Tenuta Il Corno sits on a ridge in the Tuscan countryside just outside San Casciano Val di Pesa. The first time I visited the estate was on a dark and rainy January late afternoon. Struck by its austere and impressive façade, with a medieval bell tower to boot, the place oozed history. It was an invitation to explore.
The sweet aroma of history…
Maybe George Washington didn’t sleep here… But I did! Like living in a museum.
An ingenious way to heat requires an incredible amount of wood, but keeping the fire burning heats the whole darn place!
Over the ensuing months, I had the honor and pleasure to get to see Tenuta Il Corno in all four seasons, to walk through its vineyards and olive groves, and to breathe in the immense history along with the vistas and aromas from the cellar.
The current owner and soul of the place is Maria Giulia Frova, who wears the mantle of an ancient and noble family, and who constantly reminds you of her father’s and grandfather’s contributions to Il Corno. A Donna del Vino (Woman of Wine), she is the Regional Delegate of that association for Tuscany.
Maria Giulia is known for her big heart and generosity, and her boundless energy and creativity. She wears a variety of hats at Il Corno, not the least of which is the chef’s cap in the restaurant Corno DiVino. The name is a play on words, meaning horn of wine or divine horn, like a cornucopia. And it is a cornucopia here, the abundance of this place is astounding.
A visit to the cellar reveals family crests and historical ways of aging wine, including the square cement tanks typical of the Chianti region.
Plays on words are the rule of the day, as Maria Giulia shows me her signature wine Minna e Moro. Nicknames for the grapes, but also for the owner and her husband, the name plays on the Italian expression for ‘I am falling in love’. A wine that was designed for their wedding, this is the perfect blend – 50% Colorino and 50% Sangiovese.
In each of the tenute I visited in Tuscany, I discovered something unique, something that distinguished the winery and its products from the others. Here at Tenuta Il Corno I discovered Colorino. This Tuscan native grape is a Cinderella variety: it’s found in many, if not most, Chianti blends. Which is to say, rarely is Chianti a full 100% Sangiovese. The disciplinare, or government-approved regulations, state that Chianti DOCG must have a minimum of 70% Sangiovese with the remaining 30% divided among other red (and even up to 10% white!) grape varieties grown in Tuscany. Often, the traditional blend used Canaiolo and Colorino grapes. But after the great success of the Super Tuscan wines created in the ‘80s by enologist Giacomo Tachis & friends (read: Marchesi Antinori, Frescobaldi, etc.), many Chianti producers started including locally-grown international varieties like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon in the mix. Traditional hardliners stood by Canaiolo and Colorino as well as other local red varieties.
What Tenuta Il Corno does – and does so well – is to shift the spotlight onto the oft-overlooked Colorino, even producing a Colorino ‘in purezza’ that is over-the-moon delicious. I would venture to say Colorino is the Tuscan cousin of Cabernet Franc: a grape variety overshadowed by its bolder, limelight-stealing brother (Sangiovese or Cabernet Sauvignon). But give these grape varieties a chance to shine, and shine they do!
Here we find the bounty of the land, and with 11,000 olive trees, the oil can’t be far behind.
Some places, when you are lucky enough to visit them, communicate to you just how kissed by Divine Providence they truly are. Every sunset confirmed that feeling…
On one visit to the Tenuta (once owned by the Del Corno family, then the Strozzi, from whom Maria Giulia Frova descends), I convinced Maria Giulia to let me climb the bell tower. The view was astounding!
But don’t take my word for it: watch the videoclip! You can see all of Tuscany from the top of this tower!
You know that I’m convinced that Seeing is believing: so this is an exhortation to see for yourself.
And when you fill your eyes with those magnificent vistas, well, you may just be gazing on paradise.