Italy, Tuscany: medieval architecture, beaches and wine production

The 10 best wineries in Tuscany

Tuscan winery

Wine and its production are part of Tuscan culture, no less important than painting and architecture. That’s why wine tours and agritourism are as popular here as Santa Maria del Fiore and the Uffizi Gallery. Why not pay a visit to one of the wineries?

Don’t be afraid you won’t understand the Italians, who speak passionately about wine making. Most of the guides speak English. If you do not know English, sign up for a wine tour with a Russian-speaking guide.

It is said that Tuscan wine does not make you drunk, and Tuscan food does not make you fat. Well, it’s time to check it out. We present you 10 great wineries from different parts of Tuscany, which are easy to visit from Florence by rental car.

Tuscan wineries: top places to visit

The winery where Chianti is made – Castello di Verrazzano

vineyard

The Castello di Verrazzano, named after the famous Italian navigator, is the fiefdom of Tuscan agritourism, known for its red dry Chianti wines. There are endless flat rows of vineyards and the castle itself, built 1,000 years ago.

An English-language tour of Verrazano includes a tour of the estate, cellars and production facilities. Then there is a tasting and lunch. At the tasting, you will taste Verrazzano Chianti Classico and learn how it differs from Verrazzano Chianti Classico Riserva and other wines.

All types of tours of the castle are about the same, differing only in the time of visit and the amount of food. However, even the minimum set will not leave guests hungry: as an appetizer we serve wild boar salami, Tuscan crostini, sheep cheese pecorino and caprino, cheese made from goat milk, and other Tuscan delicacies.

Where to go : the Municipality of Greve in Chianti

Vineyards and Montefioralle Winery

vineyard

The family winery at the foot of the Montefioralle hill is one of the small producers of Chianti Classico and Vin Santo. The owners of the farm are in love with their business and are eager to pass on their love to visitors.

On a tour you will be told about the stages of wine making, from crushing the grapes to bottling, and, of course, a tasting, either in the room above the cellar or outdoors, among the vines.

The winery is not large, so you will be treated as the most expensive guests, but you have to make an appointment in advance, as in the season the winery can receive no more than 3-4 groups a day.

Where to go: Montefioralle village

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Tenute Guicciardini Strozzi winery

winery

The owners of the Cusona estate, descendants of the Guicciardini and Strozzi noble families, offer tourists wine from the vineyards of San Gimignano, Bolgheri and Maremma.

In addition to the traditional Chianti, there are 22 types of wine in the cellars. Here are a couple of them:

  • Okra, the “blood of the earth.”
  • A strong, aromatic Grappa.
  • Cusona brut sparkling wine.
  • The oldest Vernaccia di San Gimignano, mentioned by the famous Florintian Dante Alighieri and Lorenzo the Magnificent.

In the autumn, guests hunt game and white truffles.

The Guicciardini Strozzi estate is included in the optional program of the so-called Chianti Tour, which is conducted by a Russian-speaking guide. In addition to visiting the winery and tasting, it includes guided tours of San Gimignano and Certaldo Alto.

Where is it located: the town of San Gimignano, province of Siena.

BuonamicoTenuta white wine winery

glass of wine

Montecarlo di Lucca is said to be “a white island in the red sea of Tuscany”. That is, white wines are made here, unusual for the region. The best white varieties of Montecarlo Bianco, Vermentino and Vasario can be tasted at Buonamico Manor.

There are also red wines based on Sangiovese grapes, such as Montecarlo Rosso, Dea Rosa rose and Spumant i sparkling.

In addition to traditional tours and tastings, the winery has a wellness center and a Buonamico wine resort.

Where is it located: The municipality of Montecarlo, Province of Lucca.

PodereIl Cocco family winery

bottle of wine

The Bindi family winery near Montalcino consists of two vineyards at 300 m and 600 m above sea level, olive groves and a cellar. The farmers tell tourists about the intricacies of their craft and are very proud of the fact that they work the land only organically.

During the tasting at this Tuscan winery you will get acquainted with the solid Brunello di Montalcino and young Rosso di Montalcino, as well as Brunello Grappa, which is made from the grape cake.

Behind the glass cellar door, the hospitable hosts treat you to lunch at a large table, reminiscent of rustic times, and invite you to stay in the farmhouse guesthouse.

Where is it located: the municipality of Montalcino, province of Siena.

Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona winery

wine tasting

On the southern slopes of the Val d’Orcia valley lies the estate and vineyards of Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona. Here they grow their own varieties of Sangiovese grapes, including the vintage Sangiovese Grosso with its rare brush and thick rind.

