Nov
2008

Cortona

TOSCANA

Etruscan civilization. How ancient! With the singularly unique language that could only be considered close to those in the Tyrrhenian family (anyone speak Raetic and Lemnian?) the town of Curtun (or Cortona) was founded with trademark principles that leave no doubt to the towns’ Etruscan antiquity: on a steep hillside and with a city wall to protect. Found in the province of Arezzo in Tuscany, Cortona is known today for its fantastic Etruscan museum, chamber tombs, Fra Angelico’s painted panels, and the home of the American writer Frances Mayes, who wrote the book Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy. Many amphorae and vases have been found depicting figures drinking wine from goblets, and may have been used to carry wine. But what did the Etruscans like to drink? Well, Plinius the Young as an early Robert Parker, in written testimony describes in great detail the excellent wines of Etruria, expressing particular admiration for the qualities of a wine called “Estesiaca” produced in the Cortona district. Fast-forward to the 16 th century when Cortona wines were particularly prized by pope Paul III who had wine delivered from Cortona for his banquets.


Now, in 1999 the DOC of Cortona was established thanks to the areas best winegrowers (Avignonesi, Baldetti, Mezzetti, etc) who singled out homogenous wine production techniques, as well as characteristics of the area’s soil and microclimate (all requirements for a DOC). Cortona DOC covers the municipal territories of Cortona situated at an altitude of at least 850 ft. above sea level. Variety requirements change according to type: Rosato: Sangiovese 40-60%; Canaiolo Nero 10-30%, other non-aromatic red varieties up to 30%. Vin Santo: Sangiovese: 85%; other local non-aromatic red varieties, up to 15%. Vin Santo Occhio di Pernice: Sangiovese and/or Malvasia Nera: 80%; other local non-aromatic red varieties up to 20%. Varieties/types allowed run the gamut: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gamay, Grechetto, Merlot, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Nero, Riesling Italico, Rosato, Sangiovese, Sauvignon, Syrah, Vin Santo, and Vin Santo Occhio di Pernice.


Chances are that the Etruscans weren’t transporting the foreign Pinot Nero in those amphorae, but wine is wine and they needed to get busy if Diane Lane was coming to town in a few hundred years.