Saturday, April 25, 2015

Meet me in Tuscany!

So our season has taken off big time and we're already super busy. That means I'll be blogging a bit less, but I'll try and get back on here once in a while with a bit of news.

In the meanwhile I look forward to meeting future guests. This year you'll meet me on Tasty Tuscany and Wines & Villas! New tours that I'm super excited about and featuring some of the best Tuscan wineries & food artisans. Hard job, but someone's gotta do it :)))

A spring photo of the family - self not included - someone has to take the photo! From left to right: Louise (12), Oliver (3), Julian (4) & hubby Pierre. Landscape around picture is Volterra.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Favorite Wineries: Monte Bernardi, the bellybutton of Chianti Classico

Chianti Classico is in the heart of Chianti, and Monte Bernardi is the bellybutton of it. As you drive through the Chiantigiana road, say from the North to the South, you'll hit Monte Bernardi a few minutes' drive after you leave Panzano.
Conveniently on the road you can stop by and taste delicious wines produced in a biodynamic way by Michael. Maybe you'll find his sis Jennifer, his dad Willy or perhaps Claudia - a "local girl" from Venezuela now settled in Chianti - and the second great thing about this estate (first being that the wines are yummy) is that everyone speaks an impeccable English and has the flair for entertaining people. 
If you contact Monte Bernardi ahead of time (always recommendable) you can set up a tour for a reasonable fee, and see the vineyards & cellars. If you're not much of a planner, no worries, you can always stop in for a taste of the delicious wines. 

Just a few minutes' away (direction Radda in Chianti) there's a small road side restaurant that you shouldn't miss. It's called Le Panzanelle and in what has become a very touristy region this place seems to have kept its local flair and is hence also recommended by the locals. Hereunder you can see a few appetising photos from a lunch we had here last year during spring.

And then time to North of Monte Bernardi and take a turn towards Radda in Chianti after around 500 yards.
Then drive a few kilometres and you'll find this restaurant on the left hand side as soon as you get to a cluster of houses.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Favorite Wineries: Selvapiana in Rufina

So I continue with the series of Favorite the end there should be quite a nice selection in this blog ;)
Rufina is a Northern area of Chianti (see map) referred to on labels as Chianti Rufina DOCG. It's considered second best to Chianti Classico because of it's elevation and cooler temperatures during summer (we're just up against the Apennine mountain range here). These conditions give origin to wines that are age-worthy.
Selvapiana is one of the oldest wineries of the region. The property has been in the family for 200 yrs and is now run by brother and sister Francesco (see pictures) and Silvia. The wines produced are fabulous - can stand comparison with any great Chianti Classico on any day, and are priced slightly lower than most Chianti Classico is. The Vin Santo is one of the best I've ever had. And there's the Pomino Rosso made half from Sangiovese and equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot - a great every day wine.
Visit the winery if you're in the area. There's a great historical cellar with old dusty bottles of tempting vintages. The site is but you are probably best of calling ahead or just dropping by.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Favorite Wineries: Stefano Amerighi in Cortona

Cortona that lies "under the Tuscan sun" in Southeastern Tuscany has become a well respected wine region by now. Cortona has a DOC that allows up to 11 varieties of grapes (even unusual varieties not commonly found in Tuscany such as Gamay and Pinot Noir), but Syrah has been the one variety that has triumphed over the others.

The area of Cortona lacks the noble wine history that has gone on in the past few centuries in the neighbouring regions of Montepulciano, Montalcino & Chianti Classico - so you could kind of consider it emerging, even if of course wine has been made here as well in Etruscan times. But we're down in the Valdichiana valley, an area which perhaps doesn't give its very best to Sangiovese. This explains the revival when a few started to experiment successfully with for example Syrah or Merlot. 

The first winery to put itself seriously on the wine map in Tuscany was Tenimenti d'Alessandro. Already in the 90'ies they became notorious for their Syrah called Il Bosco, at the time considered a Super Tuscan. It's now a well-established winery of the area and, of course, tastings are available at the winery:

Stefano Amerighi is the new generation and has been the hot news around Cortona for the past couple of years. We went to visit him to see his set-up and meet the guy who works biodynamically obtaining a label that is now very well respected and to be found in the best wine shops & restaurants around Tuscany.

Stefano's winery is low-impact, completely modernly built into the hillside. It's functional and he works with traditional cement tanks and French barrels side by side, in order to create a unique style, but representative of his territory and Tuscan traditions. You can visit Stefano's winery to learn more about Syrah in Cortona and biodynamic growing, but it's very much a one man show so make sure to contact him well in advance to set something up: Here you can enjoy a few pictures from our day with Stefano.

