Guide to Wine Tasting in Tuscany
Italy has wine operations by the thousands and Tuscany in particular has hundreds of quality wine producers. Apart from northern Italy, the Tuscan area probably has the largest concentration of vineyards, olive orchards, and wineries. If you are planning a trip to the region then a day (or two) of wine tasting should definitely be on your list of things to do. Tuscany’s wineries and vineyards make up a significant portion of the local economy as well as add to the incredibly beautiful landscape. Wine tasting without a local guide, to me, is the most fun way to do it as you are relying on your own desires and preferences and, quite frankly, trying to find a local winery that is often on an unpaved road adds to the experience. Most wineries are open to the public and you can visit, and often times tour, without a reservation. Wine makers are excited to share their history, traditions, and technique with all visitors. Most of the wineries in Tuscany are family run and have been passed down through generation after generation. Only a few things are needed in order to get you started: a rental car, a good area map (GPS would even be better), a mindset for adventure, and possibly a designated driver (or at least someone in the group that will not go over board tasting).
Within Tuscany, the Chianti Classico region between Florence and Siena is the most productive. For most travelers coming to Florence and seeking to tour wineries without a guide, this is probably the best area simply due to its proximity to Florence. With planning, one could accommodate two Chianti Classico tours in one day and enjoy a delightful Tuscan lunch along the way.
The Chianti area is divided into nine communes or municipalities. Four of these are entirely in the Chianti Classico designated region and carry the name “in Chianti’ after the name of the commune/city, e.g., Radda in Chianti, Castellina in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti, and Greve in Chianti. The other five communes then state simply the name of the commune/city without that appellation. Each of these areas have a different terroir, somewhat different climate and some difference in elevation and orientation toward the sun. Thus, those of you who have developed sufficient skill in the ability to discern bouquet and tasting notes, you would appreciate tours and tastings among the different communes. From my perspective, each of the nine communes will have ample quality choices and interesting tours, and seek the adventure that awaits. I will note that not all roads are well marked or paved, and you might travel along a road that looks more like a driveway vs a public road. Also, travel times to these locations cannot get measured in the same fashion as your home country and that is where seeking local advice can be invaluable. The Consorzio del Vino Chianti Classico website has a complete list of wineries in the Chianti area. I have listed my favorite wineries in the self guided wine tours section on this website. I will continue to update that section as I visit more wineries.
The area south of Siena remains part of Tuscany and is home to the most prolific Tuscan wine, Brunello di Montalcino. Montalcino is a medieval community some 40 km SSW of Siena and ample numbers of Brunello wineries surround Montalcino, with most concentrations to the south and southwest. The Brunello area is largely bordered by Ombrone, Asso, and Orcia rivers. You could make a single Brunello tour/tasting in one day from Florence but trying to accommodate two would require a very early departure and late return. Depending on the time of year, your departure and return would likely be in the dark. Approximately 25 km east of Montalcino is Montepulciano, home to Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. This wine is also from the sangiovese grape, not to be confused with the wine known as Abruzzo di Montepulciano made from the Montepulciano grape and not found in Tuscany.
Venturing a little further south and west of these areas leads one to the area of Tuscany known as the Maremma which is located near the town of Grosseto. Though difficult for a single day trip, the Maremma has become my favorite area of Tuscany, perhaps because I spent several summers there before I was married managing a children’s camp. The Maremma is more rugged in appearance than the Chianti area, but has a number of compelling attractions, not the least is a coast line well suited for beach activity. Though not necessarily as well known as Chianti, the Maremma produces some of the best wine in Italy; the most famous are Morellino di Scansano and Bianco di Pitigliano. The best way to tour this area is to plan to stay several days and lodge at one of the various agriturismo farms. There a number of working farms/ranches that offer accommodations and any number of these are also wine makers and olive farmers. More so than the Chianti area, the smaller roads may not be well marked but I would not let that get in your way of visiting one of Italy’s lesser known jewels. For further information about Maremma wines and wine tasting read this article.
And last, but not least, are the “Super Tuscan” Bolgheri wines. Bolgheri is a medieval village about 70 miles SW of Florence located less than 5 miles from the coast. Whether you are wine tasting or not, it is a town worth visiting. The 5 km road leading up to the village is lined with spectacular century old cypress trees. If you wish to venture into the Bolgheri wine territory the area is well marked and the famous Tenuta San Guido, maker of Sassiccaia wine is along the road leading up to the village. In the village itself, are numerous Enotecas where you can taste and buy wines.
Now are you are ready to start planning your Tuscan wine tasting adventure! If you are have any specific questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me: email@example.com, I will do my best to help you! I also offer a full Tuscan travel consulting service if you need help planning your entire stay.