Thursday, December 19, 2013

Enjoy Your Wine But Enjoy Tuscany As Wel

November in Chianti Classico
There is, of course, more to Tuscany than wine. In fact there is more to Tuscany than food and wine! Like in most Italian destinations there are beautiful cities to explore, architecture to admire, great restaurants to enjoy, and picturesque villages to visit. You can also explore some of the region’s vineyards or sign up for organised wine tours to ensure that you experience the best of the local wine. Enjoy the Chianti by all means but it’s a good idea to plan ahead and have a few ideas of what else you want to do in Tuscany before you visit.

Visit Local Wine Makers

A trip to a local winemaker offers an excellent combination of a bit of learning alongside enjoyment of great wines. The Fontodi vineyard is found at the center of Chianti Classico country, just south of the town of Panzano. The entire vineyard and farm is organic, consisting of 80 hectares of vines and 30 hectares producing organic olives. Traditional methods going back centuries are used to produce wines with terracotta vats being used rather than wooden barrels to store wine. The owner Giovanni Manetti bucks the trend of many larger winemakers as she does not charge for tastings. You can visit the vineyard and not even be obliged to buy a bottle.

Wine Tours

Organized wine tours offer the chance of being escorted around some of Tuscany’s best vineyards,  and restaurants by tour providers who have detailed local knowledge. Do a little research and you can find tour operators running tours that last from a few hours to days or weeks at a time. Tuscan Wine Tours is a small company run by a group of local food and wine experts. It books tastings and sittings at some of the best local vineyards and restaurants, often negotiating discounted prices. Private tours can be arranged or you can join up with larger organised groups.


As tempting as it may be to spend an entire trip in Tuscany settled inside a wine bar or touring vineyards, there are plenty of other tourist attractions where visitors can work up a thirst and an appetite. Florence is arguably the cultural highlight of a trip to Tuscany. Famous in any case for its fine food and wine, the city offers some of the best architecture in Italy and some of the finest art galleries in the world. The Uffizi Gallery, Boboli Gardens and the Ponte Vecchio attract tourists from all over the world and the city can become almost overrun in the peak tourist months. Cruise ship passengers disembark at the local ports of Livorno and Pisa and head into Florence to sample the food and wine for a few hours so there are times when it is best to head out of the city and explore some of the delightful local towns. Lucca is less than an hour drive from Florence and its cobbled streets, tucked away behind Renaissance period walls offer quiet sanctuary from the bustle of Florence. You can walk round the city walls, admire the color of the surrounding countryside and then wander back into town for a walk around the impressive Cattedrale di San Martino.

Siena is another Tuscan town well worth a visit. Again, filled with medieval churches and towers, it is the type of place to simply lose a few hours wandering round and admiring the architecture. There are plenty of dining choices, ranging from the expensive delis and restaurants along Via di Citta to cheap osterias which will still serve up decent local wines. There are a number of vineyards not far south of Siena and some are reachable by local buses so you can leave the car behind.

Where To Stay

There is accommodation to suit all budgets across Tuscany. The big cities have hotels across all price ranges and there are some luxury hotels dotted around the Tuscan countryside. There are also plenty of budget hotels or cheap bed and breakfasts, campsites are common, and plenty of vineyards and farms also offer rooms. For real wine lovers, there can be little better than spending a few days staying in a Tuscan farmhouse, surrounded by vines and some of the best Tuscan wines readily available at cheaper prices than will be found anywhere else.

@Laura Chapman

Monday, December 16, 2013

Italian Wine - It's Not Just Chianti

Chianti Classico wines
Chianti Classico wines
Few places are more evocative of Italy than Tuscany, and its rolling hills and vineyards attract wine lovers all year round. Connoisseurs of Italian wine will of course enjoy sampling the variations of Chianti Classico on a visit to Tuscany but local restaurants will also serve up a range of wine from other wine growing regions. 
Travelling through Italy outside of Tuscany will also give visitors access to a range of interesting wines and grape varieties. 
Tuscan wines may be amongst the best that Italy has to offer but it is worth knowing a little about what else is available rather than sticking doggedly to a single type of wine.

Piemonte is one of Italy’s smaller wine regions which specializes in high-quality red wines. The town of Alba, south-west of Turin produces DOCG Barolo and DOCG Barbaresco which are strong, savoury wines made from the Nebbiolo grape. The area is also a source of two other grape types, the Barbera and the Dolcetto. To the north of Turin, DOCG Gattinara is a robust red wine produced through a combination of the Nebbiolo and Bonarda grapes. Piemonte though is probably best known however for its DOCG Asti, a medium sweet sparkling wine developed from the Muscat grape.

This region, with Milan at its core, is at the heart of Italy’s industry and commerce. It is not a huge wine producer but has some interesting wines including DOCG Valtellina Superiore and a popular sparkling wine, DOCG Franciacorta.

Bordering Tuscany, this is the wine-growing region famed for the medium sweet, sparkling Lambrusco, taken from the local Lambrusco grape. Most versions at around 8% ABV  are only classified as Vino de Tavola, whilst the products exported to other markets such as the UK can be as low as 3% ABV. The more critically acclaimed wines from the region include DOCG Albana di Romagna, DOC Trebbiano di Romagna and the red Sangiovese di Romagna.

The Veneto is one of Italy’s largest wine-producing regions after Tuscany and produces a number of wines including some speciality wines. From the Verona area are DOC Soave, DOC Valpolicella and DOC Bardolino. Using the Garganegna and Trebbiano grapes, Soave is a light white wine named after the local town whilst Bardolino and Valpolicella are light-bodied reds made from local black grapes including Corvina. Valpolicella, whilst often an unspectacular wine, can be made a lot stronger through a local method of drying the grapes indoors on wooden racks. Amarone della Valpolicella is produced by a method which ferments out all of the sugar present in the grapes, delivering a wine that can be up to 16% ABV - certainly a wine to drink in moderation. Another speciality version of Valpolicella that is produced via traditional methods is Recioto della Valpolicella. The more standard versions of Valpolicella are medium-bodied with moderate tannins. The Veneto region also produces a sweet Soave wine and a few cheap versions of Prosecco.

