Visiting the Wineries of Tuscany

by : Rodney Ritchie

Picturesque Tuscany, one of Italy's twenty wine regions, is classic wine country, and the origin of some of the world's most popular red wines. The relatively high altitude, hillside Tuscan vineyards, with high temperature fluctuations and harsh winters, provide high-quality wines.

The vineyards of Tuscany's four main wine districts are buzzing with activity during La Vendemmia, the autumn grape harvest. The weather at this time of year is just perfect for touring the back roads of Chianti, Carmignano, Montalcino and Montepulciano. And you can dine at many of the wineries, cafes or small restaurants and taste delicious cheeses, olives and breads, while sampling the wines.

Carmignano, on the slopes of Mount Albano, just to the west of Florence, has a history of more than 2,500 years of wine production. Here wines are made with a blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Cabernet and Sauvignon grapes, including Barco Reale di Carmignano, the Carmignano Rosato, and the Carmignano Rosso di Riserva.

There are Carmignano wines for all budgets. For lovers of many wine styles, vineyards to visit include: Tentua di Capezzana Ambra, Artimino, Castelvecchio, Fattoria il Poggiolo, Le Farnete, Piaggia and Il Poggiolo. Be sure to visit the Museum of Grapevine to learn about the district's history and its wines.

Take a trip to Chianti, nestled in the hills south of Florence, where you can tour not only fabulous vineyards, but you can also have a look through the many old farmhouses, abbeys, villas, and castles found throughout the district. Just outside San Donato is Casa Emma, and near Volpaia, a lovely old hill town, is Castello Di Volpaia, with its stone buildings filled with winery equipment. Prime wine estates include Gallo Nero wines.

Chianti is a very dry red wine, with a concentrated fruit character, made mostly from the local black Sangiovese grapes, mixed with the white Trebbiano grapes. They are brought together to give Chianti wines their famous dry, full-bodied character. Visit one of the many vineyards offering cellar door tastings, and save on retail prices when you purchase the wine at its source. Wines from the Chianti subdistrict of Classico, have the symbol of a black rooster on the label.

One of Italy's most famous appellations, Brunello di Montalcino, comes from southern Tuscany, produced from the Sangiovese vines around the historic town of Montalcino. Many wineries here blend other grapes, principally Cabernet Sauvignon, but also Canaiolo and Ciliegiolo, with the Sangiovese grapes to produce some of the best Tuscan wines and wines that the region is known for.

Finally, be sure to visit Montepulciano, an ancient walled hilltop town in southeast Tuscany, and try the signature wine of Montepulciano, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, one of Tuscany's classic red wines. Aged for a minimum of four years, these richly fruited wines are long-lived. Also made here is Vin Santo, a Sherry-like dessert wine made from dried white grapes, more often Trebbiano and Malvasia. The best and, naturally, the most costly is Vin Santo, made in Montepulciano and produced by Avignonesi.