Continued from my last post -The Leaning Tower of Pisa
We were now in Italy and had been drinking a lot of wine.Even Malati who has stayed off alcohol all her life began to enjoy a few sips at a time. We started with Proseco in its various forms and moved on to other wines . We had a lot of house wines but were yet to appreciate the nuances of pairing with food and meats of various types. It was simply Rosso (red) or Bianco (white) . In Florence we were treated to house wine which the sommelier explained to us was made from Sangiovese grapes , the local produce of Tuscany and forms a key ingredient into the world renowned Chianti ( pronounced Kian- tea) wines.
The next day we made a trip the Chianti region , barely an hours drive away from Florence .Chianti is the region between Florence and Sienna , 60 miles away and an important town in Tuscany .We hopped on to a Mercedes van with driver cum guide Chiara leading us along with our new friends- Hunter and his wife Lise; a Canadian couple on their honey moon and American Steve and his wife Elsie along with their grown up children- set out to Greve at Chianti the heart of the wine growing area .We drove down the Firenze -Sienna highway into vineyard country -Through the journey we
admired the low lying hills covered with vineyards as far as the eye could see .On the way we passed by the ancient municipalities of San Casino and Tavernelle in Valdi Pesa before we got to “Greve at Chianti” located about forty mile south of Florence . Quaint little towns with churches and village squares studded with hotels and inns with history dating back to the early Roman empire and on through the Medici rule , Napoleonic rule,merger with Italy and even World war II where some bitter battles were fought in this region -The advance of the British Eighth Army was along the Sienna Florence road which is what we were traveling along.
After a few photo stops along the way we reached the Azienda Agricola Brogioni Maurizio or simply “The Agricultural Company of Maurizio Brogioni” a few miles off Greve. Maurizio(pronounced moritzio), our host for the evening is the the owner of a large vineyard and winery making Chianti. Maurizio walked us through his extensive vineyards and took us through the process of wine making – It was off season and did not get to see the actual making of the wine . Maurizio took great pains to explain to us that he is one of the few makers of the original Chianti Classico wine and that all wine sold as Chianti across the world is not the real thing – Only Chianti Classico is –
And here’s the story. While Chianti region has been making wine for centuries it was only in the 1700s that the Duke of Tuscany , one of the Medici rulers decreed that only four villages around Greve were the recognized producers of Chianti wine . Since then over the years grape growing and vine making extended its spread all across the Chianti region and beyond and was also sold as Chianti. In the early 1900s In order to protect their brand, the original Chianti Vintners( those from the four villages decreed by the Grand Duke) started bottling their wine with the logo of a Black Rooster –historical symbol of the Chianti Militia – and the date(dal) 1716 is the year of the proclamation by the Grand Duke. With further proliferation of Chianti wine (not from the original Chianti villages ) the Italian government in 1932 decreed that all wine made in Tuscany can be called Chianti and that which is made in the area delimited by the Grand Duke will be referred to as Chianti Classico –
And so along the walk through the vineyards , Maurizio re – emphasized that he is an original maker of Chianti Classico and not to be confused with the more pedestrian Chianti – In fact he went on to tell us that Chianti and Chianti Classico are, two different and separate DOCG (Controlled and Guaranteed Denominations of Origin), with two different sets of production regulations, production zones and consortia.
The type of grapes , fermentation process, mix of grapes , aging and alcohol content are very strictly laid down and all wine cannot be classified as Chianti Classico as Maurizio’s one was. And so it was Pedestrian Chianti vs Classy Chianti Classico . The DOCG and the end products are subject to very strict scrutiny and audit. I also learnt of a profession which was in great demand in wine producing areas – “Ampelographer /Ampelography is the field of botany concerned with the identification and classification of grapevines”(Wikipedia).
And so after a long walk through the vineyards peppered with nuances of the various wines of Chianti and province it was time to get down to tasting some wine – Maurizio the generous host made us sample five different wines including the Chianti Classico and paired off each of the wines with different meats /cheeses and vegetables accompanied with a very in depth and humorous commentary – And finally the bottles were passed around to demolish – Hunter, Steve and I “dutifully supported” by our wives did the honours and we polished off the remaining contents of the bottles -Malati proceeded to survey the other agri products that Maurizio was selling and we came back light in the head with heavy bags of shopping .
On the way back we passed the Pizzale Michelangelo –The same place where we began our trip to Florence . The light was good and we managed to get some good photographs of Florence. The photo shows a close up of the Statue of David ( one of two replicas) and rated as the most famous sculpture of Michelangelo.And with that we wound up our visit to Florence – A very beautiful city that warrants a much longer visit next time to take in the culture and history of Florence , The rise and fall of the Medicis and the papal empire , the works of art, renaissance and the architectural marvels -But for now it is off to Venice on the next leg of our journey – .