Allegrini 2018

There are wineries in the Italy of wine that guard a “treasure”: Italian beauty

Villas designed by great architects, ancient castles and palaces of noble families, places symbol of our culture, are now established companies

Choose beauty, beauty will save the world, let’s start one step at a time, places that are open history: these are just some of the invitations that Italy addresses to Italians and to those who can now come to visit it from abroad, to travel to its territories, many of which are also among the most important of Italian wine. Here, there are many wineries that, visited over the years by WineNews, guard a “treasure”: Italian beauty. Villas designed by great architects, ancient castles and palaces of noble families, places that have inspired culture, are now established companies, counted among the Italian Historical Houses, Historical Residences or Heritage of the Fai, in landscapes that for their natural and cultural importance, are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And where the grape harvest, just begun, only increases its charm. It is in the Langhe Unesco that the open history is that of Italy itself.
In the historic cellars now owned by the Marchesi di Barolo, Juliette Colbert di Maulévrier, great-grandson of the Minister of Finance of the Sun King and wife of Carlo Tancredi Falletti, owner of the nearby Castello di Barolo, invented the “wine of kings” in the early nineteenth century: the Barolo. The same production which, in the same years, Count Camillo Benso di Cavour also gave life to in the ancient Castle of Grinzane, and which was also to be produced in Fontanafredda, on the estate which the first King of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II of Savoy, donated in the mid-nineteenth century to his mistress, Bela Rosin. But the “Underground Cathedrals of Canelli”, the historic cellars Bosca, Contratto, Coppo and Gancia, with their miles of tunnels and galleries dug into the tuff of the hills, are also a UNESCO monument.
And because beauty is divine, in an Italy that, despite the difficulties, has never stopped facing the Covid emergency, on the edge of the vineyards of the Val d'Orcia, in recent days, a surprising archaeological discovery has brought to light a wonder that takes on a more than symbolic meaning: a sanctuary dedicated to Apollo of the first century at the ancient baths of San Casciano dei Bagni, loved by the Roman emperors and the Medici, as an epigraph of thanksgiving to God, as it happens, for a healing.
The same picture-postcard landscape in which the Chapel of the Madonna di Vitaleta, one of the iconic images of Italy, the nearby Rocca di Tentennano, an ancient Sienese bulwark along the Via Francigena, as well as the village that surrounds it, and the Bishop’s Palace of Montalcino, is a winery: Podere Forte. But there are many bulwarks of the past of which ancient Tuscany is very rich, which are now famous wineries, from the Castle of Brolio by Baron Ricasoli, where in the nineteenth century the “Iron Baron” Bettino Ricasoli, one of the creators of the Italian Risorgimento and second President of the Council of the Kingdom of Italy after Cavour, invented the formula of Chianti Classico, at the Castle of Fonterutoli of the Mazzei family, where, legend or medieval history, the Guelph Florence in the dispute with the Ghibelline Siena, brought its own border forming the Military and Administrative League of Chianti and taking as its emblem the Black Rooster; from Castello Banfi, an ancient medieval fortress in Montalcino, historically known as Poggio alle Mura, to Castello Romitorio, temple, monastery, manor and finally laboratory of the master of the Italian Transavantgarde Sandro Chia, who since Etruscan times, always stands among the vineyards of Brunello.
The times that we are living and that we will all remember because of their anomaly, lead us to rediscover places in our country that the mania to leave always and anyway and go far away has made us forget.
From castles to villas, there is no Italian wine territory that does not boast an architectural jewel or more than one. What’s more, they have maintained their nature as noble residences, linked to country activities. Medicean villas, or of ancient and illustrious families such as Villa Le Corti, of the Corsini Princes, majestic late Renaissance architecture, also in Chianti Classico, built at the beginning of the seventeenth century according to a project by the architect Santi di Tito, or Villa Cusona, the Guicciardini Strozzi estates among the Vernaccia vineyards in San Gimignano, whose oldest document dates back to 994, without forgetting the Renaissance Villa di Argiano in Montalcino by the famous architect Baldassarre Peruzzi and whose vin “si terse” also the great poet Giosuè Carducci. But also as Villa Margon, one of the most beautiful extramoenia noble residences in the Alps, built in the 16th century in Trento and now owned by the Lunelli Group, with a cycle of frescoes on the deeds of Emperor Charles V, who was supposed to have been a guest there.
