Words by Carla Passino
It is everyone's dream. Ditch your day job, buy a ruin in Tuscany and turn it into a vinous marvel earning worldwide acclaim. Photographer and author Ferenc Máté and his wife Candace did just that when they restored a 13th century friary in Montalcino, one of Tuscany's top wine villages, and turned 15 acres of land into a lush vineyard making sophisticated Cabernet Sauvignons, heady Merlots and robust Syrahs.
Now Máté reveals how he and his family pulled off such an astonishing feat in his new book, A Vineyard in Tuscany: A Wine Lover's Dream.
However, unlike other memoirs of the ‘dream become true’ sort, Máté is rip-roaringly honest about the mucky, mistake-prone reality that is moving, living and making wine in the Italian countryside. Like, for example, the time when he nearly flattened his home and vineyard while learning to operate a multi-lever tractor. Or when he filled his vats with too much wine, and fermentation caused a vinous explosion that flooded his cellar.
But Hungarian-born Máté, who left his native Transylvania when Romania annexed it, and later fled Hungary after the rebellion against Soviet occupation, is clearly not one to be put off by mere devastation. He persisted, learned the ropes of viticulture and tractor-driving, encouraged his wife to become a certified sommelier—and, with a little bit of help from new friends, such as top Italian winemaker Angelo Gaja, ended up making extraordinary wines that took the world by storm.
So his is very much a (funny) story of triumph over adversity—or at least over a comical series of mischances and mishaps. But, perhaps without meaning to, it is also a story about human nature, which explains why for most people setting up a vineyard in Tuscany will always remain a dream—because it requires more grit, spirit and perseverance than the average person possesses.
Unless you are like Máté, who clearly relishes wrestling with misfortune, you'd better stick to living it all vicariously through this book.
A Vineyard in Tuscany: A Wine Lover's Dream by Ferenc Máté.