Principessa Natalia Guicciardini Strozzi
I had the good fortune to meet Natalia at the Society of Wine Educators conference in New Orleans in May of this year. She was on a panel entitled “Female Finesse: Outstanding Women Winemakers” together with Catherine Faller of Domaine Weinbach in France and Sara Perez of Mas Martinet in Spain. I had actually seen Natalia at a tasting held by their importer, Domaine Select, but she was speaking in Russian to other guests and I didn’t want to disturb her. That day I spoke at length with her father, the Prince Girolamo Guicciardini Strozzi. I tasted a very delicious Petit Verdot which was made at their winery in Maremma. I had never seen a Petit Verdot from Tuscany. This one is called A Solo. I was impressed with the subtleness in that wine and its spicy notes. I later found out it is made by a young female enologist who I will write about at another point, my friend Barbara Tamburini, a 34 year old powerhouse from Tuscany. She works together with her mentor, the famous Tuscan enologist Vittorio Fiore. Fiore is the enologist for Villa Cusona.
The Guicciardini and Stozzi family names were quite familiar to me but for a totally different reason. In an earlier incarnation, I lived in Florence for many years. On a daily basis, I would walk on the Via Guicciardini to my house in Via Romana and walk past the Strozzi palace with its rusticated facade whenever I was on the Duomo side of the Arno. It was my favorite building in the city and a running source of discussion with my mother, a fan of rusticated stone buildings.
The Guicciardini Strozzi family can trace its geneaology back some 1000 years. A little research has revealed that the Blairs are often guests at the Villa Cusona when they are on a trip to Tuscany. That said, this is wine blog, so lets get back to the wine. Natalia was promoting a variety of wines at the conference including the Cusona 1933 Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG 2006.
The wine is made with 100% Vernaccia grapes at the Villa Cusona. Part of the wine is matured in French barriques made with wood from Allier and the other part matures in tanks. This partial barrel maturing gives the wine a nutty, biscuity quality which I rather enjoyed. It is not overdone and has notes of minerality and almond flowers which are typical of Vernaccia. Vernaccia di San Gimignano became a DOCG in 1993. Natalia’s father was among the nine founding members of the Vernaccia consortium, formed in 1972, who pushed for recognition for this grape for many years.
Vernaccia and the Villa Cusona, however, have been making history for many centuries. Dante mentions Vernaccia in the Purgatorio, XXIV 19-24, Michelangelo also mentions Vernaccia in the 1600s, and Lorenzo de Medici is listed as having received Vernaccia as a gift from the residents of Villa Cusona. As if all of these famous connections weren’t enough, last year, an Italian genealogist announced that the Guicciardini Strozzi family is related to the alleged model for the Mona Lisa, a certain Lisa Gherardini.
Despite this very impressive pedigree, I found Natalia remarkably down to earth and warm. We chatted about our mutual friend Barbara and about her wines. When she is not working at the family winery with her father and her sister, Natalia is an actress and a ballerina. I didn’t ask her the usual questions about how hard it is for a woman to be in the wine business for obvious reasons. What I did notice and what impressed me considerably was her interest in promoting her family’s wines and her pride in her territority, San Gimignano.