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Vigna di Leonardo

The research project

Leonardo’s Vineyard is reborn on occasion of Expo 2015, promoted by the Portaluppi Foundation and the current owners of Casa degli Atellani and thanks to the research carried out by the oenologist Luca Maroni and the significant contribution made by geneticist Serena Imazio and Professor Attilio Scienza, leading expert of the DNA and the grape variety.

By studying and comparing renaissance documents, in 1920 Luca Beltrami had identified the exact location of the vineyard at the bottom of the garden of Casa degli Atellani and photographed the rows, for future reference. This was before it was destroyed by a fire and disastrous city planning decisions, before its remains were buried under the rubble left from the wartime bombings.

Digging in the area recognized by Beltrami pathways regulating the rows of vines came to light and, with the help of the pedologist Rodolfo Minelli, the layer of earth was prepared for the planting of the new vine. However, in order for the vineyard to be reborn it was necessary to discover, with as much accuracy as possible, which grape variety was grown by Leonardo.

Academics from the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Science of the University of Milan carried out laboratory analyses on samples of organic matter collected during excavation, all of which belonged to the vitis vinifera species, the common Euro-Asian grape. By comparing the studies carried out on the samples it was possible to reconstruct the complete genetic profile of the grape that was then compared with similar profiles matching varieties cultivated at the time of Leonardo. Leonardo’s grape variety is extremely similar to one of the profiles from Malvasia group, a variety that was popular at the time, the Malvasia di Candia Aromatica.

In the meantime the University of Milan grew sixty vines in a greenhouse in order to obtain the correct size for grafting and planting them in at the site. In the exact location in which it existed for over four centuries, along the original planting rows and with the same grape variety, Expo 2015 bears witness to the rebirth of Leonardo’s vineyard.

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