Tenuta di Capezzana | Capezzana is the oldest and the largest estate in the Carmignano DOCG in Prato province to the west of Florence in Tuscany, Italy. Quality producers with an international perspective, the Contini Bonacossi family have played a fundamental part in the development of the legislation, winemaking and promotion of the denomination. They were the first to reintroduce Cabernet Sauvignon, back in the 1960s.
Staff | Franco Bernabei is consultant.
Early history | Wine jars and tasting cups found in Etruscan tombs dating to approximately 1000 BC show that vines have been cultivated in Carmignano since pre-Roman times. More specifically, a parchment rent contract conserved in the Florence State Archives, dated 804, provides the first written reference to Capezzana, with the granting of a leasehold of part of a property in a place called Capezzana, inhabited by the farmer Petruccio, with the house, its buildings and land, the courtyards, gardens and vineyards, wood and olive trees. This reveals that vines and olives were cultivated at Capezzana for the production of oil and wine as early as 1200 years ago.
Barco Reale was the biggest property belonging to the Medici Grand Dukes and the Capezzana estate was part of it. The villa was built by the Medici family in the C14th and C15th, with further additions in the C17th [true?]. In the early Renaissance, Monna Nera Bonaccorsi built the first ‘Nobleman’s house’ and nine farmhouses together with wine-making buildings at Capezzana. Numerous generations and families followed: the Cantucci, relations of the Medici, and the Marchesi Bourbon del Monte. In the 18th century the wife of Marquis Bourbon, née Cantucci, enlarged the estate and increased the number of farms; her greatest achievement, however, was to introduce exemplary administrative practices, evidence of which can be found in the estate’s historic archive. After the Bourbons the property passed to the Adimari Morelli and then to the Franchetti. Sara de Rothschild, widow of Baroni Franchetti, sold it to the Contini Bonacossi.
The Contini Bonacossi family | At the beginning of the twentieth century Count Alessandro Contini Bonacossi returned to Italy from Spain with his wife Vittoria and two children Augusto Alessandro and Vittorina. While in Spain he was highly successful in the antiques trade and began to amass what was to become one of the largest private collections of paintings, furniture, ceramics and statues. Upon his death, the central part of this exceptional collection was bequeathed to the state by his children Alessandro and Vittorina. The Contini Bonacossi donation, which is now an integral part of the Uffizi Gallery, is displayed in ten rooms that are not yet connected with the gallery and can only be visited by appointment.
In the 1920’s Alessandro [a noted poet and gentleman farmer] bought Capezzana, which he enlarged by acquiring two neighbouring estates, ‘Il Poggetto’ and ‘Trefiano’ from Marquis Aman Niccolini. He may have added a bell-tower to to the C13th Oratorio di San Jacopo on the estate.
The Capezzana estate, divided into three parts and incorporating more than 120 métayage farms, produced high quality wine and oil, and was later further improved and enlarged through significant work and investment.
Alessandro’s passion for collecting led him to bottle his wine from the first year of production, so that today Capezzana is in the almost unique position of having bottles of vintages dating from 1925.
After the war and completing a university degree in farm management, Count Ugo Contini Bonacossi Ugo (brought up by an English nanny; impeccable English; married to Lisa) joined his father in reconstructing the wine-making business at Capezzana and gradually took over the running of the estate. From the very start he was a firm believer in the quality of the wines produced in this region and set out to improve his wines at a time when the majority of producers were still selling their wines by weight. In the 1960s Count Ugo Contini-Bonacossi was one of the first to introduce Cabernet to Tuscany in the 1960s, taking cuttings from Chateau Lafite in Bordeaux.
Today, the responsibility for ensuring the continuation of such longevity now lies with siblings Benedetta and Vittorio Contini Bonacossi, who look after the winery and the vineyards respectively.
The estate | This comprises a Renaissance villa with adjacent farm [Trefiano], historic cellars beneath this complex which date to the sixteenth century, a modern olive mill and a huge ‘vinsantaia’ (where vin santo is made), above the cellar. The new ‘tinaia’ (fermentation cellar), was built in 1938 to designs by the architect Giovanni Michelucci.
