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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

 

Map of Chianti Classico Wine Area

Found on : http://vinecon.ucdavis.edu/

 

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 ?

Many of us may not have noticed, but a revolution just took place in the wine world!  From North America (Canada included!) to Australia, wine producers have been pushing for more flexibility in terms of grape juice percentages needed to remain in a specific wine category.  While the Chianti Classico producers have been pushing for more STRICT regulations, and like this the Gran Selezione level of Chianti Classico wine was born.
In order to produce Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 100% of the Sangiovese wine MUST be produced by the VINEYARD ITSELF and NOT PURCHASED! Plus the wine must be aged a minimum of 30 MONTHS in the barrels plus at least 3 months in the bottle before being sold.  A three year investment in aging not to mention all of the regulations around the bottling process and vintage (grape harvest) process.
That is why the Tenuta Nunzi Conti is so special, on an international level they may be a small producer, however, they are one of the few in the world able to produce the Gran Selezione quality of Chianti Classico.
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Legends & Stories

I asked Antonio why there was a black rooster on on every bottle of his wine and as the symbol of the Chianti Classico Consortium and he told me a great story I would love to share with you!  …..
Once upon a time in the Middle Ages the ongoing feud between Siena and Florence about their boundaries caused the two cities to come up with a solution once and for all.  Both Florence and Siena would choose a date and on that date they would each send out a knight.  The knights would wake at dawn and ride until they met each other in the middle of the territory, the idea being that they were just as fast so they would have equal land or the faster knight would earn his city more land.
Siena raised a beautiful white rooster to wake their knight on the fateful day, and fed him until he was good and fat.  Florence instead, starved their black rooster and on the date of the race the rooster was so hungry that it couldn’t take it any longer and started to crow even before sunrise, causing Florence’s knight to set out early and acquiring much more land for the city!
And so the black rooster is the symbol for the Chianti region and for Chianti Classico wines!:
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It was a wonderful experience to be able to stay in the apartments of the Tenunta Nunzi Conti, especially since we drank Chianti Classico every single night and I am a new found LOVER of the wine!!
International distribution of these wines has just begun, in Italy you can order from this website, but I recommend contacting the winery directly if you would like to order a few bottles (or cases) for yourself.  Antonio’s English was very good and they also have office staff that is experienced with international customers and shipments.
Antonio has offered THREE BOTTLES of CHIANTI CLASSICO valued at over 100 Euro as part of a giveaway!  Please feel free to enter and share 🙂

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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!

 

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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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