White polenta with fennel snail

9 centuries tell the story of Villa Montepaldi, Medici jewel immersed in 300 hectares, on the hills of San Casciano in Val di Pesa, now owned by theUniversity of Florence. Its corporate body contains the cellar, the mill and some outbuildings, on the farm it produces wine, extra virgin olive oil but also an important selection of ancient grains.

On a rainy Monday in July, I have the opportunity to visit the farm, together with a large group of colleagues, the program includes a visit to the winery, an illustration of the production phases and tasting of a selection of vintages.

"In the surroundings of this villa we still find Etruscan testimonies" - begins this way Fabrizio Balò, agronomist and production manager of Villa Montepaldi  - "History tells us that in the past the property belonged to noble Tuscan families, until it came to the Medici family in 1497, who transformed it into a model farm, consisting of 54 farms." In the spaces of the villa, the University of Florence is committed to supporting the teaching and research activities of its own Agricultural School, by carrying out practical and applicative activities for students. But also research and experimentation activities by university professors and researchers.

In addition to the classic Tuscan native clones, Montepaldi is also one of the few Tuscan farms where the Sauvignon Blanc, vinified in purity. "Our wine production philosophy is simple: selective harvest with low yields" - he says Nicola Menditto - Director of Villa Montepaldi - “for us the interaction between scientific and technological research and a profound knowledge of the territory is fundamental, which makes it possible to enhance the excellence of the regional heritage. We produce six labels including a Vin Santo Chianti Classico DOC and Vin Santo del Chianti Classico Occhio di Pernice DOC.

"Our wines are tied to tradition" - he says Emiliano Falsini, wine consultant - “the vineyards extend into the northern part of Chianti Classico production, a few kilometers from Florence. Our wines come both from native grapes, which tell the past of this land, but also from international vines, which highlight the company's vocation to listen to international needs. "

Villa Montepaldi it is also an advanced research center that includes a micro winemaking laboratory where tests on enzymes, tannins, bacteria and yeasts have been carried out for years. The research and experimentation services, as well as used by the company directly in its production processes, are offered to other entities and companies.

“My point of arrival is the model created in San Michele all'Adige from Edmund Manch Foundation"- he says Simone Toccafondi, sole director of Villa Montepaldi - “to make this structure a real center of excellence in agri-food research and innovation in Tuscany. We are currently engaged in the research and development of autochthonous yeasts, in order to activate the technological transfer that we are now re-using in the company. "

A choice against the trend, that of not converting the company to organic - "A desired path, in order to maintain the quality standards of our wines" - points out Menditto
At the end of the visit, the tasting of some selected vintages: Athenae Toscana IGT, Chianti Classico Tagliafune, Chianti Classico Tagliafune Reserve, Dean Vin Santo of Chianti Classico DOC and San Pietro Vin Santo of Chianti Classico Occhio di Pernice DOC.

University of Tuscany Igt 2018 it is certainly a pleasant surprise, a pure Sauvignon Blanc that is born in the Chianti Classico and vinified in low temperature steel vats. Straw yellow in color, an amazing floral, white peach. In the mouth a beautiful mineral and a good acid shoulder.

Another point of relief is the Grand Selection 2012, 90% Sangiovese, 5% Colorino, 5% Cabernet Franc vinified separately for 30 months in oak barrels. A wine with great personality, the nose is still alive with fruit and a pleasant silkiness in the mouth. On the finish I find the pleasant scratch of the tannins, the mouth is dry and clean. A great wine.

The tasting closes with the Decano Vin Santo del Chianti Classico DOC, which I appreciated for its not excessive sweetness, e San Pietro Vin Santo from the Chianti Classico Occhio di Pernice DOC, also of great character.