When in Tuscany, do as the Italians do and drink a glass (or two..) of the wine that's grown right under that famous Tuscan sun!
In addition to trying lots of local wines the cheap and easy way (buy a bottle at Coop for only a few Euros :-)), we also wanted to experience the full wine tasting experience in a wine cellar. We narrowed our search by browsing through the DiscoverTuscany.com website. At each winery we visited, we got to learn about their particular wine production methods, walk through their cellars, sample 3 - 4 wines, and snack on delicious cheese and meat plates.
"Wine is sunlight, held together by water" - Galileo Galilei
Villa Dianella near Vinci
The wine tasting experience at Villa Dianella was truly one of a kind and far exceeded any expectations we had of a wine tasting. Starting with a tour around the large stone building and in the large and spacious garden and yard, our wine guide Gemma explained the history of the winery and how it was once owned by the Medici family that ruled the city of Florence through the Renaissance.
We then went inside to see the wine cellars, learning about the different kinds of barrels and equipment that is used to ferment, age, and preserve the wine. We got to sample four delicious wines, including a Vin Santo, an Italian dessert wine best served with typical Italian biscotti (Cantucci) - a combination that is a fabulous treat for the senses as the lemon/orange undertones of the biscotti merge with the sweetness of the wine. Afterwards we enjoyed views of the quiet Tuscan countryside and its rolling hills with a glass of the Reserve wine before heading to the village of Vinci for their annual Night Under the Stars wine festival.
Fattoria Viticcio Our visit to this winery in Greve in Chianti was our first glimpse into the famous Chianti Classico region. Our guide first took us into the vineyard right outside the villa where we got to see the Sangiovese grapes that the region is known for. They were still green and had some time left to ripen.
After walking through the large and cool cellars, we walked up to the production area where we were lucky to witness the bottling process that was going on at the time of our visit. The wine tasting was set in a beautiful garden area. The large community table was an ideal setting to get to know other visitors and we met some interesting groups of people from the Netherlands, Norway, and the US (North Carolina).
We also visited Fattoria Casa Sola, about 50 minutes south of Florence, but still in the Chianti Classico region. Although we did not do a full tour of the cellar there, we got to try four delicious wines and would recommend it as well.
Before You Go
Most wineries in Tuscany require a reservation in order to do a full tasting with a tour of the wine cellar.
Therefore if you go, have a winery picked out and call ahead of time to reserve your spot. Usually these tastings come with a plate of local Tuscan cheeses and meats which are a treat in itself so don't have a big lunch right before. You may notice that many of the wineries are also an "agriturismo" which is like a hotel or a bed and breakfast. Should you fall in love with a wine and not be capable of driving afterwards, at least you'll know there is a possibility of staying the night.
For a wine tasting outside of vineyards, look for an "Enoteca"
In addition to visiting the actual vineyards and wine cellars, there is an endless number of enotecas. These are little bars or restaurants where you can simply sit down for a tasting. You can find these in nearly every village you stop at. Generally we have found that the more rural the place is, the more enjoyable and local the experience. Enotecas in the more touristy areas and larger wine villages tend to be more expensive and the staff less attentive, although the wine itself is still worth trying!
When we stopped at this tiny little enoteca (Enoteca Nuvolari) on the side of the road near Castellina in Chianti, they saw me taking photos of the place and offered me a piece of a freshly baked cake and some yummy biscotti in exchange for sending them the pictures. Yes please, I am all in!
The thing about the unique beauty in each corner of this vibrantly alive planet is that no matter how far you go, there will always be more unexpected places that will touch the depths of your soul. Often, those places are ones we have never seen on a map or contemplated going to, while sometimes it may be the places we return to with a fresh perspective. For the way we see things affects how we go through all of life and the most beautiful souvenir we could ever bring from our travels will always be a fresh new perspective.