Vineyards | The estate has 670 hectares of land, of which approximately one hundred are vineyards and one hundred and forty are olive groves. There are 330ha of woodland, plus some arable land. The estate is crossed by the Furba stream (which rises on the Monte Albano, and has freshwater shrimps) which gives its name to one wine. “The vineyards of Ugo Contini-Bonacossi, the [Carmignano] zone’s major producer, were grafted with cuttings from Château Lafite in the 1970s, in fact, and not with locally available Cabernet,” (Thomases, D: 1994, p.194). Syrah was sent in 1992 by the nursery having mistaken it for Sangiovese. Now planted now at 9,600 vines/ha. The vines for Barco Reale at 150-200 metres on clay schist.
Viticulture | A return to denser planting (6,000–10,000 vines per hectare).
Organic certification | 2015 first vintage (due) with full organic certification.
Winery & winemaking | A labyrinth running under the villa and the large courtyard and the limonaia, where the lemon trees spend the winter. The winery makes use of wide steel tanks, plus cement tanks. There are various undergorund cellars for barriques and botti, the latter increasingly of Allier rather than Slavonic oak. In the mid-1990s the estate was making riservas. I was told in 2005 they now buy in Sicilian wine and have abandoned riserva.
Vin Ruspo Rosato, Barco Reale di Carmignano | 2015 Certified organic. Stelvin closure. 13.5% alc.
Barco Reale di Carmignano DOC | 2014 Stelvin. 70% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Canaiolo. 13.5%.
Carmignano DOCG, Villa di Capezzana | 2012 80% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. 15% alc.
Carmignano DOCG Riserva, Villa di Trefiano | Single vineyard. | 1979 Debut vintage. | 2010 80% Sangiovese, 10% each Cabernet Sauvignon & Canaiolo. 18m in 350-litre tonneaux. 14% alc.
Carmignano Riserva DOCG, Villa di Capezzana | Pre-1999 it was was 70% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo and 15% other grapes. Now 80% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon (‘Uva Francesca’).
Ghiaie della Furba | Toscana Rosso. This was created in 1979 by Ugo and Vittorio Contini Bonacossi. It was named after a local stream. This is a Carmignano with a Bordeaux blend of grape varieties. The first vineyard, made up of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, was situated on the pebbly, alluvial soil of the Furba stream, after which the wine is named. In 1992 the S. Alessandro vineyard (entirely Cabernet Sauvignon) became productive and the wine’s blend of grape varieties was modified. In 1998 the owners added Syrah grapes. Today the wine is produced from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Merlot (30%) and Syrah (10%): Ghiaie della Furba is matured for a year in barriques and laid down for a further 12 months in bottles. | 1999 Slightly vegetal from the Cabernet and Syrah, but fresh and soft black fruit, well made at the winery on Monday 7th March 2005. | 2000 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Syrah. 2003 60% Cabernet, 30% Merlot, 10% Syrah. | 2012 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 25% Syrah. 14% alc.
Monna Nera | Named after Monna Nera, the noblewoman from Florence who acquired Capezzana in 1475 and dedicated her life to the estate, becoming the leading female winegrower of the period. The wine is made from. 50% Sangiovese, 20% each Merlot, Cabernet, Syrah and Canaiolo.
Vin Santo di Carmignano DOC, Capezzana | 2003 15.5% alc. Orangey red in colour. | 2009 90% Trebbiano, 10% San Colombano. Fermented and then aged 5 years in small chestnut and cherry casks. 13.5% alc.
Vin Santo di Carmignano Riserva, Villa di Capezzana | 2005 Trebbiano and Malvasia. Chestnut and cherry wood Fantastic depth and complexity, real backbone too with Ian D’Agata in NY on Tuesday 27th June 2017.
Tenuta di Capezzana
Via Capezzana, 100
I-59015 Carmignano (PO = Prato), Italy
Tel+39 055.8706005 or 6091 | www.capezzana.it
Directions | About 30 minutes drive west of Florence towards Prato, up an alleyway of cypress trees to the tiny hamlet of Capezzana.