Historical WineriesValpolicella has been a vine-growing, wine-making region since unmemorable times, even before the arrival of the Romans. According to some historians, the name Valpolicella itself derives from the Latin words "vallis poli cellae", which means "the valley of many cellars". It should not surprise that in Valpolicella there are some of the oldest wineries in the world and that the territory bears traces of ancient relationship between man, land, vines and wine.
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Being an area of agricultural and wine production the Romans
built many temples dedicated to the gods of nature and
fertility. An example are the remains of a circular
temple whose inscriptions suggest that it was dedicated to the goddess
Flora, protector of cereals, fruit trees and vines. The
remains are located inside the property of the Fumanelli
winery, on top of a small hill surrounded by cypress
trees from where it is possible to admire the vineyards of the
estate. The villa that stands nearby was built in 1470,
and the wine has been produced there since then, making it
one of the oldest wineries in the world, where and
excellent Amarone continues to be produced.
In the guided tour of the winery, beside the vineyards, the drying lofts (fruttai) for the grapes of Recioto and Amarone, the cellar where the wine ages in oak barrels, you will also see the remains of the temple of Flora and other Roman finds and inscriptions that over time were inserted into the walls of the buildings of the estate.
San Giorgio di Valpolicella
Roman wine-making tradition and technology survived the dark centuries of the Early Middle Ages, despite its decline and the devastation of wars and barbarian invasions. It was the spread of Christianity, with its churches and its monasteries, that saved vines and wine. Wherever there was a church, there was the need for wine (and oil) for mass and sacraments. The elaborate engravings in the typical Nordic barbarian style depicting bunches and vines on the ciborium inside the ancient church of San Giorgio di Valpolicella (VII century) seem to remind us of this. As well as the apostles drinking red wine from a glass on a fresco of the Last Supper inside the church. San Giorgio, still in use, is one of the oldest churches in northern Italy, built over the ruins of a Roman temple dedicated to the Sun and the Moon, built on the remains of a temple of the ancient population Arusnati, who lived in the mountains and valleys of Valpolicella before the arrival of the Romans. From the square in front of the church it is possible to enjoy a breathtaking view above the whole western Valpolicella area, with its expanses of vineyards, the famous hill of La Grola, and further beyond that Lake Garda.
According to some archeologists, the early Christians built a church near the temple of Flora, perhaps even above it. It was customary practice of early Christians to appropriate not only the physical space of the ancient Greek-Roman polytheist religion, but also its symbolic and conceptual space. This would explain the fact that the church was dedicated to St. Florian who, by assonance of the name, recalls the divinity of the old temple. The church of San Floriano is one of the artistic jewels of Valpolicella, built in the purest and most elegant Romanesque style. The stone used for the façade of the church of San Floriano is a warm cream-coloured tuff, which was extracted from an ancient quarry nearby. This ancient quarry has now become the aging cellar of a prestigious winery: Zyme. Next to it they annexed a modern building of futuristic design but very well integrated into the surrounding territory. During the visit of the winery it is also possible to take a walk inside the old quarry, that still bears the signs of ancient stone extraction methods.
The goddess of Flora is also found in the center of the
extraordinary fresco decoration of the ceiling
of the central hall of Villa Mosconi Bertani,
painted in 1700s as a tribute to the ancient
tutelary deities of Valpolicella. The marvelous neoclassical
villa, still a prosperous winery, is located at the
entrance to a large valley of vineyards, rich in springs whose
water, in Roman times, was channeled into a complex system of
pipelines, some of which are still visible, and transported to
Verona for the needs of the city.
Apparently it was here that because of a mistake in the production of Recioto, Amarone was made by accident for the first time.
The villa, with all its historical and architectural treasures, can be visited and wine tastings are also possible.
Not far away is the property of Serego Alighieri, one of
the oldest and most historic wineries in the
world. The Serego Alighieri family has owned the estate
since 1355. Certainly at the time it was probably
a farm where wine was one of the many products of the land and
livestock. However, it can be said without fear of denial that
grapes and wine have been produced here continuously for almost
seven hundred years. The owners of the estate are direct
descendants of Dante Alighieri, the father of
the Italian language, who spent many years of his exile in
Verona. His son Pietro bought this estate in 1355.
Visit the property and tastings in the ancient structure are always possible.
These are just some of the historical realities of Valpolicella but there are many wineries that have been producing wine for generations, cellars inside buildings that were ancient monasteries or that contain remains from Roman and medieval time. If you are interested in learning more about our itineraries in the historic cellars of Valpolicella do not hesitate to contact us: