The other night I had the unique privilege of dining with a member of the Frescobaldi family in Delhi at a special wine dinner, writes Reva Singh. Right:Leonardo Frescobaldi, President, Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi Societa’ Agricola S.r.l. A family of medieval bankers who were prominent in Florentine business and politics and who financed the wars of Edward I and II of England, the Frescobaldi began producing Tuscan wine in 1308 from grapes planted on the hillsides around Florence, and soon acquired some very distinguished customers.
In exchange for paintings, which hang today in the Frescobaldi castle, they sold wines to Michelangelo. The family also supplied wine to Henry VIII and have contracts in their family archives signed by the English king. And here was I sitting between Marquis Leonardo Frescobaldi, President of the Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi wine estates and Export Director, Giuseppe Pariani!
“Quality is the key point and our wine is a mirror of the land from where it comes,” said the courtly and cultivated Marquis, as he rose to describe the wines that his family has been producing for 700 years.
Left: Aman Dhall of Brindco and guest.
“So many generations of my family have devoted their time to growing grapes and developed this love affair with the Tuscan land,” he said. “We are a large family, five brothers and two sisters. One brother died and one is a journalist. The others are still giving all their energy to the vines. Now four members of the new generation have joined the family business and we are passing over.”
Proud of their lineage, the Frescobaldi know, however, that no dynasty can survive this long without adapting to changing times. Today they are conscious of international competition and the fact that so much wine is being made in so many new regions of the world.
However, they also know that there will always be a market for the best. For 30 generations, the Frescobaldis have been making some of the world’s finest wines, always improving the wines and adjusting to the contemporary palate but not compromising on what makes their wines unique. Right: Andrew Steele, GM, Shangri-La
At our dinner, after opening with two white wines, Pinot Grigio 2007 and Pomino Blanco 2007, the next one was Tenuto di Castiglioni 2006 – a dense, opaque purple red with a depth reflected in its rich nose and juicy tannins which Frescobaldi was introducing to us that night. “This wine is from the oldest property of my family,” he said. “And more important than the grape is the quality of the soil, I feel.”
The best wine was saved for the last – Mormoreto 2005 with its dense tannins becoming steadily more expansive and complemented by firm acidity. Highly rated by experts internationally and in Italy, it’s a wine that makes you want a second glass, said Frescobaldi. Mormoreto is their top of the line wine. It evolves in the glass even as you drink it.
Produced at Tenuta di Castello di Nipozzano, Mormoreto was first introduced with the 1983 vintage. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Merlot are cultivated at an elevation ranging from 280 to 380 metres, facing southwest at densities of 5,800 vines per hectare. The four grape varieties combine to yield an elegant, refined wine that possesses notable complexity and depth, with a marked capacity for long ageing. The old vines reflect the taste and qualities of the terroir at Castello di Nipozzano. “The roots go very deep,” said Frescobaldi, “and the soil is really the protagonist.”
The Frescobaldis cultivate 2,500 acres of vineyards on nine estates in various parts of Italy but mainly in the hills around Florence and Siena and produce almost eight million bottles annually, ranging from superior, top class, age-worthy wines to the more fruit forward, easy-drinking variety so popular today. They are one of the biggest and most illustrious wine producers in Europe at the same level as Mouton-Rothschild with an equally diversified portfolio of wines. Only about 35 percent of Frescobaldi’s wine output remains in Italy; the rest is exported all over the world.
Listed below are the superb wines we tasted that night, accompanied by a five course meal prepared by Chef Walter Lanfranchi of the Shangri-La Hotel:
Pinot Grigio 2007
Pomino Bianco 2007
Tenuta di Castiglioni 2006
Imported by Brindco, these wines are available on wine lists at five star hotels and fine dining restaurants across the country. Watch out for other Frescobaldi labels soon to be launched in India. For more information about prices and availability, contact Brindco Pvt Ltd.