Fattoria Nittardi is a traditional wine growing estate located in the center of Tuscany, between Florence and Siena. In the 16th century it belonged to Michelangelo Buonarroti, who grew his own vines. The word Nittardi means “never late” because of the long, sunny spring and summer days. Owners Peter Femfert and Stefania Canali-Femfert work with Carlo Ferrini, one of Tuscany’s most renowned enologists. In 2000, Gambero Rosso named him winemaker of the year.
Many people say making wine is an art and an Italian winery once owned by Michelangelo has extended that notion right down to its labels.
John Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono is the 25th artist commissioned by German art collector and owner of the Nittardi winery, Peter Femfert, to draw a label for a limited edition of his wine.
Every year since 1981, Femfert has “dressed” about 6,000 bottles of his wine - a Chianti with a fresh and fruity bouquet made from 97 per cent Sangiovese grape and three per cent local Canaiolo grape - with a special work of art.
“It all started as a game and it has now become a trademark of our winery,” said Giorgio Conte, an agronomist and director of the Nittardi vineyard.
Well known contemporary artists including Spain’s Miguel Berrocal, Germany’s Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Italian Luigi Veronesi and Belgian Corneille have worked on the project.
This year Ono has produced a coloured ink drawing entitled “Imagine you”, a still life of bottles and glasses in a dotted style reminiscent of the late 19th century French painting style known as pointillisme.
Ono and all the other artists involved were given total creative freedom. She tasted Nittardi Chianti and other farm products, said Conte, drawing her inspiration from the wine.
“Femfert met her through his contacts in the art world and proposed that she create something for him,” said Conte. “More than 20 years ago it wasn’t easy to convince artists to work on a wine label, now we have many who come forward themselves.”
Femfert asks them to make two original drawings that he keeps in his gallery in Frankfurt, and from those he prints a limited number of labels and paper for wrapping the bottles.
“The wine with special labels is the same one that we put in normal bottles,” said Conte. “It’s just a matter of passion for the art.”
Scattered around the Nittardi winery there are different sculptures and art installations collected by the owner, while the property itself has an outstanding artistic pedigree, having once belonged to Michelangelo, the Renaissance sculptor and painter of the Sistine Chapel.
“It doesn’t necessarily help us to sell more wine, but it’s good for the company’s image and it’s a way to keep up the artistic traditions of the farm,” said Conte.