La Famiglia Nunzi Conti and La Tenuta Barberino
I met Antonio because my family and I rented two apartments from him this summer so we could spend two weeks together at the winery. You can read a review of our stay here, where we experienced a wonderful vacation together filled with quality time, trips to beautiful Medieval cities like San Gimignano, Verrazzano Castle and Greve in Chianti, not to mention the private pool!
I couldn’t help but wonder how this man came to own hundreds of acres of Chianti producing land and beautiful Villas so I interviewed him and this is his story and the story of the wine that he produces – Chianti Classico.
Antonio began to tell me the story of his great grandfather….
It was the 1800s and his great-grandfather made some money selling pig fat for candles. With his second wife he had a son, Armando Gualtiero, who at 16, found himself taking over the family responsibilities as the “man of the house” (at 16!!). During the war he was given the honorable position of water distribution and started one of Italy’s most important coffee companies, next only to Lavazza at the time!
A stout business man, he sold off his coffee company and bought a lot of land in the region now defined as Chianti. THIS LAND, bought in the 1800s is still in the Conti Family and its most prestigious piece of land houses the “Elisa” Vineyard, that grows the Sangiovese grapes for the family’s Gran Selezione Chianti Classico, the most prestigious of their wines.
A Note on Chianti Classico vs. Chianti
One of the things I found fascinating while speaking to Antonio about the Tenuta Nunzi Conti Vineyard was the history behind the Chianti wine denomination. In 1716 the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo the Third, defined by law the specific boundary where the Sangiovese grapes for Chianti Classico wine could be grown in order to be considered “Chianti”. In this way the Chiantishire area of Tuscany was born, and now under the direction of the Chianti Classico Consortium it is highly regulated ….
The Chianti territory in known for a specific set of characteristics such as relatively low temperatures in the winter, dry hot summers , an altitude that ranges from 250 – 600 meters above sea level and of course the soil!! I’ve been giving myself a little crash course in the Chianti Classico characteristics from the Consortium’s website and I found this totally intriguing:
The characteristics of the climate, terrains and altitudes, which are unfavorable for most crops, have made Chianti Classico a region that excels in the production of premium wines.
Now you may ask yourself….what is the big deal in specifying an area for Chianti wine? Well, for over 40 YEARS the Consortium engaged in legal battles to define the territory because wine made from the same grapes, with the same process and methods and bottled in the same way from OUTSIDE of this physical area was NOT the same as wine from within it, due to the geographical characteristics of the zone! Geography DOES impact crops!
And so from the 1960s there is a differentiation between “CHIANTI CLASSICO”; wine from the Chianti area as defined in the 1700s and just “CHIANTI”, which is wine made with the same grapes / process from outside of the area.
The Nunzi Conti family was instrumental in this important recognition because it was under Antonio’s Grandfather that the Chianti Classico definition was reinstated, bringing it back to its distinguishing characteristics and recognizing, on a world wide level, the importance of the area for the production of this unique wine.
The Birth of A Wine
2015 Marks the inauguration of the sale of Tenuta Nunzi Conti wines directly to the public under their own brand. Previously, they sold their premium wine to larger wineries (some of the most famous and expensive on the planet!!) to be sold under their names. The transformation from a supplier to a branded winery began in 2006 and it has taken almost a decade for their first bottle to be ready! In 2012 they had the first Vendemmia, grape harvest, and the wine bottled in that year is now for sale internationally.
In the brief but interesting education that Antonio gave me while we chatted I learned the difference between the three qualities or levels of Chianti Classico wine – Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva and Chianti Classico Gran Selezione.
What’s so special about Chianti Classico GRAN SELEZIONE ?
Legends & Stories
This week I’m in a Tuscan mood and tomorrow I’ll be sharing my new “Casentino Wool” coat, which is a special ancient wool only produced in Tuscany!
This article is part of the HAND MADE – The Artisan Series dedicated to the artisans and producers of Italy and hand made products of excellence.
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