The winery has two wineries: a historic cellar of the XVII century, where vintage wines are aged, and the new Molinello complex, designed according to the latest technology.

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Experts in wine ratings and reviews constantly point to the production of the estate: both the classic Brunello di Montalcino Pianrosso, which cannot be made every year, and the unique Ateo San’Antimo, the “atheist” wine, first made in the lean year of 1989.

Location: Castelnuovo del Abate, municipality of Montalcino, province of Siena.

Villa La Ripa winery

vineyard

Existing since 1558, Villa La Ripa was recently purchased by the neurologist doctor Luzzi and turned it into a prosperous farm and a lifelong dream. In addition to the ubiquitous Sangiovese, Trebbiano, Syrah and Malvasia are grown here, a variety that loves the climate of the province of Arezzo.

They make white Namaste and pink Spazio liber o, Peconio and Psyco , fruity and spicy Syrah-Syrah .

“Wine is like a newborn baby”, philosophically remarks Signor Luzzi, alluding to the gradual evolution of the wine must and the complete dedication of its “parents”.

On the tour, tourists are led through all corners of the villa, telling its history, and be sure to conclude the meeting with a tasting of three wines with bruschetta, cheese and olive oil.

Where is it located: the city of Arezzo, the administrative center of the province of Arezzo.

Fattoria al Dotto winery

glass of wine

The al Dotto farm has been looked after by several generations of the same family. Its current senior representative is Giacomo Bertuccelli.

His love for farm work and vines, favorable seasonal winds and southern gentle slopes help to create a great product: ruby-red Sangiovese, refined Carillus, greenish Vermentino di Toscana and Rosapenna with berry flavors.

It is easily accessible by bus from the colorful Tuscan city of Lucca. Guests visit vineyards, olive groves, tracing the path of wine from the grape harvest to the cellar. The generous hosts accompany the tasting with a casual lunch.

In May, Fattori al Dotto hosts a traditional spring festival of food, wine and music, with proceeds going to a charity.

Location: Lucca, the administrative center of the province of Lucca.

Poliziano Winery

wine cellars

Nobile di Montepulciano, Rosso di Montepulciano and sweet Vin Santo are the pride of the Poliziano estate.

Three generations of the Carletti family monitor the quality of the product and develop their farm. This includes studying and increasing plantings of the local Prugnolo Gentile variety, which is superior to Sangiovese. The history of the research is kept in the archive and is available to visitors.

A tour to this Tuscan winery can be booked in advance. But the owners believe that good wine sells itself, so they hold mini-tastings for free and without appointment.

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Where is it located : Montepulciano, province of Siena.

Fattoria Terre del Marchesato winery

glass of wine

“The Land of the Marquis” is how the name of this Tuscan farm is translated. The history of the winery lasts only about half a century, and it began with the purchase of a simple farmer Emilio of land in Bolgheri from a certain Marquis.

Now the business is continued by his grandson, who named new wines after his grandfather – Emilio Primo Bianco and Emilio Primo Rosso. The Marquis was also lucky – the spirits Grappa Del Marchesato and Brandy Del Marchesato are named after him.

Production volumes at the farm are still small, but visitors note a significant superiority of the quality of the product over the price.

Location: Bolgheri, Castagneto Carducci, province of Livorno.

Enjoy your tasting! We hope to take a delicious piece of sunny Tuscany with you.

Tuscan Wines

Tuscany has been making wine since antiquity, but it was not until the 20th century that the region became synonymous with quality. Let’s find out what led to better wines and what prevented them from doing so before.

This is a part of interactive lessons prepared by the Level One educational platform in cooperation with major Russian experts.

There are 500 more lessons on 15 topics, from history and architecture to health and cooking at levelvan.ru/plus

Member of the Russian Sommelier Association, director of WineState Wine Academy and WSET certified teacher.

First, let’s understand where the region of Tuscany is and what it looks like.

Tuscany is a region in central Italy. The capital of Tuscany is the beautiful Florence. The area of the region is almost 23 thousand km². The population is 3.7 million people. Consists of ten provinces.

Tuscany borders Liguria in the northwest, Emilia Romagna in the north, the Marche and Umbria in the east and Lazio in the south.

⛰ The coastline of Tuscany stretches for 633 km! The region is washed by two seas: the Tyrrhenian and the Ligurian. The main landforms of Tuscany are the hills, which together with the candles of cypresses have become for many the main association with the region. One-fourth of the relief is occupied by the Appenine Mountains. There is the valley of the river Arno.

In Tuscany the area of vineyards is quite large: 62.5 thousand hectares (for comparison: about half as much as in Bordeaux).

