiming, kind of like an over-eager teenager asking someone to the prom.
“Of course,” she responded. “You are welcome anytime.” She then deftly turned to a sommelier and expertly recalled where he was in the lineup of wines to taste. It was a whirlwind first impression to a winemaker that, for me, has redefined what Tuscany’s somewhat predictable heartland can be…”
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