Chianti, its wine and great personalities
Many are the dishes characterised by the aroma of Chianti wine which, here, is a dominant element, appreciated throughout the ages, certainly beginning with the Etruscans and the Romans (even though it is not possible to know the characteristics of that wine). When successive barbaric invasions devastated our country, in this secluded zone the Benedictine and Vallombrosani monks dedicated themselves to writing documents concerned with agronomy and vine-growing and to putting into practice the rules, defending this precious culture, guarded in abbeys such as Coltibuono, Passignano, Poggialvento.
During the years, above all after the year one thousand, the “specialised” culture was intensified in the whole area for the vines being cultivated low in height, in rows, often protected by ‘brolii’ or even by the city walls to defend them from being damaged by animals and from theft. The toponymy of some Florentine streets demonstrates this. Via della Vigna Vecchia (Old Vineyard Road), Via della Vigna Nuova (New Vineyard Road), Via Vinegia, Santa Maria in Vigna (subsequently to become Santa Maria Novella) testify to the presence of the vines not only around the edges, but also right inside the city. Well protected vines, therefore: strangers could not enter, the damages that were brought about by man or animal was severely punished, the destruction of these vines could even lead to torture. And, on the other side, wine was subject to a heavy taxation system and the quality was paid on the base of the evaluation of the Land Register.
Chianti wine was written about by many great personalities who had a relationship with the land of the Chianti.
Michaelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564), who had properties in the Chianti, included praise in his correspondence for the Chianti wine that he produced, drank and offered to his friends with great enthusiasm. This was so much so that he found a way of donating a barrel to the Pope; and to Machiavelli (1469-1527) who, when suspected of anti-Medicean conspiracy, hid on his “poor” farm in Chianti, the ‘Albergaccio’ in Sant’Andrea in Percussina where he wrote “il Principe” (‘the Prince’), loved to go to the hostel to “ingagglioffirsi” (as he himself wrote), to drink and play, before putting on his “courtly clothes” to discourse on the political theme of which he was a great innovator.
And Galilei (1564-1642), as the student Vincenzo Viviani records, in his villa near Grignano the great scientist forgot the accusations of heresy while delighting in “the delicacy of the wines and the grapes and of the method of taking care of the vines, which at the same time he with his own hands pruned and tied up in the vinyards”.
But lets not forget Francesco Redi (1626-1698) who, although he proposed first place to the wine of Montepulciano which “of every wine is king”, praised our Chianti with these verses: «Lingua mia già fatta scaltra / gusta un po’, gusta quest’altro / vin robusto che si vanta / d’esser nato in mezzo al chianti....» («O my tongue already made shrewd / taste a little, taste this other / robust wine which boasts / to have been born in the middle of the Chianti ....»). A wine defined “majestic, imperious” that from the heart «scaccia senza strepiti ogni affanno e ogni dolore» («banishes without clamour every worry and every pain»).
So, a wine that in some way coincides with the life, history, and traditions of its land; a land that may boast of the esteem of great personalities of yesterday as of today, belonging to all the arts, and not least of all, music. It is lovely to remember that it is the land of Chianti that gave life to the very famous Chigiana Accademy. In fact in 1923 following a meeting of the Count Chigi Saracini with Arrigo Boito, which took place in his sixteenth century villa near Castelnuovo Berardenga, the famous accademy was born, taking its name from the owner of the house and which, only nineteen years later, was transferred to Siena where its fame spread throughout the world.