The history of the Mazzei family is closely linked not just to the history of winemaking in Tuscany, but to the political and cultural history of the entire region. The first documents that name the Mazzeis – originally from the winemaking area of Carmignano – date back to the early eleventh century.
The family coat of arms, bearing three wooden hammers, tools emblematic of the cooper’s trade, also dates back to this time. In the fourteenth century, the coat of arms instead displayed three iron maces that still adorn it today. Since the very beginning, the Mazzeis have been winemakers and active participants in Florentine cultural and commercial life, even holding important posts in city government.
Ser Lapo Mazzei (1350-1412), a winemaker from Carmignano, dedicated to the art of making fine wine, was a Notary of the Florence city government and Proconsul of the Art of Judges and Notaries. His brother Lionardo also cultivated vineyards in Carmignano, in the Grignano estate, where he produced wine according to the instructions of his more expert brother, Ser Lapo.
There is a voluminous and quite interesting series of correspondence between Ser Lapo Mazzei and Francesco Datini, the famous Merchant of Prato. The document is rich in juridical and commercial advice and also contains many comments referring to agronomy and oenology.Winemaking, purchasing and storage are recurrent themes in Ser Lapo’sepistles: " don’t concern yourself about the cost of the wine, though it be high: its goodness is restorative.", he wrote to Datini in 1394, inviting him to overcome his parsimony and appreciate its quality.
Ser Lapo Mazzei is also considered the “father” of the Chianti name: he authored the first known document using the denomination, a commercial contract bearing his signature, dated December 16, 1398.
" To be paid, on December 16 (1398), 3 florins, 26 soldi and 8 dinars, to Piero di Tino Riccio, for 6 barrels of Chianti wine....the above pay by letter of Ser Lapo Mazzei ". (Datini Archives)
First known mention of the term “Chianti” in an official documentIt is the granddaughter of Ser Lapo Mazzei, Madonna Smeralda, who was married to Piero di Agnolo da Fonterutoli, that the Mazzei family owes the ownership of Fonterutoli, passed down from 1435 until today, across 24 generations. Another important historical figure in the family was Filippo Mazzei (1730-1816). An eccentric and restless traveler, intellectually inclined and scholarly, he was asked by his friend Thomas Jefferson, future president of the United States, to plant a vineyard at his estate in Monticello, Virginia. He undertook the journey with a group of vineyard workers and planted the first vineyards in that part of the New World.
"I thank you for your obliging act of the culture of the wine, and I am happy to hear that your plantation of them is in so prosperous a way" (George Washington, July 1°, 1779 )
Having remained in America, Filippo got involved in the new nation’s political life, and his ideas regarding equality struck Jefferson, who drew from them one of the founding principles of the Declaration of Independence: “All men are created equal”. For this reason, Filippo Mazzei is considered an "American Patriot".