Wine tasting holidays in Tuscany

Beside its multi-centuries towns and splendid countryside, Tuscany is also famous for its wineries. A different but wonderful way to get to know it, it's to plan a food and wine holiday discovering its great wines.

And in all honesty, who wouldn't feel like touring the Tuscan countryside and the various wineries to taste whites, reds, sparkling wines and whatever else might come to mind?

Among ancient vineyards, organic and biodynamic cultivation, avant-garde architectural and energy cellars, our recommendations produce Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino and Nobile di Montepulciano
 

Volpaia

Built in 1172, Volpaia is a historic village with wine running through the heart of it – literally, as a network of pipes transport wine across various buildings that comprise the winery, like veins pumping the hamlet’s life source around it. The majority (2/3) of the village is owned by Giovanella Stiani, whose father originally bought the site as a hunting ground. But now, the village has been transformed into an enchanting paradise, where wine lovers can stay in accommodation overlooking rolling vineyards, and take part in winery tours, where they’ll discover Vin Santo drying hooks, wooden oak barrels and metal fermenting tanks (which enjoy their home in a 15 th Century chapel!) carefully concealed behind 12 Century walls and covered in naturally occurring caper flowers. One building of particular historic interest is the church which, now used for functions, was in fact built in 1443 by Bartolemeo Canigiani in order to bargain his way into the Knights of Malta.

The modern winery equipment has been installed with such sympathy for its antiquated surroundings that if you wondered around without plunging into the castle walls, you might not even realise that vino (and olive oil!) is being produced all around you - though you’d definitely notice Spiga, the cheeky, charming and friendly village dog, wandering around and popping out of the winding alleyways she knows back to front! Volpaia is the perfect place for a delicious relaxing meal after a winery tour (which includes a wine tasting), and there are numerous food options to choose from, including their bakery for lighter bites, their Osteria (where we enjoyed an exquisite wild boar ragù with mushrooms and truffles) or you can even take an authentic Italian cooking class with Giovanella, and prepare bruschetta and zucchini trifolate of your very own!

Everything can obviously be paired with one of Volpaia’s beautiful wine varieties ranging from their Chianti Classico DOCG (for which the region of Tuscany is renowned) to their sweet Vin Santo, which you can also buy upon your return home, as Volpaia distributes all over the world, through companies such as Adnams in Suffolk, UK.

volpaia.it
La Volpaia Winery

 

Vignamaggio

Immerse yourself in wine with an extract scent of history at Vignamaggio, a 15 th Century villa and winery at the heart of the Chianti Classico region that is shrouded in the myth of the Mona Lisa. Local legend has it the subject of Da Vinci’s seminal painting was born at this very villa, and it is even speculated that it was here that she was immortalised in oil paint against the scenic backdrops of Tuscan hills. Whilst this setting cannot be confirmed, Vignamaggio was the setting for Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 film of Much Ado About Nothing! 

On a tour of the venue you wander round the enchanting villa and its formal renaissance garden (with many features alluding to Classical Greece and Rome such as statues, a temple like gazebo and a less than reliable sun clock) pretending to be Beatrice, Benedick or Hero, before your guide leads you to the cellars and explains the intricate process of producing Vignamaggio’s variety of wines, including their Merlote, Albaluce rosé Vin Santo, aged Grappa, and of course Chianti Classico DOCG. But these aren’t the only products of Vignamaggio, as they also produce olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cereal, make jam and marmalade from their fruit bushes keep pigs and have a vegetable garden, in a mission to replicate the farm’s self-sufficient past.

All the fruits of their labour can be tasted in the restaurant, before you can retreat to your beautifully decorated, room/suite, of which they are hoping to have 12 by 2020. We particularly enjoyed staying in their nearby stone farmhouses just a few steps away from the infinity pool with a beautiful view over the Tuscan countryside.

vignamaggio.com​
VIgnamaggio winery

 

Avignonesi

You’ve heard of organic farming, but have you heard about biodynamic viticulture? If not, then why not head to Avignonesi to learn about this, philosophical form of farming that reflects the ideas of philosopher Rudolph Steiner and his belief that everything in nature is interconnected by a resonance or vibe.

Located just over the natural border between the Montepuluciano and Chianti regions, Avignonesi, has been practicing organic and biodynamic methods since 2009, and is hoping to achieve certified status in 2020, which would make them the largest biodynamic winery in the world! On the tour around their 18th Century buildings and vineyards, you will discover Avignonesi’s unique farming approaches, such as growing secondary crops to increase their land’s biodiversity, their hexagonal vineyard – which is a far cry from the neat rows of vineyards you’re used to seeing in grape-growing Tuscany – and how they use ground up quartz and cow manure diluted in water (in a system similar to homeopathy) to fertilise their vines and soil…after they’ve been buried in a cow horn for 6 months to absorb the energy of the sun and soil of course!

Of particular interest is also their round vineyard, or vigna tonda, which was developed to test the perfect density for growing their vines, and is the only vineyard of its kind in the world!

Supposedly, biodynamic methods such as these don’t improve the taste of the wine, and merely to promote a more holistic relationship with nature. Either way, as you can discover on your post-tour wine tasting, Avignonesi’s wines are just as delicious and romantic as the process that brought them into being. We recommend tasting all 7 of their wines (as well as their Vin Santo for which they are famous – don’t miss seeing their Vin Santo temple and drying room, where the grapes are dried on straw mats in a method typical of the Montepuluciano region) so that you can compare the differences between their different vintages of Chardonnay, Merlot and of course San Giovese, one of the premiere grapes of the region, and one of the favourites of Virginie Sayers, Avignonesi’s current owner.

avignonesi.it
Avignonesi Winery
 

Banfi

For beautiful wine, history, luxury, and large helping of fairy-tale magic, there is no better place to visit than Castello Banfi in the quiet countryside of Montalcino, in the Province of Siena. Their estate of vineyards, olive groves and 7 artificial lakes spanning a whopping 3,000 hectares stretching out as far as the eye can see, can be admired from their hospitality and accommodation, which, not like any old hotel, is in fact located in a 12th Century castle, and has suites in the neighbouring medieval hamlet buildings, which is apt, because Banfi is a veritable village of delights.

There’s a swimming pool, multiple terraces for reading and relaxation (our favourite was the peaceful and picturesque rose garden often used for parties and wedding receptions) and even a wine museum with artefacts found in the castle. There are also two restaurants on site, La Taverna (for lunch) and Sala di Grappoli (for dinner) where you can enjoy exquisite dishes from melanzane alla parmigiana to duck ravioli washed down with a glass of your favourite Banfi wine, which can also be bought at the perfectly appointed wine shop – though it’s difficult to pick when Banfi produce around 30 sumptuous labels, as well as other products such as olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

One of their top wines is their Brunello di Montalcino, which is the wine that gave the name to Brunello – the friendly donkey down by Banfi’s farmhouse “Collupino” – who is sure to come out of his hut to say hello if you pay him a visit! That is of course after you’ve been on a winery tour, where you can see how wine is produced on an industrial scale, with high end technology, a cellar that houses 7000 barriques, and the largest Italian wine barrels you’ve ever seen, which are transported between underground and over ground in, again, the largest lift you’ve ever seen! Also, don’t miss at the whale remains (yes, a whale!, that has been lovingly named Brunella) at the end of the tour, which was discovered in Banfi’s fields in 2007 and is currently being studied onsite, allowing archaeologists to learn about a 4 million years old eco-system!

castellobanfi.com

Castello Banfi