Do you really know what is “Chianti Classico” wine? We are sure you don’t! To know what it is, you have to read the most fascinating new book Chianti Classico: The Search for Tuscany’s Noblest Wine , written by Bill Nesto and Frances Di Savino, which has just been published by the University of California Press.
The book not only tells the story of this famous wine since the 1500s until today, but it also reveals the closely intertwined socio-economic story of the Chianti territory. It is also a story of the laws, decrees, institutions and lobbying bodies which sought to protect the place of origin of wines and have led to the modern Chianti Classico, with its trademark, the Black Rooster (Gallo Nero).
We hope that the book’s short summary below will give Villa le Barone’s magazine readers the desire to read the book!
For centuries, “Chianti was valued as a special wine from the rocky hills of three river valleys between Florence and Siena in the heart of Tuscany: Val di Pesa, Val di Greve and Val d’Arbia”. This place, the original Chianti, has been mired in conflict for much of its history… and it was the dispute over the borders of the Chianti zones in the 20th century that came to be known as the “War of Chianti” (Guerra del Chianti). In 11 chapters, Bill Nesto and Frances di Savino describe the evolution of Chianti from the 1500s through Bettino Ricasoli in the 1800s, to the twenty-first century, including the birth of the competing “Chianti Classico” and “External Chianti” zones in the twentieth century. It tells how Chianti Classico entered the global market, mainly commercialized in “fiaschi” (flasks), wrapped in traditional reed, “sala”. At the same time, Italian wine merchants started to sell red wine under the brand “Chianti” coming from all over Tuscany, and even Rome, Naples, Sicily and other Italian regions. Tellingly, Italy did not sign the international Madrid Agreement to protect “indications of source or appellation of origin” in the late nineteenth century. In 1924 a law called Disposizioni per la difesa dei vini tipici (Provision for the defense of typical wines) gave precedence to the concept of “Vini Tipici “ over that of wines from delimitated areas, the result of a 4-year legislative odyssey. The Chiantigiani immediately fought back, and in May 1924, the “Consortium for the defense of the typical wine of Chianti and its mark of origin” was created in Radda in Chianti, and choose the Black Rooster, the emblem of the medieval Lega del Chianti, as its “mark of origin”. Within 6 months the consortium grew to 189 members. It was soon called “Rooster Consortium” (Consorzio del Gallo). The authors continue describing the divisions and fights between Chianti Classico and External Chianti and their respective consortia after World War 2. In 2014, a new Chianti Classico DOCG (Denominazione Origine Controllata e Guarantita) discipline was adopted. The Chianti Classico zone now covers the full townships of Radda in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti , Castellina in Chianti, and Greve in Chianti (which includes the hamlet of Panzano). The denomination also includes part of the townships of Castelnuovo Berardenga, Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, Barberino Val d’Elsa, Poggibonsi and San Casciano Val di Pesa. Today, the discussions are continuing: Is it important to identify “subzones” of Chianti Classico? Should there be “township labeling”?
“Essentially, Chianti Classico is a Sangiovese varietal wine”, already referenced in 1552 by Girolamo da Firenzurola in his long-lost treatise, “Sopra la agricultura”. It is Baron Bettino Ricasoli who, in 1870, re-established Sangiovese as Chianti’s star variety, sharing the stage with Canaiolo and Malvasia. But the authors state in conclusion of their chapter “The Secret of Sangiovese” that creating a new category of 100% Sangiovese Chianti Classico would allow “Sangiovese and terroir to shine”. Organic and biodynamic viticulture is now growing. It began in Panzano, where the Villa le Barone hotel is located, and where the Chanti Classico producers agreed together to adopt “sustainable viticulture practices”.
There are about 380 grower-bottlers of Chianti Classico, and Bill and Frances have selected a number of them, mostly the smaller to midsize ones and present them in one of the last chapters.
You will be able to savor the best Chianti Classico wines at Villa le Barone, together with the best traditional dinners prepared by our cooks!
“This is not a simple tale”, as Bill Nesto, MW and founder of the Wine Studies Program at Boston University, and Frances Di Savino, attorney and co-author, state in the first chapter of Chianti Classico: “With its many twists and turns, peaks and valleys, Chianti is a territory worthy of an epic. Framed by Florence to its north and Siena to its south, Chianti is a land of quintessential beauty and culture. It is the timeless paesaggio (landscape) in the background of a Renaissance painting. It is a land of castles, chapels, bell towers, farmhouses, hills, oaks, cypresses, olive groves, and vineyards. It is an authentic place which gave birth to an iconic…wine, also known as Chianti.”
You have to come to Chianti!
Villa le Barone’s guests have many talents: designers, photographers, painters, writers! The recent book by Thierry Chambolle “The Master of Unicorn” is an example.
It is a historical novel that tells of the journey of the Indian rhinoceros given in 1515 by the Sultan of Cambaye to Afonso de Albuquerque, who will give it to his king, Manuel I, who himself will give it to Pope Leon X. From a drawing, Albrecht Dürer will make a still famous engraving of this rhinoceros, animal never seen before in Europe.
Unfortunately, the book has not been translated yet, but it might interest the French speaking readers of this article!
Was the Christmas tree always there as a Tuscan Tradition…? There were different and very ancient year end traditions before this charming fairly new symbol. In particular, a “Ceppo” (stump of a tree) would be brought in the fireplace on the December solstice, and it would be the occasion for the whole family to express wishes… and today Villa le Barone formulates all best wishes to the readers of this article!