Please notice that Stefano's Syrah is available for purchase online here:

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Italian Wine Scores and Ratings

Lets talk a bit about scores. Not because they are very important to me personally, and a lot of people question how unbiased they are. But they still are of significant use to the wineries as publicity and notoriety.
The US scores wines in points (100 point system - e.g. Wine Spectator or Robert Parker), the Brits also (20 point system - Decanter), and some Italian writers will also use numbers (Veronelli & Maroni), but others score wines in glasses or clusters or snails... 
It's sort of nice to know a bit about it if you intend to go wine touring in Italy where you will see awards hanging on the walls of the wineries. Many awards are the international ones, but then we also have the Italian ones. Here are the main 3 deciphered with their rating system.

The most well-known guide to Italy's wines is the Gambero Rosso that comes out yearly with Vini d'Italia (usually in the fall) and is published in Italian and translated and published in English, too. The Gambero Rosso bases their findings on tastings of wines sent to them from the wineries, and score wines in glasses. There are 4 ratings: 1 black glass (a fair wine), 2 black glasses (a good wine), 2 red glasses (a very good wine - a run-up to the final selection), and 3 red glasses (an excellent wine, winner of the 3 red glasses award). Available on Amazon in English also Kindle version.

Then you have the Italian Association of Sommelier (AIS) and their guide Bibenda that has gotten a bigger importance in the past 10 yrs. Rated by certified sommeliers inside the organisation, here the rating system is from 1 to 5 grape clusters, 5 being the best. Bibenda only exists in Italian, but if you can read Italian you can buy it and have it shipped to you from the Italian Amazon.

SlowWine is the newcomer, but has pushed forward as another valuable award giver to wineries. It's by the Slow Food Editor and wineries are rated by slow food members who volunteer to go to wineries and a taste wines (members are not necessarily wine experts!). They rate a lot on "simpatia" (understood the latino-way - so familiarism or congeniality) and so this guide could be good for you if you would like to visit wineries, as the wineries rated are usually of the smaller kind. Highest award is the snail. Best if you are travelling is probably the App that comes in both Italian and English.

That's all for this week. Here's a picture taken last summer from our new place in Tuscany. Breathtaking, isn't it?!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Favorite Wineries: Boscarelli in Montepulciano

Sigh, a couple of busy weeks between coming back to Tuscany and opening up the businesses for the season again. A lot LOT of cleaning at the wine schools, reordering and organising staff, ourselves (!) and getting completely ready for busy times.

Anyway, finally a moment to write up a little post. I'm giving you another of my favorite wineries to visit in Tuscany, Boscarelli. This is by no means an unknown winery or hidden gem (even though admittedly not very easy to find) as it has been around since the dawn of the DOC designation for Montepulciano and, in fact, was one of first wineries in the region to set a standard of quality that others could only dream of.

What I love about visiting the Boscarelli winery is that there is absolutely nothing fancy about it. It's a real working winery with lots of busy activity. It's small, fit into several buildings - where ever there is space for a tasting table, we will taste the wine. It's creative - Nicolò, one of the owners (see picture hereunder), spends his pass-time on converting barrels into tables & chairs. Then there are a lot of girls that work at the winery doing pretty tough jobs and I admire these souls for doing so. The wines are of a remarkable quality, compared to what is produced in many other places around Montepulciano. And during the tasting you typically get to taste ALL of the wines that are made, which is something that I love! Often times wineries will only allow you to taste a silly is that?! Here you'll taste it all and in progression of yummyness!

This is a winery that we visit every Wednesday - should you like to join us, sign up here:

You can also go by yourself. You should call up ahead or contact the winery by email before you go. Tours and tastings have to be booked well in advance:

And need I say that (some) wines are available for purchase on ?!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

February - Chianti Classico Collection

It is wine trade show time in Tuscany. It starts with the anteprime Vernaccia di San Gimignano and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (always the same days!) then it's Chianti Classico Collection time in Florence at Stazione Leopolda and it ends with Brunello di Montalcino. The events are organised by the Consortiums of the regions and wineries may participate if they please (actually quite a lot opt not to). Those who do can bring their regional wines (so the free IGT wines are not really on show) and can bring the new vintages even if not yet released nor in bottle (so barrel samples). 
It's a great occasion for us winos to say hello to wineries we know and to ones we may want to get to know more of...and, of course, to taste wines side by side comparing one producer to another is kind of fun, too. 
So how do you get in? You're really supposed to be of the trade...but where there is a huge wine passion there is a way. Contact the Consortiums (see links above) a few months before the shows (so November - December) and beg...

Step 1: receive a glass and wear it around your neck in a fashionable glass-holder!

If you are VIP, you may get to sit here and taste (but profs spit so that's not much fun)

Riikka-Sofia - our wine school Sommelier - so cute!

Here we are ready to attack the wineries!

Tasting the new vintage at Monte Bernardi with Jennifer & Michael

Super happy Federica from Volpaia doing business

You'll meet Silvia normally at Corzano & Paterno where we go on our Super Chianti tour. Here she's showing the DOP Chianti Classico olive oils from 2014. A few good ones even if the harvest was bad.

Bumping into Bernardo who's been tasting all day (I assume by the color of his teeth!), winery consultant & Grape Tours tour guide!

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