ALLA CORTE DE VINO
By John Salvi
“If music be the food of love play on….”. Of course music is one of
the foods of love, although not the only one. It would be easy to name
some more basic and proletarian foods of love such as oysters, asparagus,
caviar and even little blue pills! Reverting more importantly to music,
then any art form that uplifts the heart and/or the senses must be considered
food for love in its more elevated sense. This of course includes wine
and the art of the senses of both smell and taste just as much as music
and the delicate art of the sense of hearing.
The above was a rather quaint preamble to introduce one of the most delightful
events in the annual calendar of a wine lover, a music lover or even an
epicurean – Alla Corte del Vino. A weekend organised each may in the heart
of Tuscany by Principe Corsini at his family home Villa Le Corti, in San
Casciano, Val di Pesa.
This wonderful weekend starts on the Friday evening, not at his home,
but in Florence, with a wine auction for charity in aid and support of
the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.
The donors include many famous names, not only from the world of wine
but also from business, fashion and art. The list is long and reads rather
like Debrett. Many of these personalities assist at the auction itself
and buy each others offers in a spirit of charitable bonhomie. It is indeed
a charitable charity event and charity dictates the auction price far
more than does the intrinsic worth of the wine and its mundane market
value. This year 80 lots were sold by a highly professional auctioneer
in exactly 90 minutes. Generosity abounded. The lot, which collected the
highest bid, was a Magnum of 1975 Chateau Mouton Rothschild, offered by
Baroness Philippine de Rothschild herself. It was bought for 3500 Euros
and the purchaser immediately and spontaneously offered 5000 Euros. Principe
Corsini himself bought the second lot of another vintage of Mouton Rothschild
for 1500 Euros. Such generosity was much appreciated and warmly applauded.
A sumptuous buffet was served, at the conclusion of the auction, to music
by a band and singer who, starting quietly and calmly, rapidly grew louder,
wilder and more frenetic as the wine went down, the food disappeared and
the mood grew joyous. A great evening was had by all, and the younger
Tuscan bon–viveurs danced the night away.
On the Saturday and the Sunday was the wine show at the Castello, open
to the public for a small entrance fee. Once inside, the visitors could
spend all day tasting as many wines as they chose just as often as they
wished. There was no further cost involved. They came in droves. The weather
was fine and hot. A huge white marquee on the lawns housed the tables
of the Tuscan wine producers. The tasters spent their time selecting from
120 growers, many of them showing their full range of wines. There was
food, nay rather wine, for a great deal of thought! Many, indeed most,
of the great names of Tuscany were there to be sampled – Trinora, Frescobaldi,
Antinori, Ricasoli, Corsini, Sassicaia, Tignanello, Sonnino, etc. etc.
Adjoining tents served Italian breads, cheeses, charcuterie, pastries,
fruit tarts, delicious ice creams and a huge basket of fresh black summer
truffles – irresistible!
For those with more exalted tastes and deeper pockets, in the courtyard
of the magnificent Castello, tables were elegantly dressed and a 2–star
Michelin Guide restaurant – La Tenda Rossa, from nearby Cerbaia – served
a magnificent and gastronomic 6–course lunch on both days with different
menus each day and with different fine wines to accompany each and every
course. This was a truly splendiferous treat for the accomplished epicurean.
For the true wine aficionado there were a series of superb tutored and
commented tastings of rare and exceptional wines. These proved immensely
popular and were filled to overflowing, with waiting lists for a number
of them. Just as for the lunches, it was wise to have booked a place well
in advance, as last minute would–be attendees were destined for disappointment.
As well as being very reasonably priced they were outstanding and unique
events and offered the possibility of tasting wines, which one would never
be able to taste in the normal course of events. Over the two days these
included: a 7-wine vertical of Piaggia, a 7-wine tasting of great Vin
Santo, a 7-wine vertical of Masseto from Ornellaia, a great Burgundy tasting
of Pinot Noir, a fascinating bread tasting with weird and wonderful breads
for those with allergies, and a tasting of great Tuscan wines versus the
rest of the world!
The owners, wine makers and a special panel of experts, consultants oenologists
and professional sommeliers, commented each wine in turn and answered
questions. Even as a wine expert or a professional there was an enormous
amount to be learned and a great deal of pleasure to be had.
Duccio Corsini himself was everywhere playing the gracious and courteous
host, elegantly supported by his charming and delicious wife Clothilde.
His faithful team, Barbara Toschi and Daniela Mugnai, organised and arranged,
answered queries and dealt with problems, with unfailing efficiency and
unflagging good humour.
Sunday evening saw the crowds melt away to a satisfied and fulfilled silence,
with a soothing and beautiful sunset over the castle.
This is a rare and remarkable wine-event, a weekend of gracious living
and of appreciation of the finer things of life, all in the gorgeous and
dramatic setting of a Tuscan castle with noble and notable people. It
is a fusion of art and of fine wine and food, of taste and of beauty,
all of which can be enjoyed by all and everybody from all walks and stations
of life. Such spirit and soul raising moments should be seized upon and
They show that the world still offers moments of deep and satisfying enjoyment
during which we can, for a while, put aside our constant daily cares and
worries and give ourselves up to pure, unsullied enjoyment. Duccio Corsini
and his wife Clothilde are to be thanked, congratulated and most sincerely
praised for their initiative and their generosity, which resulted in our
pleasure and our enjoyment.