Just as in the 12th Century, the village itself still plays an essential role in our wine and oil production.
The interiors of its ancient houses, churches, underground passages and deconsecrated churches have been discreetly converted into wine cellars, bottling plants and olive presses up to the ceiling in the latest equipment and all connected by an amazing underground "wineduct."
Thus Volpaia is not just another magnificent tourist attraction, but a thriving hive of activity whose inhabitants are all directly or indirectly involved in the winery.
Before being turned into wine and appearing in a bottle on your table, our grapes travel around the entire village. In fact visitors can take a guided tour of the castle cellars starting from the sacristy and ending up in the cellars of the various churches which are now dedicated to the making and aging of Volpaia wine.
The vendemmia, or grape harvest, is obviously the busiest and most exciting time of the year as it's the culmination of everyone's hard work throughout the rest of the year. We usually start picking the grapes that ripen earliest, Sauvignon and Chardonnay, in the second week of September. We then go on to the Merlot and Syrah and, by the first half of October, finish gathering the Sangiovese and Cabernet.
The grapes are all hand picked and carried in boxes holding not more than 15 to 20 kilos so that they reach the cellars in perfect condition.
The wine is made in two cellars situated in the heart of Volpaia itself. One cellar was built in a centuries old house that belonged to the Stiozzi family and the other is in another historic building that has been used for this purpose for several hundred years.
As soon as the grapes arrive at the cellars they are destalked and gently squeezed. Their must is immediately transferred to stainless steel fermenting vats, holding from 60 to 120 hectolitres, furnished with pistons and a system that automatically controls the temperature. This modern technology extracts the best substances in the grapes, those that give colour, structure, body and smoothness to the wine.
While their own yeasts are fermenting the grapes, they are frequently stirred and moved. This movement continues through the next phase of maceration when the must has already turned into wine and is left to rest on the grape skins which enrich it with their finest components.
Once this cycle is completed, the wine is drawn off the skins and the aging process started in Slovenian oak casks holding about 30 hectolitres or in French oak barrels containing 225 litres. This process takes from 12 to 24 months depending on whether the wine involved is Chianti Classico, Reserve or one of the crus.
The wine is aged underground in cellars beneath ancient village buildings such as the Church of San Lorenzo, the Commenda (another large church) and the original one in Via Castellana. The atmosphere in these three cellars guarantees the perfect temperatures and humidity levels that allow the wine to evolve from something quite rough to a product of great elegance and complexity.
Once the wine has aged, it is finally bottled in a very modern plant that allows the wine to maintain all its qualities. However, before it is put on the market, the bottles are left to rest in the cellars below Palazzo Canigiani where, in the dark and at a controlled temperature, the wine blends and develops its unique characteristics.