Much before the Christmas tree custom had become the standard in most of the Christian world and beyond, many European households celebrated the December solstice (longest night of the year) with a different tradition inherited from pagan pre-Christian times; the Tuscan version of this tradition, still practiced in traditional families in the early nineteen fifties, consisted in bringing into the house, close to the fireplace, the “Ceppo” (stump) of a tree, often of an oak, which would be decorated with leaves, moss and berries from the forest. Then the house master would set the “Ceppo” in the already burning fireplace sprinkling on it a few drops of wine and dropping some grain on the embers. Then the family would gather in front of the burning stump and, holding hands, would sing the classical propitiatory song: “Be happy , stump / tomorrow is the day of the bread / all grace comes into this house / women, goats, sheep shall all breed offspring / grain and flour and wine will abound (Sia felice il ceppo/ domani è il giorno del pane/ ogni grazia entri in questa casa/ le donne, le capre, le pecore figlieranno/ abbonderanno grano e farina e vino”) . Then the chidren, blindfolded, would hit the burning stump with fire irons while chanting aloud their gift wishes. The “ceppo” was kept burning for a few days to cheer the household up during these longest and coldest days of the year.
A remnant of this tradition, in some countries, is a popular Christmas rolled cake, often covered with chocolate, which is still decorated in the shape of a tree stump.
When you come to #VillaleBarone next time – even if it will probably be in a period different from the winter solstice- and pass in front of one of the very large fireplaces, just have a thought about the families chanting in front of it to ensure and bring down some prosperity on the household! … and if in the meantime you hear someone chanting “I would like a lovely trip to Chianti and Villa le Barone” we are all in favor of it and shall be happy to help make this wish become true!
A “not to be missed” popular place in Florence is the “Porcellino” (the piglet), in fact a bronze boar fountain in the loggia of the “Mercato Nuovo”. Rub his nose and put a coin in his mouth for good luck! Also admire the sculpture by maestro Piero Tasca, commissioned by Cosimo de Medicis in 1612, but with copies now existing in many cities all over the world!
When you stroll in Florence, you cannot miss the loggia of the “Mercato Nuovo” (the New Market), built around the middle of the 16th century in the heart of the city, just a few steps from the Ponte Vecchio. It is a small market where today you can buy many souvenirs. On the south side of the loggia, you will see the famous bronze statue of a boar, with its shiny nose, as so many people have rubbed it for good fortune: you have to put a coin in his mouth and let it slip, hoping it would fall between the grates and fulfill your wishes. There are a lot of legends linked to this “Porcellino”. A 19th century US author, Charles Godfrey Leland, who settled in Florence for a part of his life, wrote about the fountain in his book “Legends of Florence collected from the People”. The Danish writer Hans Cristian Anderson also wrote a story inspired by this fountain called “The Bronze Hog”: a young boy falls asleep on the back of the bronze boar and during the night, the boar comes to life and takes him through the streets of Florence…
You also have to know that the “Porcellino” is a copy of a copy of a copy …The bronze boar was originally sculpted and casted by Baroque Master Pietro Tacca shortly before 1634, inspired by a marble Italian copy of a Greek marble original, which was a gift from the Pope to the Medici in the 1560s. What you will see today is a 20th century copy installed when the original bronze was moved into the Uffizzi museum (with so many people rubbing it, his nose was becoming too thin!).
And many other copies of the boar have been made recently in many cities all over the world: in Australia, in the USA (in 12 states!), in Denmark, in Sweden, in Germany, in Great Britain…
Do you have many wishes to express? Then, come to Florence in Italy! The “Porcellino” is waiting for you and will certainly fulfill them…
Do you like to paint? Do you like photography? Then come and spend holidays in Tuscany, where you will find, whatever the season, the most beautiful landscapes, the most beautiful colors, the most beautiful lights to paint and capture! Renowned professors bring their students to painting workshops, and private lessons can be given. Many hosts also choose Villa le Barone to enjoy the pleasure of painting and photography. A photo competition is organized!
What makes Hotel Villa le Barone specifically suited for painting and photography? First, painters will find so many interesting corners in our gardens to plant their easel, and photographers will have so many stunning Tuscan landscapes to capture. Even in case of rain (but it is very rare except in autumn!), artists can paint and meet in one of the lounges, where the watercolors, oil paintings and pastels that artists have kindly given to us over the years can be admired! Some artists are bringing their students, such as Jean François Grillard, from France, who organized his eighth course at Villa le Barone this year, or as Andrew Lattimore from New York. Private lessons are also given by Marina Des Tombe, a Dutch painter and sculptor living in Chianti. Jann Pollard, who organized a number of workshops at Villa le Barone, now comes just for her pleasure and prepares a collection which she will present in galleries. And many other Guests, just amateurs painters or photographers, are choosing Villa le Barone in order to practice their hobby! Villa le Barone organizes for them every year a photo competition: the first prize wins 2 free nights and the second, one night!
Spouses have also a lot to do with all the activities offered by Villa le Barone!
Of course during their stay, participants in painting workshops and photographers are not only practicing their art and enjoying Tuscan beauty, they also can enjoy the delicious traditional Tuscan cuisine!
Let yourself be charmed by Tuscany. Come paint and photograph its hills, cypress paths, its architecture, and its monuments!