I will never forget that shadow. It was the shade of the cypress trees. In the hour when the sun started to go down, their shape so elegant and austere draw almost a lace on the sandy clay road. I was a child but I remember the whiff of the air in all its shades. The sunset was still far, but the air began to smell of that warmth that rises from the ground, with notes of resins and juniper, and the saltiness of the sea –because yes indeed, also these hills are reached by the wind from the sea. The early hour of the evening was my favorite ever. The trimmed vineyards surrounded by olive trees and woods seemed to light up in the orange rays of the sun. They say the autumn is about to begin, or at least the calendar says it. Now as then, every year the magic repeats.
Even far away abroad, these places are well known: they sometimes call it “Chiantishire”, as one of the more familiar places, but actually the perfect expression is Chianti Classico. It’s here that everytime I find my roots, back to my first steps into wine tasting. The “Chianti Classico” is a triangle traced land on the edge between the province of Florence and Siena, maybe the wildest area with soils hard to work, mostly rocky and full of limestone, and with high altitude hills, all elements that make a big difference to the wine once in the glass. The vines grow better and more powerful when they are under stress, because the roots need to dig deeply in to the soil to find the nutriments and water for their growth. That’s what makes Chianti Classico such a special area and its wines so proudly elegant and fresh, with fine tannins, nice minerality and great balance. Talking with some vintners you understand that their impetus to make wine in the most truthful way according to the terroir and the tradition, is dictated by the happiness bestowed to their work by the amazing landscape and its potential great wine expressions. And now, here between Radda in Chianti, Castellina in Chianti and Gaiole in Chianti, down the streets, among the people of these villages suspended between the hills like notes on a pentagram, summer seems long gone and people do not talk about anything else. The harvest.
Harvest time is fast approaching, and it’s a magic-filled, exciting time, full of expectation and hope, and one that is undoubtedly the most important and eagerly awaited for each producer. The images of the harvests from a bygone era, where women pressed the grapes with their feet as they sang are now a distant memory. But the harvest time is still fascinating. Even if the countryside is not yet swarming with people and tractors carrying crate loads of handpicked grapes to the wineries, looking at these Sangiovese vines with their juicy precious load, you can almost feel the air becoming filled with the characteristic fragrance of the must.
Tomorrow is the big day. Looking at the grapes that glitter in the sunset light, ready to be grasped by the gnarled hands of the farmers, I think about the magnificent sense of all these men protecting and taking care of this terroir. A kind of responsibility owed to the land of Tuscany and it’s viticulture traditions. And while in the city temperatures are lowering and everyone has already seized the fast pace of their working life pre-summertime, it’s in this place – the Chianti Classico – that you can allow yourself to be amazed by the everlasting charm of the Tuscan countryside, bordering between taste and beauty.
Video Courtesy of Rocca delle Macìe Winery (Castellina in Chianti, SI)