The religious pilgrimages along the Via Francigena
I have formulated this hypothesis on the historic vicissitudes of this grape variety based on research that is still underway, studies that will soon furnish us with better-documented historical conclusions that we have at present. In the meantime, though, we continue to try to track backwards in time, as far as 1700 at the moment, but we can also imagine even more remote periods, when the Via Francigena, which passes right through my wine estate, alongside the very vineyard in question, served as the “highway of the period,” trod daily by a great number of individual travellers, families, and entire communities. They used it for brief trips or, more frequently, to reach Rome on religious pilgrimages. They arrived from all over Europe, since the two main routes of the Via Francigena originated in Canterbury in England and in Santiago di Compostela in Spain. And it is Spain, according to our reconstruction of the facts, that could be the place of origin of these vines.
San Miniato was, in past centuries, also very important as a religious place, and a seat of a prestigious episcopal curia as well, which in those days owned and cultivated a huge amount of land in the San Miniato area; many priests were distributed throughout its territory, and they supervised the agricultural operations.
New vineyards were started in those days by planting grape seeds, primarily because over long journeys it was easier to carry a small container of seeds rather than an awkward, heavy bundle of canes. This fact strengthens the results of our research, which indicates that a high percentage of genetic material is identical to a variety known today in Spain as TEMPRANILLO, but with some obvious differences due to evolution, expected in a vine that was started from a seed and not from a cutting, and in an area that was not its original home, and to which it had to adapt itself later, over centuries.
The unique characteristics of these vines today are due above all to spontaneous evolution over the centuries that the vines have been in our vineyards. Such a presence has, in my opinion, given rise to the surprising result of producing, through an utterly natural process, a vine that can grow and yield a crop with a productive balance far superior to other, quite well-known grape varieties that have been painstakingly selected. Ours exhibits a short growing cycle, but a slow, consistent ripening stage, which allows us to select just the right moment for the harvest, giving us proof every day of its perfect adaptation to our area.
The remarkable quality potential of this grape lies precisely in its uniqueness and in its intimate relationship with the terroir to which it owes its very original genetic makeup.
In my work as a winegrower, this character is particularly important, since a vine that is so well adapted can produce its crop in a natural and unforced manner, with its well-proven, long-experienced bond with its terroir; in addition, this minimises anti-pest treatments, and so we can more easily utilise organic agricultural practices, which are more desirable today.
The tempranillo of San Miniato, thanks to its unique genetic makeup, yields grapes of significant versatility. They lend themselves to producing wines that are quite long-lived, combining the well-known varietal smoothness with other character tics dues mainly to the terroir, namely the acidity typical of Tuscany, plus the savouriness and minerally tang that are the gift of our limestone soils.