Or as Villa Russiz, the nineteenth-century residence of the Counts of La Tour, a particular example of neo-Gothic style of German matrix, the “Spitzbogenstil”, among the vineyards of Friuli. And above all like the many beautiful Venetian Villas in Valpolicella: from the 16th century Villa Santa Sofia, designed by Andrea Palladio, to Villa Sandi, with its Palladian style from the time of the Serenissima loved by guests such as Napoleon and Canova; from Villa della Torre di Allegrini, one of the most important historical-architectural examples of the Italian sixteenth century by Giulio Romano, to Villa Mosconi Bertani, into the Bertani Domains universe, a neoclassical villa-cellar and important literary salon of Romanticism, up to Villa Serego Alighieri, still owned by the Alighieri family, who have lived there for almost seven centuries, guarding its walls and memories and taking care of the activity of the farm, which produces Serego Alighieri wines, whose preparation and distribution is followed by Masi Agricola.
If for the tourists of the world, to whom we have let enjoy so much beauty in recent decades, it will be a year of pause, we can reopen our eyes to what surrounds us. Places such as Palazzo Lana Berlucchi, adjacent to the historic Berlucchi wine cellars, which reached its current appearance in the seventeenth century, but has always been a symbol of Franciacorta’s entrepreneurship. Or like the Renaissance palaces of Florence, owned by the oldest and noblest families of wine producers: the Frescobaldi, which in addition to the sixteenth-century Palazzi, large and beautiful gardens, also boast their own square, just like the Marchesi Antinori, whose Palace is one of the most illustrious examples of Florentine Renaissance architecture designed and built in the fifteenth century by the Medici architect Giuliano da Maiano, a pupil of Brunelleschi. And just like the Antinori family, whose treasures include masterpieces such as Ghirlandaio’s “Ultima Cena” at the ancient Badia a Passignano in Chianti Classico, among the vineyards of Brunello to enrich the ancient village of Castiglion del Bosco, restored by the Ferragamo family, are also the fourteenth-century frescoes with the “Annunciazione” by Pietro Lorenzetti.
Small villages that are the symbol of the restart of Italy, returned to life years ago thanks to vignerons patrons, from Rocca Sveva of the Cantina di Soave, a charming medieval village with spectacular underground cellars that wind under the ancient Castle of Soave, in Solomeo, Umbria, restored to its former glory by the “king of cashmere” Brunello Cucinelli and where today his wine is born. The same fate experienced by great and historic estates, such as Il Pollenza of the Conti Brachetti Peretti, the scene of the battle of Tolentino, in the Marches, between the Neapolitan army led by Gioacchino Murat and the Austrian army, in 1815, interspersed with buildings of the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, or the Tenuta di Pietra Porzia, in Frascati in the Castelli Romani, which owes its name to Marco Porcio Catone, now owned by the Giulini family, and where in 496 a. C. the Romans defeated the Latins with the help of the Dioscuri, the twin sons of Jupiter. Going down towards Salento, the beauty translates into places like Castello Monaci, an imposing fortification that dates back to a settlement of ancient French monks of the sixteenth century, now belonging to the Gruppo Italiano Vini, or Masseria Altemura of Zonin1821, an ancient farm of the seventeenth century, an example of the set of rural farm buildings that has always been typical of the South.
An historical and cultural heritage of an Italy that is rediscovering its masterpieces, with which, from antiquity to today, it has never ceased to be an example and to look to its future, with the vine that has prospered for centuries even among the most ancient treasures, helping to maintain them also thanks to the wines that are born there: from the excavations of Pompeii where, with the Mastroberardino winery, the Villa dei Misteri was born, to the Valley of the Temples of Agrigento, where the Cva Canicattì produces the Diodoros, to the Archaeological Park of Selinunte, the largest in Europe, where the vine is reborn with the wines of the project Sostieni Selinunte. But the same happens also in Mozia, protected natural and archaeological reserve of the Stagnone di Marsala, where the Englishman Joseph Whitaker invented the Marsala, and today to produce the “wine of the Phoenicians” among the finds that have returned authentic masterpieces, like the sensual statue of the Giovinetto di Mozia, is Tasca d’Almerita (without forgetting Villa Tasca, cradle of Sicilian social and artistic life in the mid-nineteenth century, between Palermo and Monreale, capable of inspiring Wagner the third act of “Parsifal”, and in the heart of Jacqueline Kennedy). Remaining in Sicily, in unsuspicious times, Donnafugata donated her Pantesco Garden of Khamma to Pantelleria, one of the few remaining on the island and a symbol of the rural wisdom of the past, to the Fai.
To conclude in beauty, among the many quotations, the last destination is Sardinia. It is here that, among the expanses of vineyards and dusty olive groves of Serdiana, Argiolas preserves an authentic treasure of the past: Santa Maria di Sibiola, a small Romanesque church founded by Benedictine monks who came to its countryside in the year 1000, and a pilgrimage destination for the faithful in the days of its festivities that fall, perhaps not by chance, at harvest time.

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