By Gina Trippi
March is Women’s History Month. That made us ask what wine one of the most famous women, the Mona Lisa, might have preferred. It is hard to know for certain but we have scoured historical resources!
The Louvre, where the Mona Lisa hangs, says the portrait is likely that of Lisa Gherardini (1479-1572), the wife of a Florentine cloth merchant, Francesco del Giocondo, from which the alternative name of the painting, The Gioconda, is derived.
The ancestry of the Gherardinis, an ancient family of landowners, can be traced back to the 10th century in Tuscany. While Gherardini owned land in Tuscany, the family was neither aristocracy nor nobility. With constant economic and political uncertainty along with frequent wars, land ownership was not a guarantee of wealth.
By 1479, the Gherardini family, struggling financially, sold their land and moved to Florence. Lisa was born June 15, 1479, in a modest house at the corner of Via Squazza and Via Maggio. When she turned 16, she was married to Francesco del Giocondo.
Records show that the portrait was begun by Leonardo da Vinci in Florence around 1503. Research indicates that the situation was not that Leonardo asked Lisa to sit for his painting but that Lisa’s husband commissioned the portrait, perhaps, some suggest, to commemorate the upcoming birth of their second child.
Although Francesco was a very prominent silk merchant, securing Leonardo, an established painter who was already working for the likes of The Medici, to paint the portrait of his wife was still considered quite the achievement. There is no evidence that Francesco ever took delivery of the painting, as Mona Lisa stayed with Leonardo until his death.
Back in Tuscany, the history of making wine in what we now know as Chianti dates back to the 13th century. The grapes were growing, but it was not until 1716 that Cosimo III de Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, issued an edict declaring the boundaries of Chianti.
While there is no evidence that Lisa Gherardini ever lived on a wine making estate, there is documentation that her family lived in Chianti for generations back and that Lisa spent time at a villa-turned-winery. Chianti, the region and the wine, are part of her heritage.
Chianti, despite its glorious roots, suffers from a decades-old image in this country as a low-quality wine in a bottle enclosed by a straw basket, appropriately called a “fiasco,” that is used for candles when the bottle is empty. But Chianti is actually a traditional red wine made from Sangiovese grapes generally tasting of dried cherries and oregano, a little aged Balsamic, a touch of espresso and sweet tobacco. Chianti Classico means the vines come from the oldest and most genuine areas of Chianti in Tuscany.
So after a tough day of dealing with the kids and sitting for portraits, our best guess is that Lisa Gherardini kicked back with a glass of Chianti. But which Chianti? While Casa Emma, a small, woman-owned winery outside Florence, was not in business in 1495, its Chianti Classico is the type that would have probably been available to Lisa. Made in a century-old Tuscan stone house with traditional methods from grapes grown organically, the wine has no modern-day additives and is, in that sense, historic itself.
Bring Women’s History month forward by sharing a glass of Chianti and a toast to Lisa Gherardini, Mona Lisa!
Gina Trippi is the co-owner of Metro Wines, 169 Charlotte Street in Asheville. Committed to the community, Metro Wines offers big shop selection with small shop service. Gina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828.575.9525.