Grey afternoon skies hung low over the countryside surrounding Padua, about a 40-minute drive west of Venice. I had just driven ten kilometers southwest of town to arrive at my destination, the Abbazia Di Praglia, a Benedictine community of monks. Nestled at the feet of the Euganean hills, along an ancient road leading to the neighboring town of Este, my arrival at the Abbey appeared as if I had just stepped back in time. Read more
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!