The two houses making up the podere (small farm) of Castello are amongst the oldest in the village.
A hundred years ago the land was used for pasture, and this photograph was taken from the cowshed, now converted into a house. The ground floor of the long building at the side of my house was the pig sty, and chickens were kept where the wood is stored.
The vines were planted over sixty years ago; one of my neighbours can remember his father helping to terrace the land and plant the Sangiovese on the east slope.
Castello - twenty five years ago
Originally, my house was a 'tied' cottage, lived in by the contadino (peasant farmer) who looked after the land and animals for the padrone in the main house above.
The house and outbuildings stand in five acres of rough pasture and vineyard, dropping down in terraces to a mountain stream below.
By 1995 the house had been abandoned for many years and the surrounding land and vineyard was overgrown.
There were just under 2000 vines but 100 were dug up to make room for the pool
Apart from vines, there are several fruit trees - apples and pears, plums and cherries, kiwi and fig - as well as nut trees.
My friends who look after the vines also have vegetable plots on the land, and a polytunnel.
Flat areas of grass are cut for winter hay.
The vineyard is maintained in winter - any rotten posts are replaced by chestnut poles from young trees in the woods above. The vines are pruned and tied in using willow from regularly coppiced trees.
The vendemmia is usually held at the beginning of October when the grapes have had all summer to ripen
It takes a couple of days to pick the grapes and as many family and friends as possible come to help. The bunches are stripped of their stalks and the grapes dropped into barrels where they start to ferment aided by the natural yeasts on their skins - nothing is added. They boil rapidly for two weeks before the sugar is converted to alcohol.
The wine is separated from the skins and transferred into demijohns where it continues to ferment slowly through the winter. As the sediment sinks to the bottom the liquid is racked off again and again until clear - the wine is generally drunk young starting after Christmas. We only bottle small amounts to give to friends, unless it's a good vintage - 2009, 2011 and 2012 were very good years! There's a bottle in the kitchen to welcome guests - cheers!