Along the roadsides, the gentle ups and downs of Val di Pesa, his presence was a habit, or rather a certainty. For those who passed through San Donato in Poggio, Barberino and the other small hamlets of Tavernelle, it was easy to meet him and recognise him even from afar. Don Agostino Giotti did not go unnoticed. Wrapped in his long black cassock, he always carried an umbrella with him whether the sky sent rain, or the sun scorched the earth at 40°. It was one small quirk among many. The parish priest, born in 1915, did not drive, but only hitchhiked. Some say he only preferred cars of a certain type such as BMWs and Mercedes, but that the liking of those behind the wheel also counted for something in deciding who to stop or not. In any case, no car, and decades of thumbs up to friends and strangers. He never had a driver's licence and it never crossed his mind to get one because as he said, 'a fool willing to drive him' could always be found. He passed away in Florence in 2007 at the age of 92 and a half, close to 70 years of priesthood. Today, many Chiantigiani remember him.
But Don Giotti was not only the hitchhiker. As he often liked to call himself, he was above all the peasant priest, the priest of Cortine. IIn the small village of San Donato in Poggio he was parish priest from 1953 to 1986. An intense period during which he would look after his people and care for the parish's farms and vineyards with tenacity and passion. The area is now home to vines over fifty years old and represents one of the oldest and most important legacies of the Pieve di Campoli winery, which in memory of the priest wanted to create Cortine. The line, launched in 2019, expresses the characteristics and peculiarities of the territory of San Donato in Poggio, an Additional Geographical Unit of the Chianti Classico Consortium. Among the flagship labels is the Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, which is made exclusively from 100% Sangiovese grapes from the area after a meticulous selection process that sees the best bunches picked to enhance the virtues of the Cortine terroir. Finally, another pride of the line is Vin Santo del Chianti Classico Cortine DOCG, produced according to the traditional method through a long drying process of grapes from the historic vineyards of the ancient village. The production process is so strict that the bottles are only put on the market after meeting the liturgical requirements of the Florence Cathedral Chapter.
Don Giotti loved wine and did not disdain working in the fields, side by side with the farmers. Although he came from a family of direct cultivators and on his mother's side of a noble branch, he did not have too deep a knowledge of agricultural matters. That is why he relied on Gino, a very competent and skilled worker both in the vineyard and in the cellar, an area in which the priest seemed to juggle best, producing, together with his collaborator, a full-bodied product with a high alcohol content. It was in the cellar, converted from a room in the rectory where he lived in Cortine, that the barrels were located. Inside them was the result of work that the priest jealously guarded and, like a treasure, shared with few. Inside them was the result of work that the priest jealously guarded and, like a treasure, shared with few. He was very selective in his gifts. Gruff and of few words, he had firm and immovable convictions: wine was only to be sold and its proceeds allocated to the needs of the parish and its inhabitants. However, he knew how good his product was and he also knew that word had spread in the village and that many people wanted to taste it. So, to avoid unpleasant surprises, he had taken precautions against possible theft by devising his own trap. On the spiral staircase that led to the barrels, he had removed the last step to trip up possible ill-intentioned people. But this cunning was not enough with his friend Don Cuba, at that time one of the best-known priests in the Archdiocese of Florence and beyond. One day he went to visit him and while he was distracting him, secretly some boys who had accompanied him there 'borrowed a few litres of wine' for a dinner in the Sollicciano prison.
A colourful and sometimes controversial character, Don Agostino Giotti left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of the entire Val di Pesa, at times even providing pearls of great hilarity destined to be recounted and handed down for decades. The parish priest was a friend of an important local entrepreneur who in 1976 had taken over his father's winery, transforming it into a highly prestigious reality. The story goes that during one of the many hitchhiking trips from San Donato to Cortine, the man provoked Don Agostino with a joke. Given the copious rainfall that threatened to compromise the grape harvest and an entire year, he told him to urge his employer to stop the rain. On the spot, Don Agostino replied nothing, remaining silent the whole way. Then once they arrived at their destination, with one foot still in the car and the other outside, he looked his friend in the eye and said dryly: “My principal was the 'son' of a carpenter, not a winemaker”.
Like good wine, Don Giotti was a gift from heaven. If today his story lives again in the collective memory, it is also due to a happy stroke of fate that he bluntly described as a miracle. On 15 August 1944, when he was 29 years old and parish priest at Lumena, a small village in Mugello, a group of Germans carried out a round-up in which some civilians ended up involved, along with the young priest. As was the custom, they were put up against the wall and shot. His life was spared. He remained for hours praying the rosary until a total silence suggested to him that the Germans had left. From that day on, he would tell everyone the same thing, that Our Lady had saved him from German bullets. The event matured a deep faith in him, leading him to embrace a life of gratitude, aimed at caring for his people and his land, including the vines that still today form the heart of the Cortine line.