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Visit Castello di Volpaia

  • Visit Castello di Volpaia

    Castello di Volpaia is far more than a winery: it’s the hub of a sustainable community. Its success shows that medieval villages can be saved and repurposed for modern living. It’s done almost invisibly, without sacrificing the soul of the village or even its surface sheen of antiquity. Nor has the village sold out to outsiders: the locals are in charge, even if tourism sustains their way of life. The Castello di Volpaia’s owners, Carlo and Giovannella Stianti Mascheroni, own about two-thirds of the village, not just the winery. Theirs is a long-term project, to keep this medieval hamlet alive for future generations. To this end, most of the estate workers have been housed within the village walls. Given its agricultural lands, the village is virtually self-sufficient. This is a sustainable community at its best.

    Volpaia was founded in 1172, with its redoubtable castle acting as a defensive outpost for the Florentine Republic against Siena. Today, this battered castle acts as the hub of a successful wine estate that has saved the village from ruin. Medieval buildings, deconsecrated churches and underground passages have been quietly converted into high-tech wine cellars or olive oil mills, with bottling plants and olive presses. Parts are connected by ingenious underground tunnels. An underground labyrinth of steel pipes runs below the village. Known as a wine-duct, this maze of pipes allows the wine to move by means of gravity from higher to lower parts of the village.

    The Castello di Volpaia cellars start from a sacristy and end up in cellars below churches which are now given over to wine-making. Plan ahead and book a tour and tasting with Castello di Volpaia for a behind-the-scenes experience. The wine-tasting shop is housed in what was once the main tower of the ancient castle. The barrels of wine are aged in cellars beneath ancient village buildings, such as the churches of San Lorenzo and the Commenda di Sant’Eufrosino. After bottling in a high-tech plant, the precious wine continues to age in the bottle in the dark, cool cellars below Palazzo Canigiani.

    All this would be nothing if the wines themselves didn’t deliver. The estate’s standard Chianti Classic Riserva is elegant, with aromas of black cherry, tobacco and leather. Instead, Coltassala is a pricey Chianti Classico Riserva of great complexity which some have likened to a Super Tuscan. Enraptured reviewers talk of “aromas of salami, fennel bulb, peppercorns and wildflowers.” The estate also produces an entry-level Chianti Classico, made with ten percent Merlot, which is lightly tannic but not overly oaky. Finally, there is also a smooth Super Tuscan blend called Balifico that boosts the portion of Cabernet Sauvignon. Book a visit to the olive press and wine cellars, with a tasting of Volpaia wines and olive oil along with a sampling of local produce. Castello di Volpaia honey, speciality vinegars and Extra Virgin Olive Oil are also on sale. Cellar visits are usually conducted at 11.30am, 3pm and 5pm but it’s best to check directly.

    Address: Castello di Volpaia, Piazza della Cisterna, Volpaia, 53017, Radda in Chianti
    Tel: +39 0577 738066

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