Wrapped in magic throughout centuries of history Italian wines hold on their privileged spots on Italian dinner and party tables. They have also successfully managed to sneak into wine cellars abroad, brought over by tourists, who felt a connection with the place they visited, or even cherry-picked by experts and amateurs for their features and quality.
Whether it be a memory of a special vacation somewhere in Italy, or a careful selection of aromas, the chosen wine will in fact bring along a fragment of the land it was first cultivated in.
For that terroir takes part in defining wine flavors and textures and nails down typical traits of site-specific culture and traditions, finally linking these two aspects together.
Thus, it comes as no surprise that wine has shared a strong bond with local artistic means of cultural expression. This article will dive deeper into the epiphany of genius loci through outstanding samples of fellowship between wine production and fine design, scattered across the Boot.
Our journey around the country of art and wine par excellence starts with the Valle d’Aosta’s family-owned winery Les Crêtes, a stunning reinterpretation from a modern perspective of traditional alpine architecture by Domenico Mazza, a Valle d’Aosta-born architect.
Mazza, perfect connoisseur of his mountain childhood-land, designed a complex structure, while still using simple materials such as wood and glass. These materials resemble a smaller-size mountain range that peacefully blends in with its surrounding landscape.
Les Crêtes white grapes, particularly Petite Arvine and Chardonnay, make for fresh and fine wines, whereas the scented, more viscous red wines perfectly match local meat cuts and grassy cheese.
The Eastern mountain side of Italian wine processing houses Tramin winery, a South Tyrol enterprise. Here, gentle hills and steep inclines’ particularly chalky and clayish soil, along with warm sunny days and colder nights give birth to prize-winning Gewürtztraminer vineyards. Tramin’s construction, a true eco-friendly sculpture by local architect Werner Tscholl, branches around majestic glass to recall vineyard shoots and loudly merge into the greenery of the area.
Overlooking Valpolicella’s luxuriant hills, Zýmē winery headquarters stand as a reference meeting point of nature, culture, and an excellent artwork by architect Moreno Zurlo.
Zurlo came up with one more branch-like structure, enveloping the main window to project fun light and dark tricks on the floor. These metal branches poke out of a base of sandstone to mirror Zýmē winery’s natural landscape, where rows of vineyards are enclosed by a chalky-stone pit. The pit itself keeps the secret of wine ageing: this magic happens in wooden barrels located inside stone walls, that prevent heat peaks and let the wine rest quietly to achieve well-known gems such as the house’s Harlequin and Kairos.
Ca’ del Bosco
This literal “house in the woods”, a childhood haven immersed in a chestnut wood in the heart of Franciacorta, was fixed up to look like an avantgarde melting pot of nature and art, currently standing among the finest wineries in the country. Ca’ del Bosco’s grapes undergo innovative processing to be turned into exquisite wines, just like internationally acknowledged sparkling Cuvée Prestige, taking part in materializing Ca’ del Bosco founder Maurizio Zanella’s vision to yield flavors, scents and colors from former bare ground.
Counterpart to this wine-related vision are the sculptures collected by Zanella within the household’s park, a result of the artist’s creative ideas, that shape the rough matter into a lovely, prestigious new form.
The gate of this natural paradise, sprinkled with artworks by well-known artists such as Mimmo Paladino and Rabarama, is a project by celebrated artist Arnaldo Pomodoro disclosing the leitmotiv of the winery’s open-air gallery, exploring and interpreting close relationships among art, wine, life and the land.
Moving on to Langhe’s precious vineyards in Barolo city, Astemia Pentita (literally the “Contrite Nondrinker”) makes for the quintessential eye-catcher out of all the wineries in town, and also around the whole peninsula. The name of the establishment tells the story of entrepreneur Sandra Vezza, who used to accurately avoid drinking, but finally devoted herself to wine-making in sweet memory of her early-youth walks with grandpa through Langhe’s rows of vineyards. Vezza’s winery may look plain when stared at from the outside, but the outer structure, composed of two overlapped extra-large wine box-like buildings, treasures a secret whimsical soul. The interior enhances the winery’s belonging to the surrounding landscape, but in a colourful way with clear references to pop art , thanks to big wall paintings by local artists and eccentric furniture, and even echoed by human-shaped bottles of wine.
