If this amazingly picturesque landscape with grapevines nestled beneath a medieval walled town looks like a scene out of The Godfather, it should. This is Castello di Volpaia, a huge (900 acre) winery surrounding and centered upon this little town which is located in the heart of the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany, Italy. You can tell just from the name of that region what sort of wine they make there, but Castello di Volpaia makes more than that. In addition to wine, olives (and olive oil) and vinegar are also made here. This little town is a virtual empire of traditional Tuscan agriculture, as well as a perfectly-preserved historical artifact in itself.
Wine has been made in the village of Volpaia since the 12th century–the year 1172, to be precise, which makes it one of the oldest wineries I’ve featured in this series. Medieval viticulture was a pretty small-scale affair at first, but the fortunes of this village really took off during the Italian Renaissance. One of the major movers in this town was Lorenzo della Volpaia, an early scientist, clockmaker and friend of Leonardo da Vinci. The various wars and political upheavals of the 15th and 16th centuries made Volpaia less important as a strategic fortress–which is why it has stone walls–but through all of this it continued to make fine wine and olive oil, exporting it to many places.
Since 1972 winemaking at Castello di Volpaia has been revolutionized on an organic and eco-friendly model. Because virtually the whole town is somehow integrated into the winemaking operation, this village has one of the most amazing features I’ve ever heard of: a wineduct, literally an aqueduct of wine running under the streets which transports wine from fermentation tanks in the village to cellars down below. This has got to be one of the coolest things ever.
I’ve never been to the north of Italy, but if (and when) I go, Castello di Volpaia is definitely on my list. This sounds like a really interesting–and tasty–place!