It wasn’t my first time in Florence & it certainly wasn’t my first time drinking Chianti Classico wine. Attending a wine tour while traveling through Tuscany is a definite must if you enjoy the sweet taste of fermented grapes. I wanted to find an authentic, small but most importantly affordable tuscan wine tour, as we were still very early into our trip. Using my 5 easy methods for finding tours while traveling, I found this Chianti Classico tour offered by a local italian company called Grape Wine Tours. What sold me immediately was how the tour offered 3 different wineries with 3 different focuses on wine making covering the important rules & regulations of the Chianti Classico.
THE MEETING POINT: TUSCANY IN A BOTTLE
The meeting point was at a shop called Tuscany In A Bottle on Via Dei Rei, located close to the famous Ponte Vecchio on the Arno river. Not only does the shop offer Tuscan wine tours but they also offer classes in their Tuscan wine school – a great alternative if your time is limited in Firenze!
The morning of, we arrived 30 minutes early to have coffee and grab a bite to eat. The only place open was Pub One Di Luigi Rami where we opted for the traditional latte and croissant. The city was still asleep and the shops were slowly starting to lift their heavy metal gates, letting daylight illuminate shelves full of local goods.
Our teacher’s name was Caterina. Full of life, (very) awake and with a big smile on her face, she greeted the group with some coffee, water and biscotti. Don’t mind me but I went in for coffee round II.
After getting acquainted, we hopped into a Mercedes coach bus. Needless to say, the ride to the first winery was very comfortable. In order to avoid – some – of the busy Italian traffic, we drove by Piazzale Michaelangelo, which is the perfect spot to bring a bottle of Chianti and witness the town change colors at sunset (or sunrise, for you early birds). We then drove South towards Siena and got some lessons on the history and importance of Chianti wines from Caterina.
As mentioned earlier, we were told that each winery offers a different perspective; from a larger scale winery to a smaller one. There are 17 different wine regions but Chianti is the most important one as it holds a patriotic significance for the locals. The region is made up of over 20 000 hectares where 50% of it consists of vines and the other 50% forests.
Focus: The Making Of Wine & Important regulations behind Chianti Classico
The first winery we visited is one of the largest in the region. Fattoria Montecchio doesn’t only produce and sell wine but also own their very own olive mill where, you guessed it, olives are pressed and transformed into one of the tastiest olive oil. Following a visit to the cellars and vineyards, we sat in the tasting room where we got a lesson from Caterina on how to properly taste wine. Paired with pieces of fresh bread and olive oil, we sampled 2 Chianti Classico bottles produced by the Fattoria as well as a Signature Super Tuscan*.
How Do I Know If It’s Real Chianti Classico ?
♦ The Black Rooster label on the neck of the bottle
♦ DOC label (Denomination of Origin Certified)
♦ DOCG label (Denomination of Origin Certified Guaranteed)
♦ The name Chianti Classico
FATTORIA DI CASA SOLA
Focus: Aging of wine
The second winery was Fattoria Di Casa Sola, a mid-sized production with over 30 hectares of vineyards. Coming from Canada, where we just recently celebrated our 150th anniversary, it still amazes me to know how much history a family name and land can carry in countries such as Italy. Heading towards our second location gave me the feeling of traveling back in time. The landscape seemed untouched by modern days. As I watched the vibrant Tuscan colors unfold before my eyes, I listened to Caterina tell the story of the Aristocratic family from Genoa that founded the Fattoria.
We were greeted by Count Matteo who gave us a visit of the property. On the menu, more majestic views and a visit to the cellars where we got a lesson on the process of fermentation & maturation. From my understanding, this process is probably one of the most important aspect of production to ensure quality. The basics remain the same in terms of process for all producers however, I’ve learned during my travels through Italy, that many producers hold certain quirky rituals. Some believe it gives their wine a certain ”je ne sais quoi” making them some of the best reds in the world.
Focus: Pairing of food and wine
Casa Emma was the 3rd winery we visited and is one of the smallest in Tuscany: 75 000 bottles.
Not only do they produce their own wine but they own an Osteria where traditional Tuscan cuisine is served with, of course, yet again, a majestic view of the vineyards. (You really can’t get enough of those views. As the day progresses, the colors change and it truly is a spectacle.)
The osteria doesn’t have a menu; everything is fresh and homemade. If you’re visiting in September, it’s tomato season so you can be certain a lot of your dishes will include tomatoes. To start off our lunch, we were served homemade bread with an olive oil and balsamic side for dipping. Did I forget to mention they also produce their own balsamic vinegar? We got to sample a 7 year old bottle & 21 year old one. Needless to say, my balsamic game changed forever that day; once you have a taste of it, your taste buds become a little snobbier…but, with great taste comes great price! My mom and I were tempted to bring back home a bottle: the smallest 7 year old bottle cost 28 euros. Unfortunately, it’s not in my budget as of yet..
Now that our taste buds had woken, we were ready for more. Our 2nd course was a traditional Tuscan dish which consisted of pieces of bread with tomatoes and garlic. Next came a charcuterie & cheese board – my favorite! If you’re vegetarian, no worries, there were options to replace the cold cuts! We finished our meal with homemade biscotti and in true Tuscan fashion, we were to dip the biscotti in wine – my taste buds were, yet again, very pleased!
A Little More On Chianti…
- The Medici (pronounced Med-i-chi) family in the 1760’s wanted to create a wine that was representative of their family: “blood in the collar with a rough and wild taste“
- The main grape used is the San Giovese grape (originally from Northern Tuscany)
- Dating back to years before Ancient Rome, Tuscans made wine in the Chianti region however, nothing is actually documented.
- *A Fantasy Wine or Super Tuscan wine allows the wineries to get creative. I highly recommend tasting them if you get the chance. They’re always fun to try and they show off the colors and flavors of the estate you’re visiting. A great way to connect and know more about a wine, a family and their history…
To catch a glimpse of the tour, click here
To book a tour with the wonderful team, click here