In June 2013, even before the conception of this blog, I visited the Villa Cusona, home of the Tenute Giucciardini Strozzi, near San Gimignano in Tuscany.
It is a magnificent place to visit – for several reasons.
The first: wine has been made in this place since the 1200s – at least. You’ll see some unfathomably old machinery that was used for working the land and equipment for the cellar. The Villa Cusona can actually date its existence to the year 994 – (don’t believe what you sometimes read in third-party texts who, incredulously, change it to 1994…)
Secondly, the house embodies the present day combination of two of the most powerful dynasties in Renaissance Florence: the noble Strozzi family, who require little introduction other than to say they were long-time rivals of the Medici family, and the Giucciardinis, of whom the most notable is Francesco Giucciardini (1483-1540) a statesman, philosopher, political writer and also a friend and mentor of Niccolo Machiavelli.
Despite their notable prowess in the mediaeval times – becoming the wealthiest family in Europe at one point – there are no living descendants of the Medici family. Time has since given the Guicciardini-Strozzi family the upper-hand! Visiting the Villa Cusona practically represents a pilgrimage in homage to the Renaissance.
Thirdly, the family are direct descendants of Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo, who is better known as the Mona Lisa or La Gioconda by Leonardo da Vinci. This information had been passed down through fifteen generations but it was only in 2014 that DNA evidence unequivocally proved the link.
Natalia is a fantastic burst of energy. Fluent in Italian, French, English, Russian plus other languages I’m sure, she is the international face of the winery but she is also an acclaimed ballet dancer and actress. On the day that I visited, she was nervously practising her lines for a play that was opening that night.
I have just one bottle of their wine left in my cellar. It’s the Chianti Classico DOCG 2010. This weekend, I’ll open it and update this post with my thoughts.