Castello di Volpaia - a village as a wedding gift
Updated: Jun 21, 2020
The village of Volpaia lies high on a hill facing Radda in Chianti on a perfect south-facing slope. Unlike the many other castles of Chianti, Castello di Volpaia, which was built during the 11-hundreds, was an actual fortified village. It had to withstand the possible attacks of rivalling towns, Florence and Siena, and today its layout still lies original hence making it one of the best-preserved villages of its time.
Last week I visited Giovanella who owns and runs (with her children) the winery, Castello di Volpaia. I've been 100s of times before, but this time was different as I was there to do an interview for the video you'll find below, a Grape INSIDERS where we step one step closer to the winery and get to see something more...
Gio's house lies behind one of the gates in the village and has a lovely green courtyard, a garden with trees, flowers, roses & capers. Her garden wall is a church wall dating back to the 14-hundreds. The breathtaking view over the hills is unspoiled with mostly forest, dotted only by distant vineyards and olive groves.
Inside, the house has the most fantastic kitchen where the vegetables from the garden get transformed into delicious dishes. Gio loves good food and teaches Tuscan cooking to visitors inside her cooking school in the village.
The bathroom set me on the track of Gio's history! The walls are lined with hundreds of books, but nothing compared to the walls around the living room that fully showcase 1000s of books of Gio's father, Raffaello Stianti, who was from Florence and was one of the best printers & bookbinders in Italy.
In 1966 (one year before the DOC was given to the Chianti Classico wine) Raffaello purchased a large part of the hamlet of Volpaia. Historically, it was a wine-producing village being one of the founding members of the Chianti League of 1250. When Raffaello's adored daughter Gio got married to Carlo in the early 1970'ies, they received the village and winery as a wedding gift!
Soon after, the newlywed couple started a never-ending project of renovating building by building, fitting in modern winery equipment into small historical spaces. In fact, today the village is a maze of vat rooms, barrel rooms, bottling line room, storage room - all connected through a sort of wine-duct through which the wine travels in hoses under the streets!
It's so impressive that this village, which is home to around 35 residents, is a true medieval village restored to its original beauty, yet it's a fully-functional and busy winery - yet from the outside, it just looks like a dormant medieval village.
By the end of the interview (see video below), it just so happened that it was time for lunch and Federica, Gio's daughter popped in. We ended up having an improvised lunch that was delish with a tasting of some of the wines made by Volpaia that I didn't know (a sparkling vintage classical method Sangiovese, a Cabernet Sauvignon from vineyards in Maremma, and a Passito di Pantelleria dessert wine from Sicily).