Sting Says an Italian Duke Tricked Him into Buying a Tuscan Wine Estate
Impeccably aged rock star Sting has owned his 865-acre Tuscan estate – and its accompanying vineyards — since the late 1990s, when then-owner Duke Simone Vincenzo Velluti Zati di San Clemente started inviting the former Police frontman and his wife to visit the historic property. After several trips to Il Palagio, Sting was almost convinced that he needed to purchase the circa-17th century property, but it was a glass of wine that sealed the deal.
"[The Duke] offered us a glass of red from a carafe during one of our early visits to Il Palagio," Sting recently told Italian magazine Sette. "We were negotiating the purchase. We liked the property a lot, even though it was in ruins. The duke asked me if I wanted to taste the wine produced by the estate and I said yes. It was an excellent wine and that convinced me to buy the vineyards as well."
But — as Sting found out later — the Duke punked him in maybe the most rich dude way possible. The wine he gave his guests wasn't from Il Palagio, or even from Tuscany. Instead, he used a glass of Barolo to wow Sting into buying the then-crumbling property. The Duke was probably elsewhere in Italy, giggling to himself by the time Sting figured out what he'd done.
"When we served the wine from the estate to our guests, I saw that someone was emptying their glass into a flowerbed," Sting said of the vineyard's yield at the time. "It was then that we decided to avenge ourselves and to show that it was possible to produce excellent wine from the vineyards at Palagio. Our whole Tuscan adventure has really been a way of getting our own back."
That adventure seems to have paid off: according to Decanter, Il Palagio now produces around 150,000 bottles of wine a year, including one sparkling wine, three reds, a rosé, and a white. (Music buffs will be delighted to learn that three of the wines have been named after Sting's songs, including "Message in a Bottle.")
Several years ago, Wine Spectator named Il Palagio's Sister Moon — a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sangiovese grapes — as one of the 101 best wines in Italy. (Sting gave partial credit for the wine's pleasing flavor profile to ... well, himself. "I sing in the cellar," he said. "I like to think the wine's taken it in.")
In July, Il Palagio opened an organic pizza and wine bar, and it also serves Tuscan craft beer. According to Sette, when the estate was allowed to reopen to "wine tourists," Sting auctioned off some exclusive wine tastings with himself and two other Italian winemakers, and donated the proceeds to struggling U.S. restaurateurs. The estate also produces fruit, olive oil, and honey from its "sixty fantastic bee families."
Although he's turned into Mister Wine (or Signor Vino) over the past couple of decades, Sting says that he was a latecomer to that particular party. "I'm from the North of England. Nobody in those parts drank wine," he said, before adding, "I've become refined."