The Ultimate Wine Destinations in Tuscany
A Tuscan scene is unmistakable. Scattered hills with long cypress trees, crowned with small castles and medieval towns. Dazzling views of vineyards, fields of golden wheat and bales of straw—a living Van Gough painting.
Boasting three of the most important Italian DOCGs, the Tuscan main appellations are Chianti (including Chianti Classico), Montalcino and Montepulciano.
Sangiovese grapes make the most planted variety in Tuscany’s Chianti, Chianti Classico, and Montalcino and Montepulciano.
On the map, the three regions form a triangle. In the north corner, Chianti (south of Florence), and Montalcino forms the east corner, while Montepulciano is on the west corner (south of Siena). During my stay in Tuscany I managed to visit three wineries in each of the three DOCGs.
The bumpy road to Querciabella lead us to their estate in Greve, Chianti Classico, where we met our friendly host. The modern winery is and was established in 1974, and the family is proud to be practicing biodynamic farming, preserving the balance between soil, climate and the vines. Querciabella is 100% vegan so don’t expect to be offered any salami during the tasting. The wines produced at the winery were offered at the tasting, including:
Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva 100% Sangiovese and aged in French Oak (which is now sitting in my cellar for a few years to come).
Turpino, an excellent Supertuscan from Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah, aged in French Oak.
Batàr, a fantastic white blend of Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay with an interesting history behind it. It was mind blowing.
With an easy access to the caller, vineyards within a walking distance, well-lit elegant tasting rooms, and a friendly, knowledgeable team, this winery is totally worth the visit (by appointments only). Querciabella is an example of modern Chianti Classico producers, leading the way of organic and biodynamic wines in Chianti.
Follow the hilly path from Chianti, towards Siena, and you will find yourself on the hills of Montalcino, home to one of the most revered Italian wines: Brunello di Montalcino. The hills offer sandy and limestone soil and warmer drier climate than Chinati. Wines of Brunello di Montalcino are high in acidity and tannins and deep in flavor , which gives them the potential to age for a long time. Made from 100% Sangiovese grapes with a minimum of 5 years of aging before its release, wines in good vintages offer black cherry and black fruit flavors, chocolate and leather notes, structured tannins and elegant complexity.
In Montalcino, I visited Podere Le Ripi, a biodynamic winery that produces excellent wine in modern styles. The tour included a visit to a uniquely designed cellar. The massive vats stand in a modern round brick building with biodynamic-based equipment. The winery owns several vineyards in Montalcino but their most interesting plot is Bonsai, a high density vineyard with clay soil planted with Sangiovese, where making wine seems like a true viticultural adventure. Podre Le Ripi produces several red wines, from Toscana Rosso and Rosso di Montalcino and different productions of Bronello di Montalcino under the specie vineyards name, in addition to their Bosnai wines. Offering 3 types of tastings with different range in each, Podere le Ripi is worth the visit for those looking for a private tour and interested in learning about new wine production concept in Montalcino.
I fell in love with Montepulciano. A charming village with stone medieval buildings and brick roof tops, with mazes narrow, hilly alleys and steep stairs. The amount of wine shops that can be found in Montepulciano could only be compared to those in Beaune, Burgundy. This little town not only knows wine, it practically lives it.
The pride of Montepulciano DOCG is Vino Nobile wines. The DOCG is not quite rigid about the grapes that go into the blend, and the aging duration varies, hence, traditional and modern production methods coexist, offering a stylistic variation between the past and the present.
Based on a recommendation from Querciabella, I decided to visit Contucci. A historic winery that dates back to renaissance and contributed to establishing the status of Vino Nobile throughout history. A walk in the ancient cellar feels like a stroll though centuries of winemaking heritage. My host was quite attentive and generous with the details she gave me about the winery and its wines and I got to sample all of them. Cantucci still follows the traditional method in producing Vino Nobile de Montepulciano using 80% Sangiovese (Prugnolo Gentile) and 10% Canaiolo nero, 10% Colorino and aged in Slovenian Oak for 24 months.
The winery is open to the public during normal business hours and the tastings are casual. If you are visiting Montepulciano, a trip to this winery can be easily slipped into your itinerary.
Siena, Montepulciano and Florence
Despite its reputation as the ultimate travel destination in Italy, Florence was too touristy and crowded to be enjoyed, in comparison to Siena and Montepulciano particularly in the summer. The chaotic crowds and endless waiting lines and touristy overpriced food all inhibit my wanderlust and frustrate me. The true travel delight lies in sitting at a calm historic cafe in the charming Montepulciano or enjoying a drink at the bustling spacious square in Siena. Even the food and wine had a superior quality, better price and truly authentic.
Nevertheless, Tuscany is beautiful, culturally rich with abundant offering in food, wine and a fascinating glimpse of history. Will plan it better next time, and make a visit in late September. Will keep you posted.
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