A summer evening in mid-July, I was invited to a wine and olive oil tasting dinner at Villa Cora in Florence by the San Gervasio winery and the olive oil producer Eleonora di Toledo. It was a lovely evening where we could get to know the wine and olive oil producers better in the sofas by the pool and with a view of the beautiful hotel. I already wrote about Villa Cora earlier in the spring, when I was there for a lunch with Valdonica winery. The villa was built at the end of the 19th century, but it was only transformed into a Grand Hotel in the 1960s. Recently, it was completely renovated and reopened in 2010 again. If you want to enjoy a luxurious holiday in Florence, this is surely the place to go. So why am I talking this much about the hotel, when it is supposed to be an article about wine and olive oil? Well, I wanted to tell a small anecdote or story about the hotel, please be patient with me…
From Formal to Informal…
Villa Cora is a fabulous place on the hills above the city center and not far from Piazzale Michelangelo. The few times I have been invited there, I was always afraid I would have toothpaste on my blouse or in any other way look weird in this elegant place among well put together people. The same went for this dinner by the pool, where I tried to not drop the food or spill the Sangervasio wine which always happens, sort of like Murphy’s Law when it ought not to happen. Anyway, I managed to behave and look quite serious too, but I kept looking at the pool thinking it would be so cool to just do something spontaneous like dive in and go for a swim.
The funny thing that happened just a couple of days after the dinner, and which made me think I just had to comment on it in my article here, was that Villa Cora published a PR video about the hotel on social media. This video I think is quite cool, because we can now see content produced here that tells a story about the people, i.e. the people working at the hotel and behind the scenes. It is not one of the usual stories from ’above’. (The video is produced by Studio Fotografico Righi, see also their YouTube channel here.)
So, basically, it is made with the classic song ”Old Time Rock and Roll” by Bob Seger and building very much on Tom Cruise’s underwear scene in Risky Business. Suddenly, the hotel has gone from a bit stiff and formal hotel to a place of rock and roll in people’s minds. From now on, if I get invited to another lunch or dinner at Villa Cora, I will only see it as a mix between Tom Cruise in Risky Business from 1983, Alf in the American sitcom from the 1980s, and Heidi Klum in her guitar commercial. And I am sure I will not worry about spilling my wine anymore. (For those of you who want to rewatch these scenes with Tom Cruise and Alf in full swing, see the link here from donitta5’s YouTube channel.)
In the Villa Cora video, I just adore the sous chef with the red hat and the hotel staff guy doing the Headbangers Ball in the doorway at a certain point. Would I ever stay at this hotel, I would definitely want to be welcomed by him doing headbanging and playing the air guitar. Then I might just put on a men’s shirt and tube socks from the 1980s and dive into the pool. As I mean, what can they do other than throwing me out afterward…? LOL
From Risky to Serious Business – Wine and Olive Oil
The San Gervasio estate is situated in the small hamlet San Gervasio not far from Pisa. The hamlet dates back to the 8th century when it was established as a defense of the local roman parish church. The castle close by was built in the 10th century and at some point, it also ended up as the property of the Della Gherardesca family. In the 1960s, the estate was bought by Furio Tommasini who completely renovated the place. For several years, they only produced bulk wine but around 20 years ago Luca Tommasini, the son of Furio, decided that they needed to change direction and start producing a high quality bottled wine. Since that point, Luca is now in charge of the San Gervasio wine production. They started to change and reduce the density of the vine stocks in the vineyards and to focus on developing the processes from vineyard to winery in order to produce a wine of better quality. The winery is organically certified since 1996 and nowadays they also follow the concept of biodynamic agriculture. Furthermore, they only apply natural fermentations on their wines since 2003.
The estate comprises almost a 1000 acres of land but only 55 acres are vineyards. Here they cultivate Sangiovese, of course, but also Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Vermentino, and Sauvignon Blanc.
At Villa Cora, I met both Luca Tommasini and his daughter Lisa, with whom I talked a lot. Lisa now also works in the family winery dealing with the more commercial and social media side. She told me that they sell almost more than 80% of their production abroad, to countries such as Japan, Brazil, USA, Northern Europe, etc.
The Sangervasio Wines
They produce several different wine labels, but here I will only talk more in detail about 3 of them that we tasted at the dinner.
Sangervasio Rosa – This is a 100% Sangiovese sparkling wine made with the Charmat method in autoclave. It is then refined for 3 months in bottle. It is a very fresh sparkling wine with notes of white fruits and raspberry. It was perfect as an aperitif wine at the summer evening at Villa Cora.
Sangervasio Bianco – This is a white wine made of 65% Vermentino, 25% Chardonnay, and 10% Sauvignon Blanc. The Vermentino is an indigenous grape in Tuscany and it often gives its best expression when cultivated along the Tyrrhenian coast. It is a fresh and mineral wine with notes of mature apples and pineapple as well as a slightly spicy touch.
Sangervasio Chianti DOCG 2015 – This a 100% Sangiovese wine which has undergone the fermentation and then been aged for 6 months in cement tanks, and after that at least 4 months in bottle. It is a ruby red wine with notes of violet and a beautifully pronounced touch of red fruit which is typical for the Sangiovese grapes.
Eleonora di Toledo – Olive Oil
We also had an olive oil tasting during the evening with three different products from Eleonora di Toledo. This is an estate situated close to Campiglia in Tuscany, which is not far from the seaside. It was founded in 1996 and the name was chosen in order to honor Duchess Eleonora di Toledo who in the 16th century spent her summers at this estate. For those of you who might wonder who Eleonora Álvarez de Toledo y Osorio was, she was one of many children of the marquise and viceroy of Naples, Pedro Álvarez de Toledo y Zúñiga and his wife Marchesa Donna María Osorio y Pimentel. In 1539, at the age of 17 she married Cosimo I de’ Medici Duca di Firenze who further on would become Grand Duke of Tuscany.
Four years ago, Lara Landi took over the management of the family estate and olive oil production. Her aim is to produce a high-quality olive oil which reflects the specific local territory. They are working towards becoming organic in accordance with the local regional regulations to reduce the use of chemical products to a minimum. The high quality can furthermore be ensured by the fact that they entirely control their production chain from the olive grove up until the bottling of the oil. In this way, they can guarantee that their oil is not mixed with other olive oils of lesser quality. In total, they produce around 20,000 liters of olive oil per year.
Here the journalist Stefano Tesi is tasting and analyzing the different olive oils from Eleonora di Toledo. And I am sorry about the bad audio quality, but at least you can get a feeling of it all.
— Katarina Andersson (@ricasoli99) July 13, 2016
They cultivate olives from four different cultivars, namely Frantoio, Leccio del Corno, Moraiolo, and Pendolino. They then produce four different E.V.O olive oils with the name ”Eleonora” which corresponds to the four different cultivars. They also produce the Eleonora Extra Vergine Olive Oil which contains a blend of a careful selection of olives from the four different cultivars.
So, I apologize if this article deviated a bit from the main topic in the beginning, but sometimes it can be good to have a bit of fun. Returning to the olive oil and wine, Eleonora di Toledo is an olive oil producer striving to produce high-quality products that are an expression of the local territory and tradition. The Sangervasio winery is also putting much value into territory and tradition at the same time as they are respectful of the environment. Their Sangervasio Rosa sparkling wine is indeed perfect for a summer aperitif and their Chianti DOCG is a good example of a local 100% Sangiovese wine. So go and try them out!
See also the journalist Aldo Fiordelli presenting the Chianti DOCG from the Sangervasio winery here.
Written by Katarina Andersson.