By Giovanni Salvietti
Driving along the SP222 Chiantigiana from Florence towards Siena, just before the hamlet of Greti, I stop in Vicchiomaggio Castle’s direct sales outlet car park. Intoxicated by the sun and the spring atmosphere, I walk up the road that leads to the fortress.
While I take in the vineyards and slowly awakening nature I am attracted by the bucolic vision of Vicchiomaggio itself, nestled on a ridge between two hills.
The Vicchiomaggio Castle is located in the municipal area of Greve in Chianti, in the heart of the Florentine Chianti Classico production area.
The oldest part of the building is the tower of Lombard origin dating back to 1100, while the rest dates back to the 15th century, or rather the Renaissance period.
Vicchiomaggio derives from ‘Vico Maggio’ meaning a small community in the month of May. During the calends of May, in fact, the nobility who resided within Florence used to spend time there in search of tranquillity and well-being. Even today this place manages to convey an atmosphere of peace, restorative to mind and body.
The Castle has been owned since 1964 by the Matta family, who in the 1980s began in the accommodation business with six apartments inside the castle. Currently there are 16 guestrooms, including those inside the castle and the suites in the rectory. Under the walls we find an enchanting swimming pool with a panoramic view over the valley, a delight for the eyes.
Inside the fortress, the restaurant prepares delicious meals for guests and other customers who wish to have a meal in a sober and elegant setting. The dining rooms with their Renaissance rib vaulting offer hospitality during the winter, while during the summer the tables are positioned outside in the well-kept Italian garden.
Delfina, whom we meet at the Castle, explains how the menu has a very small number of courses, to ensure a maximum of care in both the preparation and processing of the ingredients and their presentation.
The kitchen offers dishes inspired by Tuscan tradition: the bread and the pasta are produced with only the highest quality raw materials. Spices enhance the flavours of traditional dishes with a contemporary touch.
On the capsule of the Vicchiomaggio winery, in the 1970s, the code FI/001 was printed – that is, they were the first registered winery to bottle in the province of Florence. The 33 hectares of vineyards of the Castle’s estates are oriented South; this position is an element that plays a fundamental role. In fact, each vine has specific thermal needs. Because of this, lighting and temperature are the elements that greatly influence the final result. The exposure to the South and West favours photosynthetic activity due to the abundant light energy, producing more abundant quantities of sugars and alcohol.
The production of Chianti Classico and IGT Toscana reaches 300,000 bottles. To the wine we may add the Organic Tuscan Extra Virgin Olive Oil obtained from the three typical cultivars of the area: Leccino, Moraiolo and Frantoio.
The tasting point is located where my experience today began, next to the SP222, about 500 meters away from the castle. Reservations are required for guided tours in groups or for a minimum of two people.
The tours include a visit to the cellars and a wine tasting with the possibility of enjoying a brunch or light lunch at the restaurant.
From the ancient pietra serena stone table at which I sit, vaguely inebriated, the flowering trees impatiently presage the arrival of a hot summer.