Last week another Italian wine great died at 90. He’s Count Ugo Contini Bonacossi of the Capezzana estate in Carmignano just northwest of Florence. The count was instrumental in gaining DOC status for this red wine viticultural zone, recognized for its quality by Grand Duke Cosimo III de Medici in 1716, and even earlier. In 1990, Carmignano achieved the highter DOCG status.
Ugo’s grandfather acquired the beautiful old Capezzana estate in the 1920s. After the war, Ugo got his viticultural degree, and began transforming the property from mixed agriculture to concentrate on growing Sangiovese. The property also has a number of old olive trees. Capezzana’s olive oil is exceptional.
During his lifetime the count worked hard to elevate the quality and reputation of Carmignano wines, which are still not all that well known. I wish I saw them on more wine lists: They’re usually wonderful buys. And Tenuta di Capezzana is certainly one of the top estates. Villa di Capezzana is a blend of Sangiovese with 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, while Barco Reale is a younger version of the same wine. They also make a beguiling vin santo, blend of Trebbiano, Malvasia and San Colombano grapes and sometimes a touch of Chardonnay.
Years ago, I had lunch at the estate with much of the extended family seated around a long table. The entire day spent visiting the cellars, peering into the olive oil vats, and touring the estate remains a wonderful memory, but especially that time at the table savoring Lisa Bonacossi’s Tuscan cooking and new and old vintages of Capezzana's Carmignano.
Today, his children and grandchildren run the winery. In September he would have celebrated his 65th wedding anniversary with his wife, Lisa.
At his memorial service last week, a letter from his granddaughter Annalù was read: “We have the strength of a great man, a man who was very wise, a man who taught us to listen, to enjoy life with irony and to have the courage to live life to the fullest.”
-- S. Irene Virbila
Photos: Ugo Contini Bonacossi opening the door to the original cellar. Courtesy of the Contini Bonacossi family.