The Da Vinci Code for Wine

Milano Wine Week recently gave me the excuse to flit through Via Montenapoleone dressed to the nines and sip vintages while taking in the view of fancy pants fashion-conscious wine lovers.

From the Duomo (left) to Via Montenapoleone, it’s all a catwalk!

A lot was going on during this Wine Week, from workshops to master classes. So I spent one day on the Leonardo trail, finding out more about that genius in the 500th anniversary year of his death. Did you know Leonardo had something to say about how to make wine?IMG_3852

Cantine Leonardo, a Tuscan-based winery that is part of the Caviro Group, hosted an inspiring tasting in Palazzo Bovara. Led by the erudite and entertaining Luca Maroni, who has actually published a book called Leonardo da Vinci and Wine, the tasting allowed for a jaunt through many Italian wine regions.

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While the winery may be best-known for its Chianti with the Vitruvian man label, the gamma of products presented in Milan took us from the oft-overlooked Romagna region to the Veneto, of course passing through Tuscany.

Leonardo did spend six months in the Romagna region in 1502, hence this Pignoletto, a lovely sparkling brut with Leonardo’s map of Imola on the label.

I know, we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover or a wine by its label, but hats off to the graphic artists who worked on these stunning labels. Despite the geographic variety, the collections make sense through the use of elegant, engaging graphics.

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The same may be said of the entire presentation, from the place mats to the Warhol take-off (Warhol loved Leonardo too, remember his Mona Lisa?)

Our man Da Vinci loved his wine, and always put it at the top of his shopping lists (yes, when you are a recognized genius, people save even your shopping lists for 500 years!) And some of his advice included not drinking wine on an empty stomach!

From the Villa Da Vinci collection, the second wine we tasted, Streda, is a light lemon colored Vermentino with a lovely bouquet, very elegant. The Chianti Riserva 2015 from the Capolavori selection (called Vergine delle Rocce) boasts a great nose and a big mouthfeel. Round and full-bodied, it clearly did some time in oak. The surprise of the day, from the Romagna collection: the Rocca di Cesena Sangiovese Superiore Romagna DOC 2016. The Romagna version of Sangiovese has nothing to do with its Tuscan cousin. A highly appealing wine, which as Leonardo recommends, should be drunk with food! The Sant’Ippolito 2016 is a Tuscan IGT, a little Super Tuscan, and betrays its intentions as a wine for the Anglo markets. This wine speaks English – round, full-bodied, an intense ruby red, it is a blend of Sangiovese, Syrah, Merlot. The final wine was an Amarone 2014, intense, warm, with a big nose. Cantine Leonardo boasts a Brunello and a Barolo too; I guess the idea is that these are masterpieces of wine. An interesting and edifying tasting – hats off to Luca Maroni!

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Yours truly with Luca Maroni

But the surprise of this trip to Milan was Leonardo’s very own grapevines in the center of town. Casa Atellani, just across from where the genius painted his supremely famous Last Supper, is where the Sforza duke decided to reward the painter with his own vines.

Milan has these surprising moments of green. Lucky for us, there is a lady, Giovannella Fugazza, who loves Malvasia di Candia Aromatica. She’s done the research.

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Bottles of dry white Malvasia di Candia, Leonardo’s vintage

And her winery, Castello di Luzzano, harvests the grapes and makes a delightful aperitif-style white wine. That they actually make wine from this Malvasia di Candia Aromatica from the very spot where Leonardo’s own Malvasia grew… Well, this is something quite delicious indeed, bringing together all of the culture, art, history, wine and wonder that is Italy!

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Reporting from the city of La Madunina!

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