Family ValuesAugust 30 2019

Veni, Vidi, Vino: The Frescobaldi Family

5 mins read

“My dream, and that of my family, is to share our work, our emotions, and our passionate commitment through our wines.”

Lamberto Frescobaldi

A commitment to viticulture and to agriculture in general has always been a prominent hallmark of the Frescobaldi family, who have been producing wine in Tuscany for seven hundred years, beginning in the early 1300s. The family history is filled with illustrious ancestors: literary figures, explorers, musicians, financiers, bishops, and statesmen.

The Frescobaldi archives boast many ancient documents and historical registers, such as commercial contracts with an array of European Courts, beginning in the 13th century. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the Florentine wine house furnished wine to the Court of England and to the Papal Court in Rome, among others. Even earlier, the Frescobaldis had established relationships and commercial ties with the workshops of numerous artists, among them the Renaissance giants Donatello, Michelozzo Michelozzi, and Filippo Brunelleschi.

Around the year 1000, the first members of the family moved to Florence from the Val di Pesa, where their most ancient agricultural estate, the Tenuta Castiglioni, still flourishes today. In that era, the cities in Italy’s centre and north were making impressive advances economically, politically, and financially, to the detriment of the then dominant feudal system. The noble families began settling in the cities, attracted by the commercial and political advantages offered by the urban agglomerations.

The Frescobaldis established their presence in the Oltrarno district of Florence, in the Piazza de’ Frescobaldi, where they built their palazzo, covered loggia, and tower. In 1252, Lamberto Frescobaldi constructed the first bridge, built of wood, over the Arno, today’s Ponte Santa Trinita, to connect his own properties with Florence’s historic centre. Today, the family lives in their 16th-century palazzo adjacent to the same piazza. In the 19th century, the property of another aristocratic Florentine family, the Albizzi, enlarged that of the Frescobaldi: the marriage between Angiolo Frescobaldi and Leonia degli Albizi in 1863 brought to the family in dowry the Castello Nipozzano and Castello Pomino estates.

Beginning in 1950, Marchese Lamberto Frescobaldi and his son Marchese Vittorio, President until 2007 and current Honorary President of the holding company, actively supported the modernisation of their agricultural and viticultural practices, and the rationalisation of production on the principle estates, in particular those of Castello Nipozzano, Castello Pomino, and Tenuta Castiglioni.

Tenuta Perano’s landscape is a natural amphitheatre that captures the light and warmth of the sun.

Vittorio Frescobaldi brought fundamental change to the family business at the beginning of the 1960s by emphasising highly-specialised viticulture, with new vineyard plantings in exceptional terroirs. Over a very brief period more than 500 hectares were planted in the province of Florence. His actions indicative of the family’s ongoing desire to develop and celebrate the diversity of Tuscany’s terroir.

In the early 1960s, Piero Frescobaldi began laying the foundations for a modern distribution network in Italy and abroad. Following his premature death, his brothers took up the reins of that endeavour: Ferdinando organised wine distribution across the Italian wine market, while Leonardo devoted his attention to 80 countries across the globe. In addition, Leonardo served as President from 2007 through 2013.

In 1989, the purchase of Tenuta CastelGiocondo, in Montalcino, was a milestone in the expansion of the firm. In September 2017, Marchesi Frescobaldi purchased at auction Tenuta Perano, located in an outstanding Chianti Classico area between Gaiole in Chianti and Radda. This purchase constituted the official entry of Gruppo Frescobaldi into the Chianti Classico zone.

“Cultivating Toscana diversity” sums up the company philosophy, while testifying to the family’s close relationship with the many facets of this most beautiful of regions.

“The joy of even fleeting moments, and delight in its flavours, tastes, and sensory impressions: these are the sensations that are the gift of Tuscany, and what Frescobaldi wants in turn to convey to those who see in wine a true culture, quite beyond just the vine and its grapes,” stated Frescobaldi President Lamberto Frescobaldi. “My dream, and that of my family, is to share our work, our emotions, and our passionate commitment through our wines. Ours is a life dedicated to understanding and promoting these unique terroirs, to ensuring that they fully become part of the spirit of Tuscany, as the ‘art of the good and the beautiful.’

“Our seven hundred year family history constitutes for me a unique and irreplaceable treasure of knowledge, traditions and family values, and my responsibility is to pass on to and share with future generations respect, passion, and devotion to these places of ours and to these timeless hills.”

Lamberto Frescobaldi

The family’s commitment to ‘art of the good and the beautiful’ is also expressed through its unique philanthropic projects. Gorgona island is the smallest in the Tuscan archipelago and since 1869 it has been an open penal colony. The mainly mountainous island was once a place of hermits and monks and subject to barbarian raids. Today the island hosts an open penal colony, where the prisoners can move around freely to work and learn new professions which will help them to be reinstated in society at the end of their sentence. When Lamberto Frescobaldi received an email from the prison authorities enquiring if any local winemaker be interested in overseeing small vineyards on Gorgona, he seized the opportunity and delved avidly into the project, producing some 4000 bottles a year and in 2014 signing a ten-year extension deal.

“This is something that many people in prison, most of whom come from challenged backgrounds, have never had the experience of doing: legitimate work,” Lamberto explains. “We give them that opportunity. We all make mistakes in life and everybody should be given a second chance. One day they will rejoin society. Do you want them to be released ready to commit another crime, or do you want them to be a productive part of the community? I always say to the prisoners, “Look, this bottle here contains something of you. If you don’t have passion making it, the wine will not be good.” This is all restorative for a person.” It seems the Frescobadi’s seven hundred year history has imparted the family with the wisdom to cultivate its region’s people with the same respect with which it tends to its terroir.

The architecturally exquisite Tenuta Perano cellar.

Frescobaldi embodies the very essence of Tuscany, its extraordinary aptitude for viticulture, and the fascinating variety of its growing areas. The family’s uniqueness springs precisely from its being a reflection of this diversity, from its seven wine estates, and from its wines, which offer a kaleidoscope of fragrances and sensations, each of them reflecting the characteristics of a specific terroir.

“We want our style to speak of the earth and of the diversity of our growing areas,” explains Lamberto Frescobaldi. “We chose the different terroirs, whose qualities vary from property to property, and even within each estate, based on their aptitude for making distinctive wines. We have the deepest respect for the history of the various growing areas, and we want to faithfully represent those traditions.

“Our objective is the highest-possible quality obtained through uncompromising respect for the classic characteristics of our grapes, which are themselves the iconic expressions of their individual growing areas. This commitment is our challenge each day.”

The seven tenute, or wine estates, are Castello Pomino (Pomino), Castello Nipozzano (Nipozzano), Tenuta Perano (Gaiole in Chianti), Tenuta Castiglioni (Montespertoli), Tenuta CastelGiocondo (Montalcino), Tenuta Ammiraglia (Magliano in Toscana), and Remole (Sieci). Located in Tuscan districts with centuries-old reputations for growing noble wines (DOC, DOCG, and IGT), the wine estates differ in soils and weather, environment, and history, thus giving unique characteristics to their own particular wines. Each wine estate is managed on its own, with its own staff that direct its viticulture, vinification, and wine ageing.

The family business today has diversified to include other businesses outside of wine, including olive oils, restaurants in both London and Florence, the ‘Artists for Frescobaldi’ project and the social responsibility of the rehabilitation of the prisoners of Gorgona Island. Each member of the family is personally involved in one or more of the businesses and so, despite seven hundred years of family history, the values are still as true today as they were then.