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By John Salvi
December 2005

“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 afterwards treasured.

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.

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