Cortona, a small Tuscan city, perched on a verdant hillside with olive-trees, vineyards and cypresses, looks out over the Valdichiana offering a stunning view of this fruitful plain, hemmed in on the horizon by rolling gentle hills and the expanse of the Lake Trasimene.
As the legend told by Virgil has it, Cortona was founded by legendary Dardanus before 500 B.C. and has since been prodigal with important testimonies of great historical, artistic and cultural interest. Cortona, a city-state in the Etruscan times and a cradle of the arts in the Renaissance and Baroque period, when it was home to prominent artists such as Fra Angelico, Pietro da Cortona and later in time to Gino Severini, has all along been very active in the field of grape growing.
Tradition and historical evidence bring the origin of grape growing in the Cortona area back to the Etruscan times when vines, thanks to the favorable climate conditions of the territory, were first planted applying the so-called “live-support” technique, integrating thus this new cultivation with the growing of other arboreal crops.
Many amphorae and vases belonging to the remaining Etruscan funerary art heritage depict banquet scenes portraying figures caught in the act of drinking wine from goblets. Those very same amphorae might have, according to experts’ studies, been used to carry wine. Written testimony by Pliny the Young describes in great detail the excellent wines of Etruria, expressing particular admiration for the qualities of a wine called “Estesiaca”, produced in the Cortona area.
A long pause in wine production in the whole Valdichiana was forced upon the area by the degeneration of the very same valley into an insalubrious swamp, whose later reclamation was to bear fruit only in the second half of the 16th century. Back in those days, Cortona wines were particularly prized by pope Paul III who, as reported by a document belonging to his bottler, Sante Lancerio, today preserved in the Biblioteca Civica of Ferrara, during his stays in Perugia had wine delivered from Cortona for his banquets. The Napoleonic occupation caused in the area the diffusion of international vines, championed by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, a man with marked xenophilous inclinations.
In this period oenologist De Astis stated that the Bianco Vergine della Valdichiana was imported to France by Champagne-makers, due to the fact that this particular vine proved to be remarkably suitable for the production of this world-famous dessert wine in a time when French vines were plagued by vine pest. Papers kept in the Istituto Vegni also report the export of several hundreds of liters to Switzerland.
In light of its great variety of wines, the “Cortona” lends itself to a vast choice of local dishes: pastas and first courses, meats, wild game and, of course, desserts, with its “Vinsanto” variety. The production area of the Cortona DOC includes all lands devoted to quality grape growing within the Cortona municipality. Vine implantation is allowed only over 250 m above sea level.