During this five-day tour, you’ll discover the wonderful blend of respect for tradition and determined attitude, which has made Italy one of the most exciting wine countries in the world. One of the attractions of this wonderful tour is not only the outstanding wines, but also the time we allow to explore some of the classic Tuscan towns, including Siena and San Gimignano.
Considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, the art and culture in Tuscany can be seen through its art galleries, museums, sculptures and breathtaking architecture. Tuscany is home to a wonderful collection of World Heritage Sites, medieval villages, rolling hills and striking landscapes.
Tuscan food is unfussy and seasonal. We will enjoy local dishes such as wild boar pappardelle, fennel-scented salami, almond cantuccini biscuits, Tuscan cheeses, olive oils, and roasted pork and beans, to mention but a few local delights.
Tuscany was at the forefront of the revolution of introducing world-class vino di tavola from international grape varieties. The main grape variety is Sangiovese, appearing in many guises and including under other names, as we discover in the Brunello di Montalcino region.
On arrival, we continue to our first visit in the charming hamlet of Fonterutoli, which is perched on a hill with the Castello commanding a magnificent view of Chianti towards Siena. The Mazzei family have owned the village since 1435. Here, we visit their modern, gravity-fed cellars before tasting their wines, including the flagship wine, Castello. After our visit, we transfer to the hotel to check in, before enjoying dinner together in the town of Radda in Chianti.
After breakfast this morning, we head to our first visit and tasting of the day at Fontodi. Giovanni Manetti’s estate of Fontodi, with vines in the ‘golden shell’ near Panzano, produces a wonderful selection of powerful, intense wines including the Flaccianello della Pieve from Sangiovese, but also an interesting Pinot Nero. The Manetti family have owned this estate since 1969 and the attention to detail and care lavished on the vines is the same as given to the leading terracotta factory they also own in Ferrone. Giovanni’s non-interventionist style of winemaking is reflected in the wines, which all show incredible fruit. In Castelnuovo Berardenga, at the South East corner of the region, is the beautiful estate of Fattoria di Felsina. Under the auspices of Giusepppe Mazzocolin, it is possibly one of the most consistently excellent estates in Italy, producing exemplary Chianti Classico – although their location is reflected in the wines, which show more richness and are similar to those from Montalcino. Their top wine is Fontalloro, along with the outstanding Vigneto Rancia, and they also produce some of the few examples of well-made Chardonnay from Tuscany. They also produce single varietal olive oil, produced in the Veronelli method. We will taste their wines over lunch at the estate and their olive oil as well. During the afternoon, we have some free time in Siena and an optional guided walking tour. Siena is a small medieval town placed on three hills, and is filled with palaces and towers. The skyline is dominated by the black and white banner of a cathedral, and the needle of the Torre di Mangia. The very centre of Siena, a famous piazza known simply as the ‘Campo’, is only a short distance from the olive groves and orchards. After exploring Siena, we will be journeying back to our hotel in Radda, where there is free time this evening.
We head to our first visit today at Col d’Orcia, which literally means ‘the hill overlooking the Orcia River’. The Orcia River marks the southwest border of the Brunello di Montalcino territory and the name of the farm is intrinsically linked to the physical location were the vineyards are planted. It is the mission of Col d’Orcia to produce the best possible wines that the exceptional combination of soil and climate of this part of Montalcino can achieve. In the year 2010, they took the decision to adopt organic farming in order to become the largest organic wineproducing farm in the whole of Tuscany. Our lunchtime visit sees us enjoy wines both huge and complex, and with dense tannins, a long finish and outstanding quality – simply some of the best of the Brunello Classification. After lunch, we call in at Montalcino, a small yet charming town perched on a hilltop. It was here that the aristocrats of Siena took refuge after the fall of their city to the Medicis. The narrow streets are ideal for a post-lunch wander. Later today, we return to the hotel in Radda for a free evening.
This morning after breakfast, we visit the lovely estate of Selvapiana, which lies in the Chianti Rufina zone, a region whose wines are historically more elegant and with a greater capacity for cellar ageing than some of its neighbours. These wines continue to improve with each vintage and here we will taste wines from both their single vineyards: Bucerchiale, which is an outstanding example of Chianti, and the Fornace, which also includes a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in its blend and gives a fleshier, impressively intense mouthful. Over lunch, we taste their stunning wines as well as their new olive oil. Later today, we return to our hotel in Radda, with time to relax. This evening, we are honoured guests at the magnificent medieval hamlet of Castello di Volpaia for dinner. Their refined wines, including their superb Coltassala made from Sangioveto and Mammelo grapes, are enjoyed over an elegant dinner in the company of the charming owner, Giovanella Stianti. Her winemaker produces elegant, fragrant wines, including the admired vino da tavola Coltassala from Sangioveto and Mamelo grape varieties.
On our last day, after breakfast and check out, we venture west with some brief free time for you to explore the impressive hilltop town of San Gimignano, with its many towers and winding streets. The delightful medieval town once boasted 70 towers of which just 13 now remain, though it is still an impressive sight. San Gimignano is also well known for its white wine from the Vernaccia grape. There are several interesting art shops, wine shops, numerous delicatessens selling excellent wild boar salami and many mouth-watering cake shops for you to indulge in before our afternoon flight back to London.
Tom has written about the drinks industry, specifically wine and whisky, for more than 20 years. Beginning with the world of wine after spending four years in Italy, he then moved back to Scotland in 1998 and his focus shifted to also include whisky. He has written prolifically for a number of publications, including The Sunday Telegraph, Decanter, Harpers and Whisky Magazine. He has written and co-authored three books on whisky, and currently writes a weekly column for the Herald. He was also recently shortlisted for International Short Copy Columnist of the Year at the Louis Roederer International Wine Writers’ Awards.