TUSCANY, ITALY AND VISITS IN CHIANTI




We’ve just returned home from our 2 week vacation in Tuscany. We had awful weather (more rain there than we’ve had in 2 years!), but a great trip nonetheless. Tuscany is beautiful, and well worth the visit. The highlight of our vacation was visiting Castello dei Rampolla, a winery owned by the di Napoli Rampolla family–the estate has been owned since 1739, it is now owned by Maurizia and her brother, Luca di Napoli Rampolla. They are direct descendants to the Dukes of Savoy, so some definite history going on there. They are in the heart of the beautiful Chianti region, althought their most prestigious wine is called “Sammarco”, which is not a Sangiovese, but a Super-Tuscan, mostly made from Cabernet Savignon.
They have been Biodynamic since 1994, although they are not certified as a large percentage is taken by the Demeter Association-Europe, a shame. Mary, Bede and myself were immediately swept into the vineyard by Luca, where we spent a pleasant few hours talking about Biodynamics, variations, plants, insects, animals, philosophy of farming, and even home-schooling, art, etc. It was terrific. Of course, no visit to a winery is complete without barrel tasting and opening finished wine. They were excited and eager to hear of our zero sulfite addition and have been on the cusp of working with some ideas themselves with some wines. Also, some talk of using old products for perserving found in the bark of trees instead of the conventional sulfites. It’s great to toalk to people who want to think things through and not follow the crowd!
We enjoyed their wines and again noticed that ‘extra dimension’ that can be found in BD wines. We opened a bottle of AmByth Grenache blend (with sulfites), I was happy to notice everyone went back for more and the bottle emptied quickly, perhaps always the ultimate sign of drinkability.
We had another good visit to the Chianti house Isola de Olena. Paolo, the owner, spent the afternoon giving us a history of the region. Quite amazing, in the 60′s the workers were basically surfs to the farmers, just 50 years ago! Coincidentally, Paolo was meeting with a BD consultant the following day. He has noticed a decline in the health of his soil over the 30 years he has been farming and is very eager to do something to change this. He is worried about how conventional farming is degrading his soil to dangerous levels…
The trip was full of excellent food both at restaurants and with organic products bought at local farms (wild asparagus and artichokes in season–incredible!) and cooked at our lovely “La Poderina”, a podere-traditional Tuscan farmhouse-owned by Phillip’s sister, Penelope.
Now back to our blessed home, just in time for shoot thinning!