THE ORIGINAL WINE REGION’S 300th ANNIVERSARY
The cultivation of the vine at Carmignano is shrouded in history. Here, wines have been produced through the centuries, from the Roman era to Medieval times, through the Renaissance to the modern epoch. This fact alone is not uncommon throughout Italy. What is unusual is that here at Carmignano, Cosimo de' Medici issued an edict in the year 1716 which is the first example of the delimitation of an area for a DOC denomination. Carmignano, Chianti, Pomino and Valdarno di Sopra are nowadays well recognised DOCG and DOC areas which, in the year 2016 attained 300 years of denomination status. For three centuries the local people have been striving to have the area recognised as quality wine growing land, producing wines that are both distinctive and very much tied to the territory. Carmignano has been, and still is, a star player in the affirmation of “Tuscany” as a world destination, through it's history, it's wines and it's carefully crafted agricultural food products.
The geographical area delimited by the DOC denomination lies within the small mountain range of Montalbano. The slopes are favourably exposed and are of relatively modest elevation, usually not more than 300 meters above sea level. The hills of Carmignano are open to the Florence-Prato plain, allowing the area good ventilation and adequate sunlight. Moreover, the fresh winds from the nearby Appennine range, which cool the torrid summer nights, create an optimal range of temperatures for the cultivation of vines. It is not too rainy and fortunately the rain falls mainly in autumn and winter, though moisture is never lacking in the summer.
The soils in the area have very different characteristics, from sandy soils of the Oligocene period, to the flaky clays with calcareous formations, or the large swathes of limestone and whitish chalky marl.
THE HISTORY The prized characteristics of the wines produced in the Carmignano area have been known for a very long time. In the 1300's a certain Pietro Domenico Bartoloni mentions in his chronicles that the wines of Carmignano “are excellent.” Ricci, in his “Memorie storiche di Carmignano” in 1895, refers that Ser Lapo Mazzei bought, on the 8th December 1396, on account of Marco Datini, 15 'soma' of Carmignano wine at the price of “un fiorino suggello”, one Florin, for each 'soma', this being roughly four times the going rate for the best wines of the time. Redi (1673) in his well known dithyramb Bacco in Toscana, speaks in glowing terms of Carmignano wine, “ma se giara io prendo in mano di brillante Carmignano così grato in sen mi piove che ambrosia e nettar non invidio a Giove”, saying that if he were to get hold of a flask of Carmignano wine he would feel so grateful that he would envy Jupiter neither ambrosia nor nectar.
Carmignano wine became well known even outside the area, so much so that the Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo III de' Medici announced that he wanted to define, once and for all, the limits of the “Vino di Carmignano” area, together with those of three other wines. There are many other examples of the recognition this wine enjoyed, following the edict, which confirm the particular qualities associated with it, to the extent that it was easily distinguished from other equally well known wines produced in other areas of Tuscany. Repetti (1833) states that “Carmignano” is one of the best and most well known wines of Tuscany. Amati, in his “Geographical dictionary of Italy” (1870) recommends, among other wines, “exquisite Carmignano”. Cusmano (1889) in his “Dictionary of Viticulture and Enology” cites Carmignano as one of the best wines produced in Tuscany. Palgiani (1891) in the “Supplement to the VI edition of the Enciclopedia Italiana” states, under the heading “Carmignano” “...between the areas watered by the Arno river and by the Ombrone river, exquisite wines are produced, the best in Tuscany”. This list could go on for a long while, but the above statements are enough for us to conclude that Carmignano, the wine produced within the area established by the Grand Duke's Edict, has always had it's own superlative qualities, which have set it apart from the other, excellent, Tuscan wines. It is the combination of microclimate and soil conditions that impart to this wine it's unique and recognisable character. It is for this reason that, in 1975, this wine won DOC status, and successively, in 1990, was one of the first among Italian wines to attain DOCG status.
