You’ll find evidence of the shared history of the United States and Tuscany in every corner of Florence, even in your neighborhood gelato shop. Wine too is a thread that has connected our two countries since even before the establishment of the Consulate in Florence in 1819.
Naturally, it all goes back to Thomas Jefferson and Filippo Mazzei. Mazzei went to Virginia in 1773, bringing with him some cuttings from Tuscany. Jefferson granted Mazzei 80 hectares, upon which he built a home called Colle, adjacent to Jefferson’s Monticello estate.
The two established a corporation to develop vineyards in Virginia and some wine was produced before the vines were uprooted and destroyed by the British during the American War of Independence. An American investor and an Italian oenologist resurrected these vineyards in 1981, and they are now producing some of Virginia’s finest wines.
Jefferson was also perhaps the U.S.’s first systematic importer of Tuscan wines. Correspondence from the early 1800s between Jefferson and the U.S. Consul in Livorno spoke of annual shipments of around 400 bottles from Montepulciano, Carmignano, Artimino, Ama and Chianti. Always the innovator, Jefferson insisted that the wine be shipped in bottles sealed with tar, thus reducing the risk of adulteration during the voyage and allowing him to store the wine in his cellar once it arrived.