Five hundred years ago, the inventor, painter and scientist, Leonardo da Vinci, enjoyed white wine from his vineyards in Milan. Now, genetic tests are being conducted in an attempt to recreate the beverage using the same garden grapes. It has taken 10 years to research and study the DNA of the grapes and scientists are now preparing to try to recreate the plants.
Even though da Vinci is most known for all of his scientific contributions and his artwork, history also portrays him as a man who loved his wines. The vineyard in Milan was given to da Vinci as payment for the Last Supper in 1499, which was commissioned by the Duke of Milan, Lodvico Sforza. In fact, it was actually located near the Church of Santa Marie delle Grazie, where the painting was created. However, when da Vinci died in 1519, he left the vineyard to two of his servants, and during WWII in 1943, it was destroyed in a bombing raid by the Allies.
Today, that same area is a walled garden on the grounds of a large palazzo home in Milan, called Casa degli Atellani. Scientists received permission from its owners to excavate the area and in the process, they discovered some old vine roots. DNA testing done at the University of Milan helped to determine the kind of grapes that da Vinci had grown for his white wines. They are called Malvasia di Candia, and this variety is actually still planted and grown in the surrounding area.
As such, it is now possible to recreate the famous vineyard da Vinci once owned. Once it is ready, it will be displayed to the public, during the Expo 2015, an event in May that hosts the world fair in Milan.
The man responsible for finding the right DNA on the recovered vine roots was Professor Attilio Scienza. He is an expert on vine DNA and also edits wine guides and is both a geneticist and oenologist.
He states, “Our research started in 2004. We were able to identify the plot and the last surviving vines. I was amazed – to think that a treasure like this had fallen into oblivion.”