The Frescobaldi family were prominent merchants in the city of Florence from the 13th century onward. They started in the cloth trade, and eventually became influential bankers. In 1308 they began making wine, supplying their product to England’s Henry VIII and trading wine for paintings with Michaelangelo. Lest you think that they functioned as the Medieval equivalent of Milo Minderbinder in Catch-22, however, be assured that the Frescobaldis were players: They financed several wars of the period, and helped fund the Crusades.
The castle of Nipozzano, which today functions as their barrel aging facility and hospitality center, was built around the year 1000. It began as a defensive structure and morphed into a center of village life. Today the estate covers more than 1500 acres in the DOCG zone of Chianti Rufina. The modern Frescobaldi wine empire includes six other estates, notably Castello di Pomino and Castel Giocondo. In addition to Chianti, their formidable assortment of wines includes classic Brunello di Montalcino and cutting-edge blends from the Maremma region.
A good place to start is the 2011 Attems Pinot Grigio ($19). Scents of minerals, citrus and melon highlight the crisp nose. The wine is nicely structured in the mouth, and offers succulent flavors of lemon, melon and pear underlined by bright acidity. It has far more body and texture than most of the premium Pinot Grigio on the market, and would make a nice match with white meat dishes as well as fish and shellfish.
The wine most consumers are likely to be familiar with is the Nipozzano Riserva ($23), from the Rufina estate. The nose is filled with classic Chianti aromas of anise, leather and red plum. The 2008 is medium-bodied on the palate, with excellent acidity and balance; tart flavors of red cherry and plum are wrapped in a pleasantly smoky texture with soft tannins. The finish is long and mouthwatering, and this would be a charm with game, roasted fowl or pasta in red sauce.
The 2007 Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino ($70) is an elegant example of one of Tuscany’s greatest wines. The wine is concentrated and graceful, with rich flavors of blackberry jam, anise and hints of bramble building in the mid palate and continuing on the long finish. As with the Chianti, the acidity sparkles and brings all the flavors to life. Drink this with red meats, game dishes and stews.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, which will be published in November by Lyons Press (Globe Pequot); for more information, go to www.iconicspirits.net.