Castello di Ama is a winery in Siena, Italy. Ama takes its name from a small hamlet that dates back to the 12th century. Five centuries ago, it was the hub of a florid farming and winemaking business overseen by a group of local families. In the 1970s a group of families, fallen under the spell of this magical spot, set themselves the task of reviving Ama’s past glories and of producing a Chianti Classico that would rank among the world’s most prestigious wines. Today Castello di Ama, one of Tuscany’s most famous wineries, is owned almost entirely by the couple Lorenza Sebasti and Marco Pallanti.

In 2004 on our honeymoon, Anthony and I dined at Cibreo in Florence and experienced Castello di Ama’s Chianti Classico. We fell in love with the wine and foolishly only brought one bottle home. We searched wine stores and online retailers but could not find it anywhere. Planning our return trip to Italy I was ecstatic to learn that Castello di Ama was only 10 km from the hotel in which we were staying. To experience the wine again was superb but to see the winery itself, the hamlet in which it sits, the hilltop location affording breathtaking views transformed and elevated our appreciation and connection with this amazing wine.

It was the idea of protecting and handing down Castello di Ama’s beauty and soul to future generations that led Lorenza and Marco Pallanti to create “Castello di Ama per l’Arte Contemporanea” (Castello di Ama for Contemporary Art). This art project consists of site-specific installations conceived and realized in dialogue with the spirit that the estate and ancient hamlet emanate. From 1999 to 2014, they have invited international artists to enrich the beauty of the place with their art. This is the meaning of their project: unique and authentic, inspired by the terroir just like their wines, and following the rhythm of the harvests.

“La luminere interieur du corps humain” by Chen Zhen (Internal Light of the Human Body) is a glass structure made to look like different organs. It was created as the artist battled cancer and was installed five years after his death in 2000, by his wife and assistant.
“The conception of the work itself was in the first place based on the consideration of the context of the place…the history of the site, the background of the city: its geographical, social, cultural, and ethnic context…sometimes, even the conditions of natural elements and the difference of seasons can also be considered as contextual elements.”
– Chen Zhen The first Haiku vintage was in 2009 and the wine is a blend of three varieties: 50% Sangiovese, and 25% each of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. During the planting of the second section of the Montebuoni vineyard, completed in 2001, it was decided to experiment with the renowned international variety, Cabernet Franc, which Ama had never used. Haiku was named as such as a tribute to the departure of tradition. They invited artists to create their own haikus inspired by the wine and have transcribed them onto barrels. 

The acidity and minerality of Sangiovese is attributed to the terroir; the vines must push through the stone and rock in order to reach water.

A wall 25 metres long and two metres high has been built in front of one of the buildings of the castle complex in order to block the view of the surrounding countryside, but at the same time to open it up in a very particular way. “The wall is dotted with square windows that make the beautiful landscape of the valley stand out by framing it, thereby referencing and reworking a whole tradition of landscape painting, but also the equally familiar notion of painting as a “window” opened onto reality.”
– Giorgio Verzotti

Topos (Excavated) by Lee Ufan

“The location provided for my artwork is part of a very old cave. It is where wine is stored and is important to note that it is subterranean – Italy, a mountain town from the Middle Ages, Siena, a winery, a subterranean location, and a wandering artist who started off from East Asia – For me, the keywords that connect all these…the suggestion of passage of time from the wine. A good wine, as it matures, becomes erotic and transforms beyond its current state…A great artwork, like a well-aged wine, should transcend itself and include within itself time.”
– Lee Ufan

“My proposal is based on Lorenzo’s challenge to me, to propose a neon for the cellar of Castello di Ama. The sign does not flash or blink – its straight forward red neon – the text love, inside the text revolution, speak about the revolution of the soil every season to plant the grapes, the revolution or turning of the seasons, the revolution or fight against the elements and especially the rain. It’s also about the revolution of the Chianti grape that Castello di Ama was responsible for. But no true revolution is possible without love – the love of the wine, the earth, the rain, the love that is needed to the change the way Chianti is understood.”
– Kendell Geers

Nedko Solakov has “populated” the walls of the room usually used for tastings of the estate’s famous wines with small writings and drawings; apparently childish and improvised in nature but shot through with subtle irony, striking sentences as little characters work their way in among existing objects or into wall cavities. The ensuing dialogues and apparently paradoxical situations investigate the history, the customary use and the new role of the castle itself in the ambit of the contemporary art system. 

After our tour and tasting we enjoyed lunch at Il Ristoro di Ama. “It’s not so much a restaurant as a winery with a kitchen, where the fine wines of Castello di Ama are accompanied by simple, authentic Tuscan dishes.”

Oliver making friends with the winery dog Rex.

Text adapted from, April 2017.