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Chianti’s historic wine cellar Castello di Ama blends art, fine wine and tourism

by Federico De Cesare Viola

They are named after the three most important wines of the vineyard: San Lorenzo (the 2010 vintage was awarded as the 6th best wine in the world according to Wine Spectator); Bellavista, the single vineyard Chianti Classico and L’Apparita, a merlot born in 1985 that has revolutionized Tuscan viticulture.

These are the three new suites inaugurated in the 18th-century Villa Ricucci at Castello di Ama, the historic wine cellar owned by Lorenza Sebasti and Marco Pallanti in Gaiole in Chianti.

No concessions to the conventional amenities, but an intimate and discrete luxury that lets visitors live an authentic experience of enotourism. And also to be immersed in a natural way in the spirit and sensibility of the villa: every room is furnished with original period furniture and is characterized by fragrances created by the home’s owner.

The mullioned window of the Bellavista suite looks out over the hills of the San Lorenzo rows of grapevines and, in the foreground, take in the “On wines: points of view” artwork by Daniel Buren, one of the symbols of the vineyard.

Since 1999, Castello di Ama, in collaboration with the Galleria Continua in San Gimignano, has kicked off a special liaison between wine and contemporary art with an investment of over €2 million.

“We were not interested only in buying pieces of art, but we wanted to create something empathic, in perfect symbiosis with the place, and leave a trace in the future that could outlive us,” said Lorenza Sebasti.

The first to cooperate was Michelangelo Pistoletto.

After him, in tune with the genius loci, other big names such as Anish Kapoor, Louise Bourgeois and Hiroshi Sugimoto have contributed to a site-specific collection - “widespread” in the medieval borough - unique in the world.

A passion that will be expressed also on September 19 at the Beyeler Foundation in Basel, when Castello di Ama will sponsor a gala dinner (with charity auction) with the Danish artist Olafur Eliasson.

As early as in the mid-18th century, the Duke Pietro Leopoldo of Austria, in his “Reports on the government of Tuscany,” mentioned the residence “which sends wine to England,” located in the “most fertile and renowned part of Chianti.”

Marco Pallanti, winemaker at Ama since 1982, said: “In recent years we have tried to honor our long tradition and express every single terroir. It took €5 million to re-install a total of 55 hectares of vine.”

Today the hectares of vine are 76 (out of 200), for a production of about 300,000 bottles, of which 80,000-100,000 of Chianti Classico Gran Selezione San Lorenzo, as many of Chianti Classico Ama from young vineyards and 25,000 of Haiku, a classic blend of Bordeaux wines.

Around 60% of the bottles go abroad (the US is the first market, with 15%).

In addition, on 35 hectares of olive trees they produce 15,000 half-liter bottles of excellent oil (olives are hand-picked and cold-pressed in their own mill) to be tested in the new restaurant, Ristoro di Ama, in Villa Pianigiani, the finishing cellars.

The kitchen is headed by Giovanni Bonavita, cook of the family for over 15 years and creator of a tomato soup worthy of an art collection.