Antinori nel Chianti Classico
Crème de la crème of Italian wine production, iconic Antinori in Chianti Classico was founded in the late fourteenth century. Today, twenty-six generations later, the Antinori family runs the ancient winery by innovative means, while still cherishing local traditions. The establishment, nestled in the Florentine countryside, has been designed by Marco Casamonti, and represents a formidable example of symbiosis with the landscape, with the anthropomorphic shapes of the hills, marked by the vineyards where Sangiovese, Chianti Classico’s typical variety, grows.
A passion for art and patronage has flown over time within the family, since their commission for a sixteenth-century Giovanni della Robbia’s studio-made ceramic crest, to their winery recent designer rearrangement.
The Antinori family also supports contemporary art through the Antinori Art Project, which gathers site-specific works by successful young artists, and treasures older Tuscan-made artworks thanks to Accademia Antinori.
Rocca di Frassinello
Gavorrano, Tuscany, is home to a five-hundred hectares joint-venture estate, where French vineyards cultivated with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, live side by side with Italian Sangioveto and Vermentino to create perfectly balanced, aromatic wines. These grapes produce five types of red wine, a type of white, and a grappa, a popular spirit in Italy, which Italians won’t refuse when poured after a long meal at their nonna’s.
Among the winery’s red wines, the homonymous “Rocca di Frassinello” stands out for its intense and elegant nuances. Furthermore, elegance also belongs to Rocca di Frassinello’s building, a red structure, dominated by a slim tower, immersed in the green Tuscan countryside. Designed to be graceful, essential and functional by famous architect Renzo Piano, the winery has also revolutionised its vinification rooms by centralising the majestic, theater-like barrique cellar (the true beating heart of wine-making), illuminated by sun-rays coming down from the tower windows.
This is the first ever sculpture to allow walks and talks, wine-tasting and work inside its walls. The so-called Carapace, by brilliant artist Arnaldo Pomodoro, watches over the mystery of Lunelli family’s wine-making process, happening under its roof.
This artwork, that leaves unsolved the boundary between sculpture and architecture, starts a dialogue between the unknown inside and the green, wine-linked outside, and even adds value to the nearby landscape. In fact, the dirt-colored cracked surface of the building marks the continuity of man-made works with their host-land, a territory part of a cultural heritage all to be protected from any traumatic installation.
In the heart of little-known Sardinian nurhag area, Su’entu winery rises from a harsh, but extraordinarily rich soil, where white grapes (like Vermentino’s) and red ones (such as Cannonau’s) are harvested to become some of the best worldwide-famous Italian wines. The winery’s main building makes for the upgrade of a previous, ancient structure, remodeled by two young architects in the name of functionality and hospitality. Su’entu’s stone walls, light colors, and large crystal-clear windows, overlooking hilly Sardinia greenery, perfectly fit into the nearby rural scenery, providing an intense feeling of harmony with nature.
Planeta is a Sicilian entity counting five different estates, which produce wine and olive oil.
Red and white wines, alongside sugary passiti (also known as straw wines) are obtained by cultivating autochthon vineyards, as well as international Sicilian climate-friendly varieties, such as their very famous Chardonnay.
Planeta respects its fruit-bearing land thanks to tailor-made constructions, a sustainable agriculture, and by sheltering the local amenities and cultural forms of expression. For over fifteen years, as a tribute to their motherland, Planeta winery has been taking Italian and foreign painters, photographers, writers on a well-thought journey across its estates, to explore the stages of wine making. This includes the evocative grape harvest, and a final illustration of colors, scents and emotions on canvas, or any other medium. The result is an exhibit of all the masterpieces collected in one year and a reminder of the beauty of the same territory through different and personal lenses.