Captain Verrazzano’s Castle Wine Tour

The wine tour is about to begin….we gather ourselves on the front lawn of the old castle

Clouds rolled in on the morning of our wine tour of the Castello di Verrazzano Winery in Chianti. But no matter. After a sumptuous breakfast of fresh-baked coffee cakes, slabs of white cheese, meats, croissants and tasty jams in the castle, everyone gathered into a group on the spacious front lawn. The Castle rose elegantly above us, adorned by lush late-Renaissance gardens and an elegant fountain.

Mateo conducts wine tour
Matteo, our wonderfully expressive tour guide is dwarfed by some Verrazzano ‘big barrels’

We are greeted by Matteo, our wine guide for the tour, personally appointed by ‘Captain Verrazzano.’ (Giovanni da Verrazzano was an early explorer and merchant born in the castle and covered in my previous post, Tuscany’s Castle Winery Leaves a Dashing Legacy). Matteo instantly won our attention and affection by his approachable, enthusiastic and humorous personality. Brimming full of pertinent information about the Verrazzano Estate, as well as the intriguing history surrounding the family, he kept us greatly entertained.

We walked down ancient mysterious corridors
We walked down mysterious corridors…..

The castle cellar was dungeon-like with small rooms off the passageway. I saw boar’s legs of prosciutto hanging from the ceiling as I looked through the bars of a door. In another were huge terracotta amphorae full of Verrazzano extra-virgin olive oil from olives grown on the estate.

Procuitto hanging in small cell

Another product of the castle, miele (honey), is produced from beehives placed on the estate, gathered and sold in jars. Vinegar, also, is made from the natural acetic fermentation of Verrazzano wines, then aged in oak barrels for three months.

The barrell room where the exquisite Verrazzano wines age to perfection
The barrel room where the exquisite Verrazzano wines age to perfection. 

Ahhh...Vinsanto , the Holy Wine. Aged in small barrels, this wine is made from the Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes, gently mashed after a long drying.

Verrazzano Balsamic Vinegar is aged in these tiny barrels for up to twelve years. It is made by slow fermentation and acidification of the Trebbiano grape, cooked over a fire without any other substance added. We have a sampling and it is wonderful. It is thick and syrupy, yet elegantly flavored and not piercing like some I have bought in the stores back home. The texture is velvety and it is aromatically infused from the several kinds of wood from the barrels.

Musty wine storage-some of the fine aging wines of Verrazzano

Castello di Verrazzano makes several wines from the grapes grown on their estate. Vin Santo, the ‘Holy Wine,’ is made from the Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes, gently mashed after a long drying. Here at the estate, the strands of white grapes are hung up to dry. As they dehydrate, the sugar becomes more concentrated and perfect for the dessert wine.

Donna Clara is another white wine, made from Trebbiano, Toscano, and Gewurztraminer grapes. This aromatic, balanced and medium-bodied wine is pale yellow.

Bottiglia Particolare, Sassello and of course, Chianti Riserva are the Verrazzano Estates famous red wines made of Sangiovese blends.

Grappa di Verrazzano is produced by distillation of steam with the discontinuous method of fresh grapes of the Chianti Classico vineyards of the Castle.

Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes hanging to dry for Vin Santo wine.
Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes hanging to dry for Vin Santo wine.
Tasting of the wine in the depths of the Castle cellar
We all 'belly up to the bar' as Mateo pours wine and humours us

Afterward, we wind our way back outside of the castle and over to the big spacious tasting room which is held in a part of their restaurant.

The wine tasting afterward when we all emerge above ground.
Some of the people sitting at my table examine wine just poured as Matteo describes the varietal. Plates of bread lavishly spread with Castello di Verrazzano olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt arrived as an accompaniment. It disappeared in no time, as did the wine!
Some of the tasty Verrazzano wines!

We wound up our tour and raised a glass to each other’s most excellent health for the coming year. Castello di Verrazzano has left a memory of historical intrigue, medieval wonder, the beauty of vineyards and rolling hills with castle tops, and some delicious wine primed to perfection over the centuries. Salute!

Castello Da Verrazzano in Chianti
Castello Di Verrazzano in Chianti

*Via Castello di Verrazzano, 1, 50022 Greve in Chianti FI, Italy

Have you had the pleasure of touring a castle winery? What is your favorite memory about a winery tour? I’d love to hear your thoughts so please feel free to leave a comment below.

Must Love Wine–Roman ‘Sagra dell’Uva’ is About to Begin

Marino's Main Fountain which Spouts Wine instead of Water
Marino’s Main Fountain Spouts Wine instead of Water for the Sagra dell’Uva Festival

Marino, just 21 kilometers south of Rome, is a little hill-top medieval castle town with a big celebration of the grape every year on the first Sunday of October. Set in the famous wine-making Alban Hills, the Sagra dell’Uva is a day of merrymaking, feasting and drinking a whole lot of local wine. This same region of Castelli Romani, once a summer resort full of luxurious villas for the Roman nobility, was also famous for ensuring the early Roman Emperors had good wine to drink.


During the Sagra, clusters of grapes dangle over statues, terraces, doorways and balconies. 8063894560_f317b372ca_bFood stalls line the streets offering plates of delicious mussels, clams, olives, nuts, fruits, sweets and hot pork sandwiches called ‘porchetta.’ Medieval jousting tournaments, the Palio dei Rioni, stir up the turf while the townspeople, dressed in traditional costumes, hand out grapes and wine to the festival attendees. A colorful display of bursting fireworks tops off the evening as the celebration carries on. It gets rowdy!

Beware! Stay too late and this is what happens...they come for you!
Beware! Stay too long and this is what happens…they come for you!

It all began after the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 when admiral Marcantonio Colonna returned to his hometown of Marino following his famous victory over the Turks. More that 250 sailors were sent to the battle but came home safely.

Leone Ciprelli, a local poet, started the very first Sagra dell’Uva in 1925 to keep the victory of Lepanto alive. It has grown in popularity through the years to the degree that over 100,000 people now attend the event on Sunday. The Sagre dell’Uva is celebrated every October to give thanks for their safe return.

The big draw that everyone crowds in for is the running of the wine through the spouts of the main fountain. This happens as nightfall begins, usually around 5 pm, when the little village is transformed into a mass of excited onlookers. After the blessing, cups, pitchers and jars of all sizes are used to capture the 5,000 liters of the sweet golden nectar of locally grown wine.


Frascati is the most popular of the wines grown here, produced mainly from Malvasia and Trebbiano grapes, described as a fruity, acidic wine, with honey undertones. Several reds are also made and are available at the festival, including Merlot del Lazio and the Castelli Romani Red, Collezione Marchesini, described as a soft, fruity and easy-drinking wine made from the local Ciliegolo grapes. Just about every rural family has a vineyard that produces wine for its own use and often sold in litres at a bargain price.

This annual event costs the city approximately a quarter of a million dollars to put on but the benefits are worth it. Not only does Marino continue to promote the local wines of the Golden Goblet Wine Cooperative, which provides all of the wine, but they also keep their tradition alive which attracts tourists and puts Marino on the map.

One Miraculous Year 

On a previous year at the Sagra dell’Uva, a shout of “miracolo” was heard coming from a balcony overlooking the square of the main fountain. Evidently a woman had just filled her bucket at the kitchen sink to mop her floors and noticed that the water had been turned into wine. The neighbors as well had wine coming out of their faucets and it was thought to be a miracle. But the mayor announced that the ‘miracle’ was in fact a technical error in the plumbing. The pipes had been switched to the homes instead of to the fountain. And all of those who were crowded expectantly around the fountain in the square were greatly disappointed.