One thing we love about the world of wine is how a wine can connect us to little slices of history. This week’s 91 Tuscan red is a good example – we enjoyed its blend of fruity and savory and weren’t surprised at its 91 point Wine Spectator rating. What did surprise us was to learn that this is one of Tuscany’s oldest legally recognized wine growing areas and one of the first to include significant amounts of French varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon.
And for both, we have the Medici family to thank!
Italy’s First Wine Regions.
When they weren’t commissioning art works from Leonardo da Vinci or reading treatises on ruling from Niccolò Machiavelli, Florence’s ruling Medici family was eating and drinking well. And, being orderly and thoughtful (if a tad cruel), they soon realized that some of vineyards in their lands made better wines than others. So in 1716, Cosimo III dè Medici created Italy’s first legally defined wine regions: Chianti, Pomino, Val di Sopra, and Carmignano.
The Medici took special interest in Carmignano – the closest of the four top sites to Florence – and actively encouraged ongoing improvements in quality here. In fact, Catherine de’ Medici brought Cabernet back from France in the 1600s and had it planted in Carmignano. To this day, the grape is known as “Uva Francesca” – the “French grape.”
Today, Carmignano is an official DOCG – Italy’s highest quality designation – and makes a dark, rich, and very intense red from super-dark Sangiovese plus Cabernet and Merlot, a wine that needs long aging in barrel and bottle to shine. Today’s featured wine is designated “Barco Reale di Carmignano” – a fresh, easy-going red designed to be drunk young with pizza, pasta, and other casual fare.
The “Barco Real” in the name refers to a 4000-acre game park established by the Medici in the 17th Century. Perhaps this was the kind of wine they drank as the rabbit, stag and boar they’d run down during a long day’s hunting roasted in the fireplace?
Today, you can certainly enjoy Pratesi Barco Reale di Carmignano Locorosso 2017 with the fruits of your hunt for good eats in the local grocery store. Like wines from nearby Chianti Classico – many of which today include Cabernet Sauvignon in their blends! – it’s got the heft and structure to stand up to Bistecca alla Fiorentina grilled over grape vine cuttings and finished with lemon and olive oil.
But it’s soft and fleshy enough to match up with burgers on the grill, pork tenderloin, pizza, even cheese and crackers. At $16.98 by the bottle and $14.98/ea by the case of 12 this week, this wine doesn’t require the Medici’s wealth for you to drink like a prince!