Piergiorgio examines the grapevines, leaning on his Mercedes-Benz Pagoda from the year 1973.

The taste of Tuscany.

Together with Freunde von Freunden we meet the Tuscan vintner, Piergiorgio Castellani, the sixth generation of his family to perfect the art of winemaking. A voyage of discovery through the region in his 1973 Mercedes-Benz SLC.

Photos: Marco Annunziata
  • The taste of Tuscany.

  • Prepared for opportunity.

    Piergiorgio Castellani’s buoyant and generous personality has made him friends across the globe, and his restless, always-on mind has led him to seek out adventures. One of his most memorable experiences took place in New York in the late 1980s, when he was still a social anthropology student and had a chance encounter with an artist on the street.

    Piergiorgio is always ready for an adventure.

    You once wrote that “During my college years I wandered and I am passionate about many things: theatre, art, travel, the human mind.” What are some of your memorable experiences from this time?

    For two years, in 1988 and 89, I collaborated with the New York-based Pop artist Keith Haring. We were friends and it resulted in the beautiful Pisa mural Tuttomondo. Keith died the following year. My New York art period was crazy, and Keith was an amazing artist and human.

    A random encounter with fantastic consequences.

    How did you meet and end up working with Keith Haring?

    I have so many funny and sweet memories of my time and friendship with Keith. When you’re open and focused, things happen in strange and mysterious ways. I met him by chance on a sidewalk in New York while listening to a performance of Hare Krishna music. The following day we were together in his studio trying to figure out a way to make an important piece of public art happen in a monumental city in Italy.

    The Mercedes-Benz Pagoda accompanies Piergiorgio on his adventures.

    That was my entrance into the extravagant world of the “post-factory” New York art scene. It took two years of continuous work, but in the end, we sorted it out with Keith, and he made his most important painting on the sidewall of a monastery in the historic centre of Pisa. Today it is the second most important attraction in the city after the Leaning Tower!

    The winemaker grew up in a small Italian town.

    The passion for adventure.

    Did you ever study acting or art, or were you just following passions?

    When I was an adolescent I lived in a small town in an Italian province. I travelled with my father often, and was well aware of the world pulsing outside of that place.

    More than passion, it was more an urgent necessity, and my search for an adventurous escape was really strong at that time.

    The winemaker caring for his crop.

    The world’s most incredible grape diversity.

    Castellani also has an experimental vineyard – it’s also where the resort is – what are you working on there now.

    In 1999 we planted one of the most famous experimental vineyards in Tuscany, totally dedicated to varieties that were at risk of extinction. In Italy we have one of the most incredible offerings of grape varietal and many risk being destroyed by the global mass market and extensive viticulture. In the last 20 years we’ve dedicated our energies to preserving that patrimony and the biodiversity of our vineyards, which are all very organically trained.

    Catellani also loves animals.

    Simple. Real.

    What is the most complicated part about making wine?

    Staying patient and staying grateful to Terra Mater, even when times are tough.

    The entire food culture of Italy is very special, what are some of your favourite specialties?

    Simple food, based on genuine ingredients – pasta al pomodoro topped with Parmesan cheese and fresh basil is an example – obviously with a glass of good Chianti.

    Surfing made easy.

    You surf, which I didn’t realize this was possible in Tuscany. Where do you go?

    In continental Italy, Tuscany has the most exposed coastline to the northern Mediterranean swells. We can have great waves on good surfing days. We are fortunate enough to also have great reef breaks south of Livorno, where I like to go the most with my son Giacomo.

    Surfing is one of his great passions.

    He likes powerful waves and I do my best to follow him. We also love the beach breaks of the Versilia coast, and the classic piers in that area that represent the center of the local surfing scene. California is my second home. I know there are perfect waves on many parts of the globe, but in California there is a very special and magical mix of great surfing and a beautiful surf culture.

    Dolce Vita!

    Art, surfing, wine, la dolce vita! Only your Mercedes-Benz is missing. Just which model you drive?

    A champagne-coloured 1973 Mercedes-Benz SLC.

    What you like most about this gem?

    This clear, golden colour. A champagne tone which you can only find on a Mercedes-Benz. Plus this beautiful, white fur upholstery and the cassette deck for old tapes.

    Tuscany's beaches are Catellani's favorite surf spots.

    The perfect jewel for the perfect woman.

    How long have you owned this beautiful vehicle?

    I discovered it right outside a workshop – A truly beautiful classic. I wanted to give my wife, Chiara, something special for our 10th wedding anniversary so I asked about the car and the price was right. I immediately had a specialist restore the vehicle because although it was in good condition I wanted it to be a perfect jewel!

    The champagne-colored Mercedes-Benz Pagoda is Catellani's pride and joy.

    The work was completed within 10 days and I even succeeded in keeping the whole thing a secret. On our actual wedding anniversary I parked the car in the middle of the garden – and when my wife came home she stumbled across this incredible Mercedes-Benz; her personal dream car!

    The artist’s wine.

    Have you experienced real adventures in the vehicle?

    For me the true adventure is more the fact that these cars are like time machines. The scent, their colours, shapes and noises all originate from the 1970s. And when you drive on today’s roads then you can fully experience the rhythm of that time.


    Catellani regards himself as an artist and not as a winemaker.

    Did you always want to be a winemaker or did you consider another career at some point?

    I am not a winemaker – I am still an artist!

    Thank you very much for this truly wonderful Tuscan afternoon!