Making Wine By Hand and By Foot Etruscan Style at a Tuscan Castle

Beginning eight years ago, Charlotte Horton celebrates the end of the harvest at Castle Potentino by making wine like the ancients in a volcanic stone basin that was probably carved by Etruscans over 2,000 years ago. (Previous post)

The “pestarole” Charlotte found below the castle is one of about twenty on the Monte Amiata. As is typical, the basin is carved out of volcanic rock (the Amiata is extinct) and is next to the river for easy transport. Early in the morning, the basin was cleaned for grape pressing later.

Meanwhile, I went out with a group of Potentino WWOOFers (international volunteers to organic farms in Italy) to help pick in the furthest vineyard. The autumn colors camouflaged the vines in a patchwork of olive trees, fruit trees and surrounding woodlands. This biodiversity is reflected in the health of the Potentino vineyards and the aromas and flavors in the wines.

We picked the last of Charlotte’s Alicante (Grenache) grapes.picking

Then, returned for lunch on the loggia: local salami, pasta with spicy tomato and eggplant sauce, salad, bread and wine.

Afterwards, we walked down through the woods to the river to wait for the tractor, arriving here with the grapes and a container to take the must back to the cellar.

The first phase was taking the grapes off the stems, which turned out to be a long task.deraspatura

Our hands got juicy, juicy, juicy…

Then, came the fun of the foot pressing.

Here is the first grape juice dropping into the lower basin. The volcanic rock of the basin gently pulls off more tannins and color from the grape skins, making the must a blood red.
first juice

Here is how the basin looked full, ready for the last pressing.

After all the bacchanalia, the fresh must was taken back to the castle cellar. It will ferment there with its own yeast. Tiny bits of earth and volcanic rock from the basin will drop to the bottom, clarifying the wine naturally. Nothing added. No intervention. The high quality of the wine has convinced Charlotte that the Etruscans made dry red wine here millennia ago.

The rituals of the day continued with Potentino Jaspidem Toscana Rosato IGT 2013, a rosé made from 100% Sangiovese. The natural acidity of the grape variety and the minerality of the soil make it exceptionally fresh. There is also a hint of tannin, giving the wine enough structure to accompany a meal.

Dinner was in the Potentino dining room,
dinner table

Accompanied by Potentino Sacromante Toscana Rosso IGT 2011 (100% Sangiovese)
And Potentino Balaxus Toscana Rosso IGT 2011 (100% Alicante/Grenache) which is about to be released but didn’t yet have a label. Both are wonderfully drinkable: clean expressions of the biodiversity surrounding the vineyards (olive trees, fruit trees and forest), volcanic soil, altitude and dramatic changes from night to daytime temperatures. The Sacromante is fresher, more acidic, and the Alicante, more tannic (but not heavy because of the soil and altitude).

At the end of the meal, standing next to her brother, Alexander, Charlotte read “Ode to Wine” by Paolo Naruda (Il Postino), to toast her team of volunteer WWOOFers and to close the seasons. “It’s an emotional moment,” she said, “when you know all your grapes are safely in. It’s a time to be grateful.”

The poem was just right for the day:
Day-colored wine,
Night-colored wine,
Wine with purple feet
Or wine with topaz bloos,
Starry child
Of earth….


There was an extra flair to the evening because pieces from the new Potentino artisanal furniture and ceramic design lines were on display in the dining room. (They were featured last year’s Salone del Mobile in Milan). The catalogue will soon be linked to an online ordering system.

The chandeliers: black ceramic, matching ceramic tableware copied from Etruscan models.

The chairs: modern but based on a traditional design with custom fabrics including the “Minnie”,
dog chair

Which is modeled after Charlotte’s dog.

After dinner, I fell into this dramatic bed in the Visconti room.

Castello di Potentino is an experience as much as it is a place. Charlotte and Alexander have created a beautiful juxtaposition of wild, earthy, authentic tradition with elegance, culture, history and style. The whole package is wrapped in conviviality and fun.

Castello Potentino
Seggiano 58038 (GR)
email contact
Write or call for info on staying at the Castle.

Wines on Wine Searcher

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Previous Post Next Post