This Wine Was Made in a Prison Island in The Tuscan Archipelago — and It’s Delicious

There are only 9,000 bottles of each vintage.

this wine was made in a prison island in the tuscan archipelago — and it’s delicious

Frescobaldi Wines

In the early 2010s, Maria Grazia Giampiccolo, then the prison director of the Gorgona Agricultural Penal Colony on the northernmost island of the Tuscan Archipelago, emailed more than 200 Italian wineries seeking to develop a winemaking program using vines planted by the University of Pisa’s Department of Agriculture in 1999.

That clarion call was answered by just one person: Lamberto Frescobaldi.

“I’m sure you’ve heard of the Frescobaldi family, an aristocratic Italian family that’s been making wine for 700 years. They may make some wines you’ve heard of: Ornellaia, Masseto — all very high-end expensive wines,” said Wanda Mann, a board member of the Society of Wine Educators and a past president of Les Dames d’Escoffier New York, in her 2024 Food & Wine Classic seminar on coastal wines. “They’ve always had a little winery in Gorgona — it’s kind of a project to keep the inmates busy. But the wines were terrible and the vineyards were in bad shape. So, the warden put out a call to some of the biggest wineries in Italy and said, ‘Can you come and help us?’ And Lamberto Frescobaldi was the only one who said yes. When I asked why he agreed, he said, ‘I went there. The wine was terrible. The vineyards were terrible. But I saw something in the human spirit. There’s the idea that wine can be a part of something greater — a part of the rehabilitation of these men.’”

this wine was made in a prison island in the tuscan archipelago — and it’s delicious

Frescobaldi Wines Gorgona, the northernmost island in the Tuscan Archipelago, has been a penal colony since 1869.

“For many of these men, it’s the first time they’re getting a real paycheck. When they leave, they have the option to work for any of the Frescobaldi estates. They’re paid while they’re in prison and they’re paid while they work for Frescobaldi — then they go off and spread their wings,” Mann continued. “Studies have actually shown that this program has reduced the recidivism rate compared to the inmates that don’t participate. So now other countries are looking to do the same thing.’”

Today, more than a decade after Frescobaldi developed the viticulture program, the maximum-security prison crafts two highly limited wines: Gorgona Bianco Costa Toscana IGT, made with Vermentino and Ansonica, and Gorgona Rosso Costa Toscana IGT, produced with Vermentino Nero and Sangiovese. The island, which spans little more than 200 hectares, produces only 9,000 bottles of each vintage — making it a true rarity in the wine world.

this wine was made in a prison island in the tuscan archipelago — and it’s delicious

Frescobaldi Wines Today, Gorgona produces two wines: Gorgona Bianco Costa Toscana IGT, made with Vermentino and Ansonica, and Gorgona Rosso Costa Toscana IGT, produced with Vermentino Nero and Sangiovese.

“On Gorgona, there is the ‘uniqueness’ of this island and a project that, despite producing a very limited number of bottles, never ceases to evoke emotions,” said Lamberto Frescobaldi, the president of Marchesi Frescobaldi, in a statement provided to Food & Wine. “We have the opportunity to experience this extraordinary land that conveys everything through its scents and flavors: the love for the island, the care and passion of people, the hope for a better life, the influence of the sea, and a wonderful environment. These little more than two hectares of vineyards give life to an inimitable and exclusive wine, a symbol of hope and freedom that continues to amplify around the world. We are thrilled to have been part of this project since 2012.”

In fact, the program has been so successful that the Italian authorities plans to enlarge Gorgona’s vineyards by 50%.

Currently, there are 62 inmates working on this special project, and over the course of the program, 25 have chosen to work for Frescobaldi after their sentence. The most impressive number, though, is the fact that 90% of the incarcerated people who worked the vineyards never return to the penitentiary.

And that, in and of itself, is priceless.

Read the original article on Food & Wine.

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