History of Capezzana
Wine jars and tasting cups found in Etruscan tombs dating to approximately 1000 BC show that vines have been cultivated in Carmignano since Pre Roman times. More specifically, a parchment rent contract conserved in the Florence State Archives, dated 804, reveals that vines and olives were cultivated at Capezzana for the production of oil and wine as early as 1200 years ago. In the early Renaissance, Monna Nera Bonaccorsi built the first ‘Nobleman’s house’ and nine farmhouses together with wine-making buildings at Capezzana. Numerous generations and families followed: the Cantucci, relations of the Medici, and the Marchesi Bourbon del Monte. In the Eighteenth century the wife of Marquis Bourbon, née Cantucci, enlarged the estate and increased the number of farms; her greatest achievement, however, was to introduce exemplary administrative practices, evidence of which can be found in the estate’s historic archive. After the Bourbons the property passed to the Adimari Morelli and then to the Franchetti. Sara de Rothschild, widow of Baroni Franchetti, sold it to the Contini Bonacorssi.
Contini Bonacossi Family at Capezzana
At the beginning of the Twentieth century Count Alessandro Contini Bonacossi returned to Italy from Spain with his wife Vittoria and two children Augusto Alessandro and Vittorina. While in Spain he was highly successful in the antiques trade and began to amass what was to become one of the largest private collections of paintings, furniture, ceramics and statues. Upon his death, the central part of this exceptional collection was bequeathed to the state by his children Alessandro and Vittorina.
The Contini Bonacossi donation, which is now an integral part of the Uffizi Gallery, is displayed in ten rooms that are not yet connected with the gallery and can only be
visited by appointment.
In the 1920’s Alessandro bought Capezzana, which he enlarged by acquiring two neighbouring estates, ‘Il Poggetto’ and ‘Trefiano’ from Marquis Aman Niccolini.
The Capezzana estate, divided into three parts and incorporating more than 120 métayage farms, produced high quality wine and oil, and was later further improved and enlarged through significant work and investment.
Alessandro’s passion for collecting led him to bottle his wine from the first year of production, so that today Capezzana is in the almost unique position of having bottles of vintages dating from 1925.
After the war and completing a university degree in farm management, Ugo joined his father in reconstructing the wine-making business at Capezzana and gradually took over the running of the estate. From the very start he was a firm believer in the quality of the wines produced in this region and set out to improve his wines at a time when the majority of producers were still selling their wines by weight.
At present production processes are being changed: the estate is in the midst of a ‘second vineyard reconstruction’. There is a return to denser planting, with from 6000 to 10,000 vines per hectare, as the latest machinery is suited to rows of vines planted close together. The Capezzana ‘philosophy’ remains the same: to uphold traditions yet to keep improving, which means that the estate is more like a ship ploughing ahead than an immobile statue. ‘One must not lose the identity of the wine or the characteristics of its production area, since tradition is the accumulation of innumerable improvements and innovations that have taken place over the centuries and have been passed down through the generations. We still believe that we should continue to “change for the better”: this has always occurred and is made ever more possible by modern technology’. Ugo Contini Bonacossi continues,’‘This is our family’s philosophy, which derives from the passion which we put into our work. Together we try to make our mark in one of the most exciting and difficult professions’.
Territory: Il Carmignano
As stated above, wine production in Carmignano dates back to the Etruscans and later the Roman period. At the end of the 14th century Datini wrote of buying Carmignano wine for a large sum for his cellars in Prato; in the 17th century Redi praised Carmignano wine as worthy of Jove. Furthermore, Carmignano was designated by Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici (in 1716) as one of the four best areas for wine growing in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. The ‘Motu proprio’ Decree and ‘Bando’ laid down precise rules for production, set out geographical boundaries and regulated trade in the wines from these areas, thereby making up the first ‘D.O.C.’ (denomination of controlled origin) in the world. Between the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries, the cellars of Marchese Niccolin’s estate (today part of Capezzana estate) produced and exported Carmignano. A period of decline followed and in the 1930′s the historic Medici Carmignano D.O.C. label was incorporated into the Chianti Montalbano D.O.C. For Carmignano producers the return of the ‘Carmignano’ denomination represented the recovery of their wine’s historic and territorial identity: it was a lengthy and difficult battle in which Ugo Contini Bonacossi played a fundamental role. In 1975 the Carmignano D.O.C. was finally recognized – retroactively, for mature wines, as far back as the 1969 vintage. In 1990 the D.O.C.G. label (denomination of guaranteed controlled origin) was granted, retroactively back to 1988.
Today the estate has 670 hectares, of which approximately one hundred are vineyards and one hundred and forty olive groves. The estate comprises a Renaissance villa with adjacent farm, historic cellars beneath this complex which date to the Sixteenth century, a modern olive mill and a huge ‘vinsantaia’ (where vin santo is made), above the cellar. The new ‘tinaia’ (fermentation cellar), was built in 1938 to designs by the architect Giovanni Michelucci.
Capezzana is situated in northern Tuscany, in the commune of Carmignano in the province of Prato, 20 km from Florence, on the slopes of Monte Albano and close to the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines.
The location explains the uniqueness of its climate: the altitude (approximately 200 m above sea level) is such that daytime temperatures in summer are high whereas nights are cool on account of the winds off the Apennines. These conditions ensure good maturing of the grapes, which are generally one to two weeks ahead of other Tuscan wine-growing regions. Rainfall is well-distributed throughout the year because the mountains, which are over 2000 m high, cause condensation activity that generally provides some rainfall in June and July, interrupting the dry season. Furthermore Mount Albano protects the vineyards from storms and the Capezzana spur projects over the extensive Florence-Prato-Pistoia plain like a peninsular, enjoying optimal exposure and good ventilation.
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