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Discover Gorgona, the Tuscan prison island

By 24/07/2019May 13th, 2020No Comments

A Wine with a Taste of Freedom

When Frescobaldi first invited me to visit Gorgona I didn’t think it twice because I knew few estates in the world have such a unique story and social commitment.

My adventure started the evening of 18th of June, I took a night ferry from Olbia to Livorno.

When I arrived to Livorno, I had dinner with Lamberto Frescobaldi, I sat in front of him and while we were enjoying a delicious Cacciucco and a glass of Alìe, my trip to Gorgona started by listening to his stories.

Lamberto told me about the first time he knew about the project of Gorgona, the smallest island of the Tuscan archipelago which has been an open penal colony since 1869. In this island, the 100 prisoners can move around freely to work and learn new professions with the aim of reintegrating them into society at the end of their sentence. By the way, there is only one permanent resident in this island, a 93 years old lady.

But then one day, the life of the prisoners had suddenly changed.

Everything started with an unexpected e-mail that Lamberto Frescobaldi received the 30th July 2012… it was sent by the director of the prison.

In the email, the director explained that they had 2.3 hectares of grapevines in the island and some of the prisoners were working at the vineyard. They were trying to make a wine the best they could, but the result wasn’t good enough because they didn’t had any winemaking experience, so they decided to ask for the support of Frescobaldi. When Lamberto Frescobaldi asked the director of the prison why did they chose him, he answered that they’ve contacted more than 100 wineries from the province of Livorno, but Frescobaldi was the only one winery who answered!

Lamberto Frescobaldi got immediately touched by the project and he visited the island three days later, it was the 3rd of August 2012.

When he arrived to the island he visited the vineyard and one of the prisoners poured Lamberto a glass of the wine they were making. As any professional taster, Lamberto spit out the wine after tasting it, but one of the prisoners got offended because he thought he was doing that because the wine was bad. Lamberto softened at his reaction and explained to them the difference between tasting and drinking. And with great enthusiasm, the prisoner told Lamberto that he had a lot to learn from him and that they needed his help. In that moment, Lamberto Frescobaldi understood that he had the mission of supporting these people. At the end, they had a fantastic terroir to make great wine, but they needed the guide of Frescobaldi. 

In the return boat ride from Gorgona to Livorno, I asked Lamberto if he was planning to expand the vineyard area in Gorgona and make the project more sustainable in terms of business (it is not profitable at the moment), but it seems that in this project, he doesn’t care about business at all, he is truly committed to the project and the people. 

And do you know what? The white wine they make is seriously good! It is made by a blend of Vermentino and Ansonica grapes and it ages in oak barrels for around 6 months. The 2018 vintage has an intense and complex bouquet and a mediterranean character. It shows notes of thyme, rosemary and sage accompanied by exotic fruit and delicate spices. In the mouth it shows a great sapidity, a good freshness and a long finish. They make only 9000 bottles of this wine every year.

Since the arrival of Frescobaldi to Gorgona, the rate of the prisoners who committed a crime again after their sentence in the prison has dropped from 85% to 12%. Since 2012 Frescobaldi collaborates with Gorgona and they hire the prisoners just as any other of their employees.. the persons of this prison feel much more motivated and they’ve found a new hope in this project, some of them are still working for the company even after they’ve completed their sentence.

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