You just can’t spend any time in Tuscany and not take full advantage of the wine. It’s would be almost immoral. It’s one of the best parts about Italy! Tuscan wines are some of my particular favorites (I know, I lived in France for three years – this love affair with Italian wine IS considered cheating…). I just can’t help myself. I absolutely adore a nice glass of chianti, sitting on a terrace, taking in the fresh air and views of the Italian countryside. Paints a perfect picture, doesn’t it?
I was fortunate to visit the Ornellaia Estate just outside Bolgheri when I was in Tuscany one summer. Tours are offered in Italian, English, German, and French, and are by appointment only, just FYI. It’s a boutique vineyard, so you won’t be facing the crowds you might encounter at the larger estates. Makes it all so much more personal and enjoyable in my opinion.
During our visit we were able to wander the grounds, visiting the vineyards, winery, and cellar. No matter how many vineyards I have visited, I am always in awe at how much work and knowledge goes into the production of wine. Much respect for these guys, they really know their craft, and are intensely passionate about it. Our guide explained to us the many steps that must be taken in order to take a little bunch of grapes and turn them into the nectar of the gods, all of which I have mostly forgotten now (or never heard, because I was too busy staring at the barrels upon barrels of the good stuff, wondering how I could roll one away without being conspicuous…).
Now it’s all well and good for them to tell us how good their wine is, but it doesn’t quite sink in until you try it for yourself. The tour did include a tasting at the end, in which we were able to sip on the vintages produced by this estate while someone explained to us some details about tannins, robustness, bouquet, and other such buzzwords. I’m not well-versed in the knowledge of wine, but it does make sense when they explain to you what you should be tasting as the wine is actually in your mouth. We tried three vintages: Le Volte dell’Ornellaia, Le Serre Nuovo dell’Ornellaia, and the premium Ornellaia, Bolgheri DOC Superiore. Yes, I bought a bottle. Yes, it was expensive… but so worth every euro cent!
If you ever find yourself in this little corner of Tuscany, take a ride out to Bolgheri. It’s a small village, but has some fabulous wines. The climate is sunny, dry, and moderately windy, making it ideal for the production of the same grape varietals as the Bordeaux region of France. They do it pretty well here too, with one wine, a Sassaciaia by Ornellaia’s neighbor Tenuta San Guido, having beaten out the French vintages in an event held by Decanter in 1974. And yes, they are still talking about it.