What wine did the Medici's drink?
The magnificent Medici family of Florence was the wealthiest family the World has ever seen. Their rise to power and influence on history, especially during the Renaissance, is still incredible to us today. Sadly the family lineage died out but today we're left with their legacy; especially the arts and architecture they left behind. They shaped a Florence that makes the city a must-see for all humanity.
It's always amazing to us how wine can connect us to history. In their position, the Medici's ate and drank to their heart's delight and they had access to the best of their times. They soon realised that some regions performed better than others, and finally in 1716 Cosimo Medici III set up the world's first boundaries for the wine regions that were right there on the doorstep of Florence.
The Medicis took a special interest in one of the four regions that were outlined in 1716. And that was Carmignano to the west of Florence where they happened to have one of their large villas. Carmignano's hills had become their private royal walled-in hunting reservoir. Besides, Caterina de' Medici is said to have brought in Cabernet from France and it was planted in Carmignano so many centuries ago that locals simply called it uva francesca referring to it as the French grape.
It's difficult to guess exactly how the wines of the times actually tasted as nothing has survived the passing of the ages. We assume both whites and reds were made, and certainly Vin Santo, a delicious dessert wine still made excellently in the region. Surely, Carmignano was used by the Medici's as a hunting area, so the wines were probably adapt for pairing with game such as wild boar, deer and hare.
We do have a clue of the grapes that were grown, some of which are extinct today, whereas others survived the phylloxera. We recognise the Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Trebbiano and so forth. See the fascinating painting below commissioned by the Medici's and hanging in the villa of Poggio a Caiano (along with other fantastic still life paintings).
The region of Carmignano is today a very traditional wine-growing area, and perhaps the closest we'll ever get to tasting the wine of the Medici's. The area is very small and counts just a few handfuls of wineries, but you should be able to find Carmignano DOCG imported in different countries. To get a complete feel and taste of the area, the best is to visit. So next time you're in Florence (and we dearly hope that will be possible for all soon), join us on a wine tour to Carmignano on Saturdays and experience this off-the-beaten-track wine region!