The Michelangelo urban vineyard

The Michelangelo urban vineyard

The Fittipaldi family replants their vineyard with a Duomo view.

Thu 28 Mar 2024 2:58 PM

On the sweeping bend just beyond piazzale Michelangelo stands the private home of the Fittipaldi Menarini family, an ochre-walled villa with “good bones” and quintessential forest green shutters. A step down from the manicured lawn, fit for croquet, lies a recently replanted vineyard: Vigna Michelangelo.

Owner Maria Fittipaldi Menarini grew up in this villa near the Iris Garden, which she inherited from her father, Mario, whose own father, Archimede, founded the eponymous pharmaceutical company that began life in Naples before moving the headquarters to Florence in 1915. Over the years, Maria’s European travels as the CEO of Bolgheri winery Donne Fittipaldi took her to urban vineyards, from Clos Montmartre, near the Sacré-Cœur, in Paris, to Leonardo’s vines in Milan and the Villa della Regina vineyard in Turin. At a certain point, realization dawned that she had always had her own urban vineyard with a Duomo view in Florence.

Maria Fittipaldi Menarini and her four daughters, Carlotta, Giulia, Serena and Valentina

“This vineyard represents my childhood,” Maria recalls. “After the summer holidays, in the first few days of September, I loved picking grapes as well as a few bunches to decorate the dining table…By renewing our garden vineyard, I wanted to give a sense of continuity to our home, which my father loved so dearly.” And so, on September 29, 2021, a new project was born.

Lengthy preparation ensued to convert the pre-existing vineyard to a head-trained bush system, known as alberello, which is compatible with the steep slant of the hillside and the centuries-old olive trees. In recent months, weeds and larger rocks were removed to make way for wooden poles planted approximately 40 centimetres deep to support the vine shoots.

This spring, on March 14, to be precise, 700 new vines were interred in the Chianti Classico-like galestro clay and schist that makes up the north-facing hillside on the south side of Florence. Sangiovese (300 vines), Canaiolo (150), Foglia Tonda (100), Pugnitello (100) and Abrostino (50) comprise the patch that serves as a genetic legacy, a vivarium, of native Tuscan grape varieties. Given the delicacy of the location, consideration was also given to the shape of the vineyard, which resembles a quincunx, a geometric pattern consisting of five points arranged in a cross, like the number five on a dice. In the autumn, the Abrostino leaves will turn the foliage a fiery red, adding warmth and interest to the urban slope.

Vigna Michelangelo on March 14, 2024

Sustainability and quality are at the heart of all the decisions made by Maria Fittipaldi Menarini, her four daughters, Carlotta, Giulia, Serena and Valentina, agronomist Stefano Bartolomei and winemaker Emiliano Falsini. The alberello vineyard method might be expensive, but it tends to yield quality wines, and the quincunx layout enables the team to “walk the vines”, as advised by the late great wine writer Luigi Veronelli, assessing the ripeness of the grapes and intervening where necessary.

The first fruits will not be seen until the 2027 vintage, with quality peaking long after then. Winemaker Emiliano Falsini is confident that the resultant bottling will “speak to the language of the land” and act as a “tribute to classic Tuscan-ness”.

Donne Fittipaldi is a renowned winery in the Bolgheri region, Tuscany.

Oenophiles will not be able to locate wines from the Michelangelo vineyard on supermarket and enoteca shelves, however. “We hope to produce 700 bottles that will be auctioned for charity,” explains Maria. “The purpose of a vineyard is not just about wine, but the bond it weaves between humans, the land and the air.”

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