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Allegrini 2018
THE CURIOSITY

Charles III, “farmer” king, wine producer, sommelier and lover of Italian wine

From friendships with the Frescobaldi family to Slow Food, the UK’s new king is leading the way on agriculture and sustainability

Agricultural entrepreneur, producer (also of wine), historic supporter of Slow Food, Italian wine enthusiast (thanks to his family’s historic connection with the Frescobaldi family), and even honorary sommelier: this is also his majesty King Charles III of England, who came to the throne after the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II. A king, Charles of England, who has always been attentive to agricultural issues. Not only as an organic food producer, farmer and winemaker on his Highgrove House estate in Gloucestershire. But also as an advocate for British farmers, for example, with “The Prince’s Countryside Fund”, launched in 2010, as Prince of Wales, to support farming families in the United Kingdom. But King Charles has long been a lover of Italy and its wine, agricultural and gastronomic heritage, as told by so many things WineNews has reported over the years. Starting with the Windsor family’s historical friendship with the Frescobaldi family, which, for seven hundred years, has had relations with the British Crown, of which, for wine and oil, it is a historical supplier, also thanks to the personal acquaintance of Bona and Vittorio Frescobaldi, with the royal house, who were among the very few Italians among the guests at the wedding of William, Charles’ son, with Kate Middleton, to whom they donated the Brunello di Montalcino Riserva di Castelgiocondo, not forgetting Charles’ visit to Tuscany in 1986.
“It was April 1986”, recalls Lamberto Frescobaldi, to WineNews, “and Carlo came the first time with a granddaughter, then he came back with Lady Diana, and together with my mother, as a sign of friendship, he planted an olive tree and a vine in Nipozzano. And from that olive tree then we always harvested olives and gave Charles, every year, a symbolic bottle of Laudemio ... It is a true friendship with my family, Carlo was a guest at my parents’ house, not in a hotel. With my mother they visited many things, the important cities, but also many villages, something that was not usual at the time, such as San Gimignano and Montalcino, the land of Brunello (the photo together with Vittorio and Bona Frescobaldi in the Caffè Fiaschetteria Italiana 1888, a café created by Ferruccio Biondi Santi, the inventor of Brunello, in the historic center of Montalcino, in 1888, ed.) His friendship started with my mother Bona and my father Vittorio, who cultivated this relationship with Prince Charles, now King. Who is a lover of nature, of the countryside, of good stewardship of the countryside, of the land, he is a producer himself, and he has brought to England visions of farming that are more environmentally friendly. He is attentive to ethics, he is a lover of all of Italy and Tuscany in particular”. A bond, then, that of Charles III with Italian wine, which had already blossomed in the 1980s, and was also strengthened in 2017, when as Prince of Wales, together with his consort, Camilla Parker Bowles, Duchess of Cornwall and former president of the United Kingdom Vineyards Association, in Florence, at Villa Michelangelo, he personally met with many leading figures in Italian wine, from Jacopo Biondi Santi, at the time at the helm of Tenuta Greppo Biondi Santi in Montalcino and his estate in Scansano in the Tuscan Maremma Castello di Montepò, to Giovanni Manetti (Fontodi), in Chianti Classico, from the Antinori family to Vittorio Moretti, patron of the Moretti group (which includes Bellavista, Contadi Castaldi, in Franciacorta, Sella & Mosca in Sardinia and Teruzzi, in San Gimignano), as well as, of course, the Frescobaldi family), at the meeting organized by Franco Ricci, patron of the Italian Sommelier Foundation (Fis), who, on that occasion, presented Carlo and Camilla with the diploma of Sommelier of Honor.
A king friend of Italian wine, then, and also of Italy as a whole, including on the food and wine and agricultural front. Whom he also got to know thanks to the invaluable work of Carlin Petrini, founder of Slow Food, who, knowing of Carlo's sensitivities on agricultural issues, invited him to the Salone del Gusto, in 2004, with Charles of England, who, together with Petrini, also visited the Wine Bank, fell in love with the Slow Food project, and became its enthusiastic promoter in England. Another friendship was born with Petrini, whom Carlo, among other occasions, met again in Florence in 2017, at the departed chef Fabio Picchi’s Magazzini del Sale, where Petrini told Carlo and Camilla about the value of artisanal products from the areas affected by the earthquake that devastated part of central Italy. And there is no shortage of curiosities, such as when, in 2009, the then Prince Charles entrusted star chef and charcuterie maker Massimo Spigaroli, of the Antica Corte Pallavicina, with his pigs of ancient English breeds, to understand their potential. A lover of Italian wine, concerned about environmental issues, and traditional as well as innovative agriculture, Charles III, who just a few months ago, in May 2022, opened up about green genetics, announcing that “the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill will develop the potential of new technologies to promote efficient and sustainable agriculture and food production”.
A commitment that is also reflected in the concise official announcement of Charles’ accession to the throne, as stated on the official website of the British Royal Household, which reads, “King Charles III, formerly known as the Prince of Wales, was born in 1948 and became heir designate with the accession of Queen Elizabeth II in 1952. As Prince of Wales, His Majesty has taken an active interest in all areas of public life for decades. In addition to his official and ceremonial duties in the UK and abroad, the King has been instrumental in establishing more than 20 charities over 40 years, including the Prince’s Trust and the Prince’s Foundation. His Majesty has worked closely with many organizations, publicly supporting a wide variety of causes relating to the environment, rural communities, the arts, health and education”. So this, too, is King Charles III of England, a prince who, in British history, has waited longer than anyone else before ascending the throne, and who seems to have clear ideas on issues such as organic farming, architecture and sustainable development. Which, given the English monarchy’s influence, in terms of visions and opinions, has a reach far wider than the United Kingdom and the 56 countries that are part of Commowealth, could in its own way mark a turning point in the relationship between agriculture, sustainability and the fight against climate change, the real emergency of the whole world.

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