CARMIGNANO CABERNET The local name, at Carmignano, for Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon grapes, is “Uva Francesca”, or French Grapes. It is told that Catherine de Medici, queen of France in the sixteenth century, was the one to have imported the first cuttings of this vine. Later, Cosimo III sent his enologists to Bordeaux to perfect their knowledge of this particular vine, which then became widely cultivated at Carmignano.
CARMIGNANO WINES With only 200 hectares of vineyard, Carmignano is the smallest DOCG in Italy. This DOCG is composed of a mixture of grapes, with Sangiovese, Cabernet, Canaiolo nero, and other red grapes. This composition is in accordance with the current regulation (published on the 9th July 1998 in the Official Gazette), as wanted by the Consortium of the Wines of Carmignano, after a few changes were made to the first regulation which came out on the 20th October 1990. The regulation states that the composition of Carmignano wine is to be made up of: Sangiovese, making up at least 50%, Canaiolo nero, up to 20%, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, either individually or together from 10 to 20%, Trebbiano toscano, Canaiolo bianco and Malvasia del Chianti, either individually or all together making up 10%. Furthermore, other varieties of red grapes can make play a part in the composition of the wine up to 10% of the total. When Carmignano DOCG comes on to the market it must have the following characteristics: minimum total alcoholic strength by volume 12,5% vol, minimum total acidity 5,0 g/l, minimum non-reducing extract 22 g/l. Lastly, the wine must age in oak barrels, for at least eight months in the case of Carmignano and at least twelve months where Carmignano Riserva is concerned.
Other products, same quality: Barco Reale di Carmignano, Barco Reale di Carmignano Rosato (Vin Ruspo) and Vin Santo di Carmignano -The same grapes that are used to make Carmignano are also used to produce Barco Reale di Carmignano doc, a younger sibling of the DOCG wine, but more affordable while maintaining it’s characteristic quality. The name Barco Reale derives from the huge Medici estate which covered most of the territory around Carmignano and Poggio a Caiano, which was enclosed by a wall, the Muro del Barco Reale, which was more than thirty miles long. About three to four thousand hectolitres a year of this wine are produced.
Again, the Barco Reale di Carmignano Rosato doc, (with a production of about 500 hectolitres a year) which is also made from the above mix of grapes, is produced by racking off from 5 to 10% of the must before the first fermentation of the Carmignano DOCG. The popular name of this wine (Vin Ruspo) comes from a tradition of the sharecroppers, who would steal one or two demijohns from the last vats to be brought to the farm. The labourers would be careful to delay the arrival of the last grapes picked in the evening, meaning that for a whole night the containers, filled with grapes, would be stored awaiting the pressing the next morning. The weight of the grapes themselves would cause some wine to collect at the bottom of the containers, which the labourers would duly collect and steal, hence the name Ruspato, from the old verb ‘ruspare’ to scratch or scrape. This wine was necessarily a rosé because of the very brief contact it had with the skins. This theft eventually became recognised as a right.
Vin Santo di Carmignano – This wine is produced with Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia Bianca lunga, which make up at least 75%. Often San Colombano grapes are added. It comes also as Riserva (Reserve). The wine produced with Sangiovese (at least 50% plus other red varieties) takes the name of Vin Santo di Carmignano Occhio di Pernice. Usually the grapes are left to dry for three or four months on cane mats in a well-ventilated place, then they are soft-pressed; next the must is transferred to small chestnut kegs (about 70 lt). Here it undergoes various slow fermentation cycles, with natural yeasts, at room temperature. Lastly, it is aged for many years on the lees in the same containers.
THE MARKET 40% of the product is sold on the Italian market, the remaining 60% is sold abroad. Carmignano is sent to most of the European Union including France, Switzerland, Great Britain, Austria, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, and, with particular success, to the Baltic countries, Sweden and Norway. Further afield, it is exported to the United States, Canada, Brazil, Japan and Mexico.