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Chianti Estate's Millennium Series Supports Clown Therapy

Michèle Shah, James Suckling
Posted: December 30, 1999

Mario Felice Schwenn has a penchant for making unique -- even downright eccentric -- wines at his Chianti Classico estate, Dievole. Among his most novel new bottlings are a blend of Sangiovese and Barbera d'Asti in addition to a millennium wine with a religious message and a charitable purpose.

For Schwenn's most recent bottling, called Plenum Secundus, he blended a 1997 Sangiovese from his Tuscan estate with a Barbera d'Asti from Luigi Dezzani of Monferrato in Cocconato D'Asti in Piedmont. "Why should we limit ourselves to just our own wines?" said Schwenn. "We must be looking outwards at new things. We should always be interested in achieving better."

Plenum Secundus, of which 3,200 cases were made, is Schwenn's second "cross-boundary blend of wine," as he puts it. The first was Plenum Primus, which the German-born vintner blended two years ago from his 1995 Sangiovese and a Syrah from Philippe Riboud of Provence. About 2,000 cases of that wine were produced.

A few months ago, the 38-year-old Schwenn released a memorial wine for the millennium, called DuemilaDievole. The 1997 Chianti Classico received a "classic" score of 95 points (on Wine Spectators 100-point scale) and was described in the Nov. 30, 1999, issue of Wine Spectator as a full-bodied wine with velvety tannins and a finish that lasts for minutes.

The wine is only sold in magnums, at $175 each. The bottles are placed in a finned, plastic display cylinder, capped with a soil-filled top that can be reused as a paperweight, and wrapped in a blue cardboard casing. Inside the package is a booklet of black-and-white photographs accompanied by quotes from the Bible -- the same 20 excerpts that are lettered in gold on the bottle.

Schewnn will be releasing a series of four different vintages of the DuemilaDievole Chianti Classico: the Annunciation 1997, the Nativity 1998, the Baptism 1999 and the Revelation 2000. A total of 20,000 magnums, 5,000 from each vintage, will be made.

For each DuemilaDievole sold at $175 per magnum, Schewnn will donate approximately $5 to the Meyer Hospital in Florence to sponsor "clown therapy." Professional clowns, dressed to imitate doctors, make regular visits to the children who are patients at the hospital, blowing soap bubbles from "stethoscopes" and using chocolate instruments.

Professor Alberto Vieducci, head of the pediatrics department at Meyer Hospital, said: "Clown therapy has brought a new burst of joy to the children.  It has been demonstrated scientifically that by reducing the stress caused by fear and suffering, the necessity for drugs is automatically reduced."

The Meyer Hospital could receive up to $100,000 for clown therapy from the DuemilaDievole project, according to Schwenn. In addition, each package also provides details about how to make direct donations to other hospitals and organizations around the world involved in clown therapy for children. Said Schwenn, "I am proud to contribute with my work to a smiling new millennium."

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