The Well-Rounded Wine Lover

The Well-Rounded Wine Lover
It’s always been a pet theory of mine that the more well-rounded a person is, the better equipped he or she is to taste wine. The biggest wine brains I know all have at least one other deep passion, whether it’s music, art, architecture, or some other endeavor. Having that other base of knowledge sharpens the mind and provides a base for metaphors—and tasting wine is all about coming up with metaphors to describe what are essentially indescribable sensations.

The Bonacossi family of Tuscany is downright overqualified in the roundedness department. For hundreds of years they’ve collected art, building up an unprecedented collection that now occupies its own wing in Florence’s Uffizi Gallery. The list of painters represented is jaw-dropping: CimabueDuccioVelázquez, Veronese, and many more.

In the 1920s the Bonacossis bought an estate called Cappezzana, and they make some stellar wines under that name to this day. I recently sat down with Beatrice Bonacossi, the managing director of the winery, to taste some of them. If you’re looking for a light, strawberry-laced everyday wine, the Barco Reale 2005 ($18) is good choice; it would pair well with tuna and capers. For steak (or bistecca Fiorentina, as the case may be), there’s the Villa di Capezzana ($25), made at the family’s historic Carmignano estate. It has a dark, rich, roasted-plum character.  

Then there’s my favorite, the limited-production Trefiano 2003 ($35), made on a small estate. I'd say it's a layered wine, which is always a high compliment from me. Black pepper, spice, and flowers come through on the nose and are backed up by silky red fruits on the palate. Beatrice recommends serving it with a traditional Tuscan stufato, a meat stew.

It’s no accident that she’s so specific with food pairing ideas—Capezzana is well known for its cooking school, as well as for being an agrotourism destination in the rolling hills of the estate (check out for more information). Their extra virgin olive oil, Tenuta di Capezzana-Carmignano, is also delicious, and worth seeking out. The Bonacossis understand wine as part of a holistic lifestyle that encompasses food, art, and relaxation, among other good things.

But that’s really the kind of thing that requires a visit to confirm, don’t you think? I believe journalistic integrity will impel me to investigate Capezzana in person come summer.

Ted Loos, executive editor of Art+Auction magazine, is the former features editor of Wine Spectator and has written on wine for Bon Appétit, Town & Country, and many other publications. He's the author of Town & Country Wine Companion: A Tasting Guide and Journal (Hearst Books; $12.95), published in fall 2007. "In the Cellar" appears on ARTINFO every other Wednesday.