Monday, March 11, 2013

Best of Tuscany Tasting Tour

This past weekend, the majority of my roommates flew off to Paris, leaving Niki and I to our own devices. We decided to take advantage of the last weekend before the stress of midterms hits and go wine tasting in Tuscany. So far I’ve mostly been staying in Florence this semester, so I was really excited to see some of the less touristic areas of Tuscany.

First thing Sunday morning, we got on a bus to Montepulciano—where we saw the setting of scenes from Twilight: New Moon and Under the Tuscan Sun. After walking through the town, we arrived at the wine cellars of Cantine Redi. After walking down into the wine cellars, the first thing we saw were rows of huge Slovenian oak barrels filled with aging wine.

Before tasting the wines, we got a history of the cellars, dictated in Italian by our host, and translated by our own tour guide, Francesco. Although Francesco was only supposed to be translating, he often offered his own opinions or corrections to the history lesson—much to the irritation of our host. It became more of a competition than an informative presentation, with Francesco constantly trying to one-up the host.

We began the tasting with the youngest wine, a 2011 Rosso di Montepulciano, which is an everyday wine. Next, we tasted the Rosso d’arnaldo, a version of the famous nobile wine, made with the original Renaissance process. The final wine was a 2008 Vino Nobile Reserve.

After briefly wondering around Montepulciano, we moved on to an organic cheese farm “in the middle of nowhere,” where we had a cheese tasting, after seeing the cheese-making process, followed by a very filling lunch of pastas and a tour of the farm. The farm is known for pecorino cheese, a very common type of cheese produced in Tuscany. After lunch, we saw how ricotta is made, and were able to have fresh ricotta with honey for dessert. I’m not a ricotta fan, but it was absolutely delicious—made with the traditional method, not machines.

Once the tasting was finished, we moved saw the farm animals and even got to hold baby sheep and goats! They were so adorable. Unfortunately, the sheep I held was NOT happy. In fact, I very narrowly escaped getting pooped on. Poor girl who help the sheep after me…


The baby goat they brought out was only one day old! I was completely shocked. First, by how large it was for only being a day old. Second, because they would bring out a newborn goat to be handled by strangers. Luckily, it was a friendly goat.

After filing back into the bus we drove to Pienza, the setting for scenes in Gladiator. Un until this point, our tour had been lucky with beautiful blue skies. But as soon as we got off the bus, it started raining. Slowly, at first. During the course of our short tour, it began to pour. The weather was so bad, our time was cut short and we headed back to the bus and on to our final destination: Cantina di Montalcino. (But not before I snuck off to get a cappuccino with Nicole.) 


The winery in Montalcino was a good deal larger than the first cellar in Montepulciano. It was run by Mario, this 80-year-old Italian man, who despite his age and married status, insisted on flirting with all the girls on the tour. While he was telling us about his winery, we could faintly hear Greenday’s “Minority” being played over and over by his grandson’s garage band.

The wine tasting began with a 2010 Rosso di Montalcino, a typical dinner wine. We then tasted a 2007 Brunello di Montalcino. This particular vineyard is known for the Brunello wine. In fact, the 2004 Brunello di Montalcino Reserve was named internationally the best wine the year it was produced, and according to our tour guide, and if the owner was in a good mood we might get to taste it.

The next wine we sampled was the Brunello di Montalcino Vigna Piaggia, 2008. With dessert, we were given shots of Grappa di Brunello Reserve. As Mario told us, dinner at the vineyard used to be like a party, and he wanted to recreate that atmosphere. Finally, after wondering and waiting, Mario (a little on the short side) stood up on a bench to announce that he was bringing around his world-renowned 2004 Brunello Reserve! As with all reserve wines, we were instructed to let it breathe, but this time the importance was emphasized.

Truly, this was an amazing wine. We drank slowly, savoring every sip, until it was time to get back on the bus and return to Florence.

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