Allegrini 2024

From Cavour to the Savoy, Garibaldi to Ricasoli, they united Italy and planted the vineyard

From Piedmont to Sicily via Tuscany, WineNews reports on vineyards where wine production is intertwined with Italian history

From Vigna Gustava, which belonged to Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour, the first Premier of the Kingdom of Italy, at the foot of Grinzane Cavour Castle, to Fontanafredda, the estate founded by Italy’s first King Victor Emmanuel II of Savoy, also in the Langhe; from the Vigna dell’Impero, planted in Valdarno by Prince Amedeo Duca d’Aosta to celebrate the birth of the Italian Colonial Empire, to the Castello di Brolio in Chianti Classico, where the “Iron Baron” Bettino Ricasoli, the second Prime Minister, invented the Chianti Classico formula, to Garibaldi winemaking in Caprera, in the vineyards planted by the Hero of Two Worlds on the island that was his “buen retiro” after the Expedition of the Thousand: from Piedmont to Sicily, via Tuscany, WineNews recounts the vineyards where wine production is intertwined with Italian history thanks to figures-symbols of the Risorgimento and the Unification of Italy (March 17, 1861), for whom agriculture played a fundamental role in the birth of the country.
Starting in the Langhe, where the most important pages in the history of Italy and Italian wine have been written, thanks to Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour, the first Prime Minister of the newly-born Kingdom of Italy, owner at the time of the Castle of Grinzane Cavour, and its flagship, the Vigna Gustava - now four hectares planted with Nebbiolo (cared for by the Enosis Meraviglia Center of oenologist Donato Lanati, and intended for collectors at “Barolo en primeur”, Italy’s most important charity wine auction, promoted by Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Cuneo and Fondazione Crc Donare with the Consorzio del Barolo Barbaresco Alba Langhe e Dogliani) - where it produced the first Barolo, playing a key role not only in the Unification of the country, but also in the success of the “king” of wines. Which was born from the intuition of Giulia Colbert Falletti, the last Marchioness of Barolo, who sent barrels of it, one for each day of the year, to King Charles Albert of Savoy, first among Barolo collectors, from the Marchesi di Barolo winery, now owned by the Abbona family, which preserves its history in Barolo. And how can we fail to mention, also in the Langa, Fontanafredda, the estate founded by the first King of Italy Victor Emmanuel II of Savoy, whose vineyards were the scene of his love affair with Rosa Varcellana, “la bela Rosin”, and are now owned by the Farinetti family. But also, Luigi Einaudi, a Senator of the Kingdom in 1919 and among the fathers of the Italian Republic, the second President of the Republic in 1948, the first to be elected by the Italian Parliament, and the first president-winemaker who never missed the grape harvest at Poderi Einaudi, his estate in Dogliani, purchased in 1897 when he was only 23 years old, to produce Dolcetto and Barolo, as his descendants still do today.
But the events linked to the Savoy family also lead to Tuscany, and to the Vigna dell’Impero in Valdarno, an ancient vineyard planted in 1935 at the behest of Prince Amedeo Duke of Aosta and Vice King of Ethiopia, to celebrate the conquest of Abyssinia and the birth of the Italian Colonial Empire, after the victory in the African War, guarding its Sangiovese clone as a true “jewel” of the House of Savoy (now owned by the Moretti Cuseri family, after buying it in the 1950s directly from the Princesses Margherita and Maria Cristina of Savoy of Aosta, daughters of Her Royal Highness, and the “jewel in the crown” of the Tenuta Sette Ponti estate, named after the number of bridges over the Arno River between Arezzo and Florence, including Ponte Buriano depicted by Leonardo da Vinci in the background of the Mona Lisa, ed.), and from which, today, the pure Sangiovese Vigna dell’Impero 1935 is produced. And Tuscany where, sharing Cavour’s dream of an Italy that could return to the splendor of ancient Enotria, was also his successor as second Prime Minister, Bettino Ricasoli, the “Iron Baron”, inventor in 1872 of the formula for “sublime” Chianti, destined to become Chianti Classico, in the Castello di Brolio, still owned by his descendants. A formula (the main dose of perfume and vigor from Sangiovese, the sweetness from Canaiolo to temper the hardness, and the lightness of Malvasia to do without in the case of aging), which, though modified over the years, has never betrayed the original principle that inspired its creator: to give a decisive push to the way of making and understanding wine, enhancing a unique territory such as that of the Black Rooster, through a product that would conquer the world precisely because it was capable of telling its terroir like no other. But, in Chianti Classico, there is also Castello Sonnino, the former home of Bettino Ricasoli’s successor to the Presidency of the Council of Italy, Sidney Sonnino, belonging to his family, producers of Chianti Docg.
It can only “go up” the whole Boot as did the Hero of the Two Worlds in the Expedition of the Thousand, however, Giuseppe Garibaldi’s connection with wine, starting from Marsala, where on May 11, 1860, the General landed by taking advantage of the English merchant ships destined to transport the very famous Sicilian fortified wine, whose fortune was due to the figure of the English merchant John Woodhouse, and of which the ancient Florio wineries, founded by Vincenzo Florio, who was a Senator of the Kingdom of Italy, elevated the quality, soon becoming its main producer and exporter in the world. Garibaldi tasted it but was not an admirer: like political events, his passion for wine, in 1861, at a time when Italy was being born thanks to his enterprise, took him to the hills of Sala Baganza, Parma, where, as a guest of Marchesa Teresa Trecchi-Araldi - sister of Gaspare Trecchi, Colonel among the Thousand who landed with him at Marsala - he fell so in love with Malvasia di Maiatico, the sparkling local wine, that he took some vines with him to Caprera to plant them and be a winemaker - 14,000 plants and a nursery with more than 8,000 vines according to witnesses of the time - after his retirement to the island in the Maddalena archipelago. And the House of Bourbon? Deprived of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, they were certainly not left high and dry, since they were great wine connoisseurs and consumers, to such an extent that King Ferdinand of Bourbon, had the Vigna del Re (King’s Vineyard) planted to produce Pallagrello, which, today, after more than a century, is reborn thanks to Tenuta Fontana, in the Royal Estate of the “Reali Delizie” in the Bosco di San Silvestro, on the top of the hill from where the waterfall that feeds the fountains of the Vanvitellian Complex of the Royal Palace of Caserta descends.

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