It was once a place of transit and rest. Grain traders traveling along the Cassia would stop there before arriving in Florence. A brief stop to refresh themselves, rest their horses, and then off again. Today, centuries later, the Santa Maria Nuova Farm in San Casciano in Val di Pesa is the scene of other rites and passages. Of the transformation of olives into oil but also of a longer process. It lasts not a few months but entire years and its protagonists are not only men but also clusters of Malvasia, white Trebbiano and San Colombano. On the second floor of the facility, a practice is still consummated that few in the viticulture industry carry on because it is difficult and unprofitable. In a world that travels at the speed of light and seeks profit maximization at any cost, it is an unusual activity and, in some ways, represents a gamble. Five years or one thousand eight hundred and twenty-five days-you decide the unit of measurement to adopt. In any case, it is a broad frame, a time frame that brings radical transformations in the life of the individual and in the arrangement of the world. Five years is the time of a university course but also the time of a war. Five years is the time that transforms a screaming infant into a walking, talking child but also the time when a society changes and shifts appearance under the impulse of a new discovery or invention. These are just examples and could go on forever, however, the concept is clear: five years is an important period and among many things it also represents the minimum time to produce Vin Santo, the wine that in Tuscan tradition is reserved to welcome guests of honor, special people. It happens especially with the Mass wine that is used in the Eucharistic celebration by virtue of its characteristics, its compliance with the dictates of Canon Law: Vinum debet esse naturale de genimine vitis et non corruptum. Such is the Vin Santo produced by Pieve di Campoli. The labels Vin Santo del Chianti Classico Cortine Docg and Vin Santo del Chianti Classico Pieve di Campoli Docg follow a natural and ancient production process. It begins in September with manual harvesting and picking of white Trebbiano Toscano, Malvasia and San Colombano grapes: the clusters are placed in 20-kg crates and then transported to San Casciano where they are laid in Vinsantaia on trellises made of thin canes. Exposed to temperature changes, hot and cold air currents, the grapes begin to slowly dehydrate, increasing the sugar content of the must that will be extracted. It is a variable period, ranging from 6 to 8 months, and ends with the subsequent transport of the grapes to Cortine by the winery's vans, which at that time have the value of real cash carriers. Inside them there are not just grapes but matter ready to shine, to turn into gold.
After a 17 km journey through the Chianti Classico hills, the grapes arrive at Cortine, where vinification takes place in the cooperage. Once the must is obtained, it is transported to San Casciano to return to the Vinsantaia where it is decanted into barrels. The small barrels with a capacity of 45.50 litres are not located in the area where the racks are set up and the grapes are left to rest, but in a smaller space. A small room inside which the silence is intense, and the smell of wood mingles with the ancient smell of wine and yeast. Each cask is a world, a dark womb teeming with life. Inside them operates the "madre", a mush of ancient yeast that Pieve di Campoli inherited from Marzi, the factor who previously administered the Fattoria di Santa Maria Nuova and who in its day was already engaged in the production of Vin Santo. The madre, also known as 'lees', activates the fermentation process and is the special and unpredictable factor that determines the identity of each Vin Santo
Five years of ageing, sometimes up to seven, and at the end of this long stretch of days there is no shortage of surprises. Those who prepare to open the cask always do so with a lump in their throat, with justified apprehension. It is not rare to discover it totally empty or partly emptied due to evaporation or too aggressive fermentation. These are production risks and accidents that Pieve di Campoli knows well, but which it also has the courage to take on in the name of a tradition to preserve and a Church to serve. In addition to the labels already mentioned, the company produces a Vin Santo da Messa (Vin Santo for the Mass) that fully meets the liturgical requirements of the Florence Cathedral Chapter and is used during the most important celebrations of the year. Acting and going where everyone stops thanks to foresight and faith in one's work. This is what happened with the memorable breaking of the Vigna della Cipressa and this is what happens today with Vin Santo where meticulous care and patience become the premises for a wine that recalls the sacred in so many aspects: in the name, in the religious function, in the golden colour, in the process. In the choice that is renewed every year and sees bunches of Malvasia, white Trebbiano and San Colombano grapes taken away from the more classic vinifications and consigned to an unusual destiny, a difficult journey that in all the steps described represents a real sacrifice for the men involved. They do not know what the outcome will be and anxious, but patient wait to discover whether their work bore fruit or time passed in vain.