One of the best ways to explore the Tuscan countryside is Wine Touring; driving from vineyard to vineyard along cypress alleys, among olive trees, sampling the wine in its natural habitat. There are plenty of wine areas to choose from and we will present the most important in the following weeks, starting with the prestigious Montalcino.
In the movie French Kiss there is a poetic scene where the French main character, played by Kevin Kline, shows Meg Ryan how different a wine can taste after she has smelled different herbs from the garden, how the wine unfolds as the nose is triggered with the scent of the herbs, that grows in the same soil as the wine.
I later learned that there is a French term for this holistic experience; Terroir.
Terroir is used to denote the special characteristics that geography bestows on wine, coffee and tea. This is mainly factors like climate, soil type and topography, but also the nearby trees and spices add to, what makes the wine unique.
Tasting wine on the same location as it is produced is just the ultimate experience. It is not only a delight for the nose and taste buds, but your eyes are filled with spectacular views, your ears react to the sound of cicadas and the stocky farmer wife explaining in Italian how good her wine is, oblivious to the fact that you don’t understand a word.
It’s a symphony of sensory perceptions.
Montalcino with Brunello and Rosso
Let one of your wine trips lead you to the south of Tuscany, to Montalcino, which has produced wine since the 15th century. Visit the city’s largest tourist attraction, La Fortezza, a fortress from the 14th century with well-maintained walls and the nearby Museo Civico e Diocesano, which has an impressive collection of sacred art for a city of Montalcino’s size.
The Montalcino area is known for its red wine Brunello – and rightly so. While Chianti might be one of the most popular origin designations, Brunello is no doubt one of the most prestigious. Brunello wine is made exclusively from the Sangiovese grapes and has been produced since 1888. Before a Brunello makes it to the shelf, it has aged for 5 years, 2 of which in oak casks. A local and cheaper variant is Rosso di Montalcino that has only aged for 1 year.
These and many other wines can be sampled and purchased at the Enoteca inside the fortress. Here you can enjoy a light lunch while tasting 2, 3, 5.. different Brunellos, Rossos or other SuperTuscans. Or you can just buy the wine by the glass to indulge in your very favourite.
The blood of Jupiter
The name of the Sangiovese red grape is thought to be derived from “sanguis Jovis” meaning “the blood of Jove (Jupiter)” and its beginnings probably predate Roman times. As with the Nebbiolo grape, Sangiovese is one of those two predominant red grapes in Italy, which are extensively planted in the central and southern regions. It is believed to have originated in Tuscany, where it dominates today.
Sangiovese wines vary immensely depending on where the grapes are grown, how they are grown and which of the many sub varieties they are made from. If you want to visit a winery to appraise some of the varieties, and don’t want to show up uninvited, the tourist office can assist in arranging a visit to some of the 140 wine producers in the district.
We can recommend Poggio Antico, where you can get a tour of the cellars, taste the wines from their own production and enjoy lunch in elegant surroundings with view over the estate vineyards across to Monte Amiata.
- The Wines of Montalcino Official website
- Montalcino Official Tourism website
- Enoteca la Fortezza di Montalcino
- Brunello di Montalcino on Wikipedia