Mazzei: the Master of Tuscany
December 1, 2009
When you have been in the wine business for over 600 years, you tend it get it right.
And that’s definitely the case with the Mazzei family in Tuscany.
The Mazzei family has owned the Castello di Fonterutoli near the Tuscan wine town of Castellina in Chianti since 1435. A Reuters news account has reminded me that “their ancestors were planting grape vines while the Hundred Years’ War raged in France, the Ming Dynasty was on the throne in China, and some 20 years before Christopher Columbus was born!”
Approximately 300 years after that, Philip Mazzei was invited to the very young United States to help in the cultivation of grapes and olives on Monticello’s estate in Virginia. This was at the request of its owner, Thomas Jefferson, who was an aficionado of fine wine.
The tradition of excellence in wine making continues today on Fonterutoli’s property. The philosophy of this family has always been to try to understand what the strengths of this estate offer, and try to help it fulfill its potential. To this end, they have painstakingly mapped all the vineyard plots on the estate. They have determined what grape varieties perform best at various altitudes and exposure to the sun.
Extensive research and replantings in the vineyards have occurred. They have planted 36 different clones of Sangiovese on the property, along with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Colorino, and Malvasia Nera. They have also invested in a new gravity-fed winery that opened in 2006.
Today, four world-class wines are being produced on the Fonterutoli Estate:
- Poggio alla Badiola, an IGT Tuscan that retails for about $15
- Fonterutoli Chianti Classico DOCG that retails for about $25
- Castello di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico DOCG (similar to a Riserva) that retails for about $50
- Siepi, an IGT Tuscan that retails for about $100
If you’ve introduced yourselves to Fonterutoli’s wines, you’ll be happy to know that the Mazzei family is also making wine on two other properties: their Belguardo estate in Tuscany’s Maremma area, and on their Zisola estate in the region of Sicily.