A Tuscan marriage: How Italian estate Castello di Ama marries wine and art

Castello di Ama has 70 hectares of vineyards, 40 hectares of olive trees, 100 hectares of forest — and no more than 5 luxurious suites sleeping 15 people in all.
Shy Perez-Sala | Sep 07 2018

Only an hour’s drive away from Florence, Castello di Ama feels like an entire fantasy world away from Tuscany’s capital city.  This splendid estate has 70 hectares of vineyards, 40 hectares of olive trees, 100 hectares of forest — and no more than 5 luxurious suites sleeping 15 people in all.   This truly exclusive enclave is also home to one of Chianti’s finest wineries and collection of contemporary art.  Children of all ages are welcome and daily activities range from winery tours and tastings, a tour to view the estate’s contemporary art collection, and for the very fit and experienced, cycling journeys along the hilly Tuscan countryside.  Optional day trips to visit the charming medieval hamlets around Chianti can also be arranged.

Ama, the Italian word for “love” is one of these 12th century hamlets nestled between the hills of Chianti.  In 1972, four families from Rome fell in love with this place and decided to buy the whole estate with the aim of restoring the vineyards to their rightful majesty – to much success and fanfare.   

Twenty years later, Castello di Ama was thrust into the international spotlight on when their L’Apparita 1987 vintage beat Petrus 1988, Le Pin, and the finest Merlot wines at a blind tasting hosted by the Academie du Vin in Switzerland— with a jury led by no less than world-renowned wine consultant, Michel Rolland.   For those unfamiliar with the world of wine, this is akin to the Philippine ski team winning gold in the Winter Olympics. Italy hadn’t produced a single 100% Merlot vintage until 1985, when Castello di Ama was the first to do so.  All credit is due to the winemaker and estate co-owner, Marco Pallanti, who had the vision to import Merlot grapes from Bordeaux and cultivated them until he produced the winning wine.  Only 6,0000 - 7,000 bottles of L’Apparita are produced a year from their total of 300,000 bottles.  Aside from Merlot, they also produce Chianti Classico DOCG wines under their Gran Selezione, Vigneto Bellavista, Vigneto La Casuccia, and Castello di Ama San Lorenzo vintages. They also have several Toscana IGT’s including their Rosé (Purple Rose) and their very own Extra Virgin Olive Oil. 

According to Lorenza Sebasti, CEO of Castello di Ama, their wine is only made during good vintages.  In fact, only four were made in the last 12 years –  2013, 2011, 2007 and 2006 – proof of their commitment to quality and their reputation.  In 2012, the vines suffered greatly from a big storm—as a result, they made the decision to only produce rosé and white wines for that year. 

Anish Kapoor - Aima 

Award-Winning Merlot L'Apparita 

Carlos Garaicoa - I Don't Want To See My Neighbors Anymore 

Daniel Buren - On Wines Points of View 

Dusk at Castello di Ama 

Entrance - Castello di Ama 

Lee Ufan - Topos (Excavated) 

Lorenza Sebasti CEO 

Pascale Marthine Tayou - The Path to Happiness 

Private Library of L'Apparita Suite 

Rose´ - Purple Rose 

San Lorenzo Suite 

Top Vintages

As aficionados among us know, creation takes many forms, and  making wine is also like creating art—both take patience, craftsmanship, and style. This being the case, it’s natural for art lovers to appreciate wine, and wine lovers to appreciate art.  This synergy between the two is most evident in the estate’s world-class contemporary art collection. Curated by Philip Larratt-Smith, and located all around the vineyard are 16 site specific art installations by internationally renowned artists, such as Anish Kapoor, Lee Ufan, Chen Zhen, Daniel Buren and Louise Bourgeois—all of whom have been invited to stay at the estate. None of this art is for sale, though — every piece is a legacy to be passed on to the next several generations to come.  It is this “dialogue with history” which creates a “sense of place” for all its guests.

Among the ones which struck me the most is “Yo no quiero ver mas a mis vecinos” (I Don’t Want to See My Neighbors Anymore) by Cuban artist Carlos Garaicoa – an emotionally and politically charged installation. One can easily spot his miniature versions of The Berlin Wall, the Ramallah Barrier on the West Bank, Hadrian’s Wall in England, the Tijuana Wall in Mexico, and the Great Wall of China.  This work of art is truly a powerful and poignant representation of the world we currently live in. 

Inspired by his visit to Castello di Ama, the celebrated Korean artist Lee Ufan created Topos (Excavated), a dramatically lit installation featuring a wall drawing and floor painting, especially made for the estate’s underground wine vault.  In the artist’s words, “It can be said that wine awakens something deep and subconscious within man and guides man to a different dimension beyond its ordinary space. A great artwork, like a well-aged wine, should transcend itself and include within itself time and the spatial surroundings of the outside.”

French artist Daniel Buren’s “Sulle vigne: punti di vista” (On Wines: Points of View).  This arresting 25-meter mirrored wall literally stops you on your tracks. And, as the sun sets and rises, and the seasons change, this mirrored wall reflects this and alters its colors like a chameleon.  The square, cut-out windows offer views of the surrounding vineyards, similar to a landscape painting but in real-time, real-life.

And, last but not the least, Pascale Marthine Tayou – “Le Chemin du Bonheur” (The Path to Happiness), an artist from Cameroon.  His playful patches of colored cobblestones create a veritable kaleidoscope beneath your feet, giving you this sense of amazement and wonder. And, very much like the Yellow Brick Road – you’re in for lovely surprise at the end of the path! 


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