Tuscany is the record region for the production of DOCG wines. It produces 2.7 million hectoliters of wine per year. 60% of them are DOC and DOCG – i.e. high, non table quality wines.

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1 – Tuscany region on the map of Italy

2 – Map of the Tuscan provinces

3 – The main river of the region – the Arno

4 – Physical Map of Tuscany

5 – Hills – the main feature of Tuscany relief

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In terms of winemaking, Tuscany is a pretty ancient region . Perhaps that’s why for many people it, and not Piedmont, is the symbol of Italian winemaking. Everyone is entitled to their opinion here, and to learn about the history of Tuscany will be interesting for everyone.

The wine history of the region begins in the 5th century BC with the ancient civilization of Etruscans, who had a cult of winemaking. For them, the vine was the conductor of the sun. The Etruscans believed that it collects, recycles solar heat and energy and gives it to humans in the form of wine. Therefore, wine from grapes from the sunniest areas was considered more valuable – we can assume that the Etruscans had some idea of terroir.

The Romans brought winemaking techniques and new legends about Bacchus (Dionysus), the god of winegrowing, winemaking and the hills, to the region.

In the Middle Ages, Tuscany became one of the main and lively centers of trade, and the demand for Tuscan wines was very high . The Medici dynasty played an important role in the establishment of the wine industry, which then owned these lands.

In 1716, Cosimo the Medici III set up a wine-growing area called Chianti, with specific regulations. Nowadays the borders of this first historic zone will be delineated by the Chianti Classico DOCG appellation.

1 – Portrait of Cosimo III de’ Medici.

2 – The first historic Chianti wine-growing area

In the 19th century, two important events happened in Tuscan winemaking that made local wines what they are today.

Here’s what happened

1️⃣ In 1872, the Chianti “formula” appears – it clearly prescribes the varieties and proportions to be observed when making wine. Before that all kinds of wine in any proportions were mixed.

The author of the formula was Barone Ricasoli. He was from a noble and wealthy family, twice became prime minister of Italy and had a parallel interest in wine. Personal interest, means and influence helped to realize the idea with the formula and to improve the quality of Chianti wines.

This is what the Chianti assemblage by Ricasoli looked like :

▫️ 70% sangiovese ▫️ 15% canaiolo ▫️ 5% white Malvasia or Trebbiano

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So sangiovese became the main variety of Tuscany, displacing the leader canaiolo.

This formula has lasted for over a hundred years . Today, Chianti wines can be a blend or 100% sangiovese – it’s the winemaker’s choice. But since 2006, white varieties have been banned for Chianti Classico, while white varieties are still allowed in the base ones.

2️⃣ In 1855 Vittorio degli Albizi first planted international varieties in Tuscany: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir. With this he laid the theoretical possibility of “Supertoscana” already in the 20th century.

If you are reading in English, we recommend a short article about the Albizi family, their connection to Burgundy and their contribution to the development of Tuscan wines.

1 – Portrait of Baron Ricasoli

2 – Château Brolio – home of the Ricasoli family and the largest winery in the Chianti Valley

The first half of the 20th century was very difficult for Tuscany, as it was for all of Europe. The phylloxera epidemic, two world wars and crises within Italy itself.

All this has greatly affected the quality of Tuscan wines in general and especially the Chianti region as historically the most important. The quality of Chianti wines is falling dramatically, production and bottling technologies are being violated.

At the same time fiasco bottles with straw braids became popular as another way to cheapen the wine. It was expensive to decorate the bottom of the bottle in production, and a basket of cheap and available straw kept the balance.

Fiasco bottles themselves have existed since the 14th century – back then, straw protected the thin glass. But since the 20th century, the straw braid became associated specifically with cheap wine. Now only some producers of basic wines have retained this design element.

→ It is believed that the name of the straw braided bottle came from an unfortunate performance by a harlequin, who wanted to improvise with the first object he saw – a bottle of Chianti. But he failed (fare fiasco).

Only in the 1960s the situation started to change thanks to the participation of the aristocratic families of Tuscany: Incisa della Rocchetta, Antinori, Frescobaldi, Biondi Santi. The result of their work brought the Tuscan wine to European level.

They did basically only one thing, but the key thing

⭐️ They invited good oenologists. The famous Giacomo Tachis and the best sangiovese connoisseur Giulio Gambelli.

The result of their work was the Super Tuscan Revolution

⭐️ In 1968 the legendary first release of Sassicaia wine appears.

⭐️ And in 1970 the revolutionary wine Tignanello is released.

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