There have been dozens of notable families and companies that have greatest some of the finest wines in history, but there are only a few that stood the test of time and remained as a renowned name in the winemaking industry. One of those ever-standing families is the Frescobaldi’s, an Italian family that originated in Chianti, a region in Italy that is now known for making the legendary Chianti wine. While the Frescobaldi is currently known for their winemaking business, the family actually started out as bankers. How did the family eventually switch to making wine? Let us find out as we take a look at the background and history of the Frescobaldi Italian winemaking family.
Origins of the Frescobaldi Family
The rise in power for the noble family of Frescobaldi began in the 13th century, when they decided to pursue their banking business in Florence, their home city, after becoming successful as cloth merchants in Bruges, Belgium. Their power grew thanks to their connection to several guilds in Florence, including the wool guild Arte della Lana and the cloth finishing guild Arte di Calimala.
For their banking business, the Frescobaldi family offered their services to several members of the European royal families, which allowed them to gain prominence in England. By 1270, the family was able to open a branch of their business in London, and they eventually became the main financer for King Edward I’s wars, including the Crusades.
Unfortunately, during Edward II’s reign in the 1300s, the Frescobaldi found themselves in a crisis after the king’s trusted appointees presented distrust from foreign businesses that have influence in the country’s economy. The Frescobaldi family were then forced to flee England and surrender all their goods in 1311. The family first fled to Papal Avignon before going back home to Florence. Due to their business’s unrecoverable loss in England, the banking business of the Frescobaldi eventually went bankrupt in the late 14th century. The family wouldn’t be able to revive their banking business during that period, but they have recently found a new venture that will make their name more known in Europe and the rest of the world.
Before the bankruptcy of their banking business, the Frescobaldi family began experimenting with other ventures, with one of them being the winemaking business. In 1308, the family started producing Tuscan wine, which would eventually become one of the best wines in the world. Because of the quality of the products they produced, they would form a client base in Florence and other parts of Tuscany. One of their patrons was renowned painter Michelangelo, who would often exchange his paintings for bottles of Frescobaldi wine. In addition, the Frescobaldi family would also supply wine to King Henry VIII, and some of their surviving deals and contracts are even signed by the king himself.
When Vittorio degli Albizi became involved in the family’s winemaking business around the 1850s, just after the marriage between his sister Leonida and Angiolo Frescobaldi, he contributed to several different winemaking techniques that would soon refine the flavor and texture of the Frescobaldi wine. In addition to pioneering winemaking techniques in Tuscany, Albizi also introduced notable varieties of wine grapes in the region, including Chardonnay and Merlot.
The Frescobaldi winemaking business would continue to thrive from the 1800s up to 1990s, which was an amazing feat given the fact that most of their rivals have come and gone during those periods or eras. During the modern era, the Frescobaldi family began forming collaborations and partnerships with other companies, with one of the first partnerships being with the Robert Mondavi Winery in 1995, which allowed them to create the now iconic wine labels such as Luce della Vite, Ornellaia, and Danzante. However, the family struggled to gain full control of the labels when the Robert Mondavi Winery was acquired by American company Constellation Brands in 2004. Fortunately, they successfully acquired the copyrights for the Ornellaia and Luce della Vite labels in 2005 after negotiating with Constellation Brands.
In 2012, the family created the Gorgona Project, which is a partnership between Frescobaldi and the island penitentiary Gorgona that aimed to give inmates a “new life” by allowing them to work in a small vineyard and learn more about grape harvesting and winemaking. By teaching the inmates several winemaking techniques that they can use to find a job in the future, the Gorgona Project hoped that it would give inmates a second chance in life after being in jail for years.
Today, the Frescobaldi family remains as one of the most prominent figures in the winemaking industry not only in Tuscany but also in the world. Because of their centuries-long experience in winemaking, the Frescobaldi family became an inspiration for many new winemakers to continue delivering the best quality wines in the market and further expand the industry.