This region tucked away in the north-east of Italy produces wines that often blend a range of grape varieties. White wines might include a mix of grapes such as Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Bianco, Riesling, Verduzzo and Picolit, whilst grapes used for the regions red wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Nero, Refosco and Merlot. The quality of winemaking in this area is generally pretty good and some of the better DOCs include Colio and Colli Orientali del Friuli.

Abruzzo tends to produce decent quality, mid-bodied red wines at reasonable prices. The most common grape is the Montepulciano and the region’s DOC wine is the DOC Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

This mountainous region of Italy was actually a part of Austria until the end of the First World War and many locals along the Adige Valley are German-speaking. Wines from the regions will sometimes be labelled in German as “Sudtiroller” (from the South Tyrol) rather than as “Alto Ridge.” The cool climate in the area is suitable for the production of dry whites, often made from grapes such as Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco. Trentino-Alto Adige produces light and crisp wines as well as some medium-bodied reds made from Merlot and Cabernet-Sauvignon grapes. The best wines will be sold as DOC Trentino or DOC Alto-Adige. There is also a medium-bodied red from the region’s Schiava grape known as DOC Santa Maddalena.

Laura Chapman

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Vernaccia of Wonders

Winery in San Gimignano
San Gimignano, the city of towers, produces the most famous  Vernaccia wich  is a wine appreciated for centuries by popes and princes, first in Italy to obtain the DOC and later the DOCG , this is the only white wine to bear the genetic improvement of varieties, carried out through field trials. The objective of this action are improvements thousandth that only specialists know imagine for a virtually perfect wine to the palate of ordinary mortals. As for the remaining wine scene, besides the production of Chianti area, there is the recent creation of the DOC San Gimignano to give space to other types of wine.


Grapes: Vernaccia di San Gimignano, between 90% and 100%, the non-aromatic grapes authorized for the remaining 10%

Colour: straw yellow, tending towards golden color with age.

Smell: fine, penetrating, characteristic.

Taste: dry, harmonious, with a characteristic bitter aftertaste.

Alcohol: 11%

Aging: up to 2 years. Qualifications "Rierva", with 11.5% and one year of mandatory aging, then up to three years.

Food pairing: white meat


1) Gicciardini Strozzi - Farm Cusona
Loc Cusona San Gimignano SI
ph 0577950028

2) Montenidoli
Loc Montenidoli San Gimignano SI
ph 0577941565
Wine testing: Monday - Saturday book in advance

3) Panizzi
Los Santa Margherita 34 San Gimignano SI
ph 057794157

4) Pietraserena
via di Casale 5 San Gimignano SI
Ph 0577940083

5) Fattoria Pietrafitta
Loc Cortennano 54 San Gimignano SI
Ph 0577943200

Wine tour to San Gimignano

If you want to taste this special white wine of Tuscany during your holiday in Italy you can contact Italy and Wine to join the Friday sharing tour or to have a customized tour

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Chianti Classico DOCG

Chianti Classico, that is the oldest zone of origin of this famous wine, covers the territory of nine municipalities between Florence and Siena. Under the Gallo Nero symbol production is regulated by a code that seats down sever criteria right from the vine-growing stage: planting density of at least 3.350
Chianti Classico DOCG 
stocks per 2.5 acres and yields not exceeding 16,500 lbs, meaning a maximum of 5 lbs of grapes per plant. The wine is made from Sangiovese grapes (80 to 100 %) and possibly Canaiolo Nero (max 10%), Trebbiano Toscano, and /or Malvasia del Chianti (max 6%), and/or other grapes recommended for the zone of reference, from traditional Colorino to more recently introduced Merlot or Cabernet (max 15%).
Wine characteristics are: bright ruby color tending to garnet with aging; vinous aroma, with a scent of sweet violet, and pronounced finesse in the aging stage; harmonious, dry, flavorful, slightly tannic taste, which refines with time to velvety soft; minimum alcohol: 12 %. Chianti Classico is put on the market starting October 1st of the first year after harvest. There is a Riserva qualification for the wine that reaches 12.5% of alcohol content after a compulsory aging period of two years in barrels and at least three months in bottle. When young, Chianti Classico goes well with grilled red meats; mature, it is excellent with game and the most robust dishes.

Chardonnay Grape

The Chardonnay grape is undoubtedly one of the most common varieties in the world. It's native of France, and more precisely from the homonymous village of Burgundy from which vine takes its name,
Chardonnay grape
in the nineteenth century, it quickly spread to many other countries,even far away.
It has long been cultivated throughout Europe and even in South Africa, South America, California, and Australia. At the time of his debut on the international market, the "Peronospera" massive mildew, small, invisible but voracious spider mite, destroyed acres and acres of vineyards.
So everyone was looking for a variety resistant to illnesses caused by fungi, molds and various creatures, able to stand firm in the face of bad weather, and also adaptable to different soils. Besides the regular production and abundant harvest made quite early, far in advance on the first chills of autumn.
Chardonnay, overall, apart from a certain impatience to spring frosts, seemed to concentrate all these features.
In Italy Chardonnay is present in virtually every region and produces wines of good quality overall. This is also a clear example of the great adaptability to soils of varying composition and environmental conditions.
The Grapes has a good acidity and produces wines with high alcohol content is used for different types of wine: still, sparkling and sparkling wine.
In short, the Chardonnay grape is a very generous and prolific and so appreciated all over the world.