Tuscany: In Search of Best Italian Wine
From Montepulciano to Montalcino to Chianti…
Travel is not just about visiting the famous landmarks but also tasting the local cuisine and immersing yourself in their lifestyle. Wine is an integral part of Italian cuisine and culture and Tuscany is home to some of the best wines in Italy, if not the world. When in Tuscany, you have to try the wines. Along with great tastings, several wineries offer stays (as in agriturismo) with wine tours and classes. I bet styaing in a winery would be a blast!
Sangiovese grape is the backbone of Tuscan wines and the winemakers know how to turn it into some of the finest wines. Sangiovese also happens to be one of my favorite grapes. The deeper I dug into the world of wine and certifications and tastings, I fell for Sangiovese even more. The vineyards of Tuscany were something I’ve always dreamed of visiting. I was in wine paradise when I finally realized it and for a moment, I thought I was still dreaming!
What is Sangiovese?
- For starters, Sangiovese is the grape and Montalcino, Montepulciano, Chianti (and many more like Morellino etc) are the regions where the wine is made (using Sangiovese grape) in their own style with different aging requirements, guidelines etc.
- Sangiovese wines have a lovely garnet hue, great structure with high acidity, good tannins and display characteristic notes of tart cherries, orange peel, herbs, berries, plums, tomato, leather and tobacco depending on the region and how long they’ve aged.
- Sangiovese is made in different styles from fruit forward to bold, oaky style and somewhere in between. Hence the trips to Montepulciano, Montalcino and Chianti because the wine style differs greatly and the grape varietals used are all different clones of Sangiovese. These are all great wines to start with if you’d like to foray into Italian wines. If you’ve never had these wines, make a note to try these wines next time you visit BevMo or your favorite wine store.
Without further adieu, let’s dig into the wine tasting journey, shall we?
Montepulciano, a gorgeous hill town and home to Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wine. My love affair with Sangiovese started with Vino Nobile. It is one of the ancient wines of Italy and a perfect introduction to Sangiovese. In addition to being home to Vino Nobile, Montepulciano is also a great town to take a stroll, taste the wines at one of the Enotecas (wine bars), visit a salumeria and enjoy a lovely breakfast or lunch. While in the town, Ercolani’s wine tasting is a must do. They provide a free tour of their underground cellar where we got to learn some fascinating things about the 13th century cellar and taste their amazing Reserva wines. An Enoteca is also a good place to visit to try Vino Nobile from different wineries. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed!
Brunello di Montalcino is the first DOCG (highest designation of quality) of Italy and at its finest, it is considered one of the best by most in the wine community. Whether aged 20 years or tasted young, Brunello is classic expression of Sangiovese. It would be a shame to visit the countryside of Tuscany and not visit the Mecca of Italian wine. There are several amazing wineries to choose from like Biondi Santi, Banfi, Podere le Ripi, Mate to name a few. I loved how most of the wineries follow organic or biodynamic farming and let the terroir speak for itself. If you are in a pinch or would like to try Brunellos from several different wineries, try visiting an Enoteca in the town of Montacino. We highly, highly recommend the Enoteca la Fortezza di Montalcino, a wine bar in a 14th century Fort! Taste the wines inside the fort and savor. Climb the walls to get sweeping views of the Brunello country. For the Fortezza and the views alone, this fortified town is a must visit even if you are not into wine.
Chianti is a little far from Montalcino so it can be made as another day trip in itself or the same day if you can optimize your time. The area between Florence and Siena is all pretty much Chianti but if you want to try the best, you need to visit the Chianti Classico region which is roughly surrounding Greve and Radda towns. The drive is very pretty with rolling vineyards and quiet towns in between. Chianti wines are more earthy, rustic and oaky compared to Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
There are many many wineries to choose from. We visited Quercito di Castellina, an organic winery and it was spectacular. In addition to their wines, we recommend their homemade lunch (also called “Tuscan feast for your senses” :)) with views of the vineyard. It comes in several courses so be prepared to go on empty stomach if you plan to visit. Visiting the winery and watching the vineyard views was another moment when I felt so grateful for such experiences and wondered how I made it this far. I felt like I could stay there forever. If you have time and are able to drink more wine, add another winery or two to your visit or checkout the towns of Radda/Greve or just drive around and enjoy the beautiful landscape.
Note: Even though Chianti Classico area doesn’t seem too big in the map, the roads are windy and hilly so be cautious and account for some extra time.
So friends, this is where we end the tour of Tuscan wines. Winemaking, like cooking, is an art and it is in places like these where you can truly acknowledge the effort, skill and hard work it takes to make the best wines. Even if you are not a wine connoisseur, give wine tasting in Tuscany a try and you will not regret it!
I am Aswani Kurra. I am an engineer, dreamer and part-time wanderlust, writer and wine lover. I always had an urge to write, create and travel. So I created this space to satisfy my creative itch and combine all my skills to help you plan your Charming Escape.