Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Relaxing escape in hidden Tuscany

You all know that Grape Tours is the best tour operator for wine tours in Tuscany, right?! (ha ha!)
Anyhow, can't just talk about ourselves, gets a little boring - need to give you some other great wine related tips, as well :)
So, happy to feature a short post about a friend's great initiative - a yoga and wine retreat in a beautiful castle in Southern Tuscany. Emily is British but like many of us loves the Italian hemisphere and is giving it a go with her yoga and sommelier background.
During the 4 days of complete relax, participants will get their WSET 1 certification (so learning basics about wine), wine & dine with the prestigious Sesti family in Montalcino, enjoy a spa day in Bagno Vignoni, do a butchery class - and something tells me, eat a lot of great meats, and much much more. For more info see Emily's page. If I didn't live here, I would want to do this myself!
Check out some pictures of Castello di Potentino - a hotel with a bit of history in the South of Tuscany.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Maremma - touring a weekend to wine & dine!

Maremma is the huge territory to the South of Tuscany that usually only gets attention when the locals are yearning for a beach vacation during summer. Otherwise it's a vast area of farmland that easily gets overlooked as it isn't close to any of the famous art cities. And that's totally unfair, as it hosts an amazing history of Etruscans, offers spectacular natural beauty, fabulous rather non-touristy villages, rather decent and very good value wines, great meat & great fish, fresh locally grown veggies, fruits, and what not. As I don't want to venture too far into the food stuff, if that's your interest I would rather give you a link to Emiko's post of great places to go around the Argentario area of Maremma. We LOVE to eat, but as you know we love wine even MORE...
This part of Tuscany is a real mix of rough beautiful nature including nature resorts and fertile farmland alike, cheap resort-like beach camping sites, Medieval hilltop ghost towns where it's impossible to imagine any modern life exists. 
The Tuscans are generally thought be simple country people (by other Italians) and the Tuscans themselves consider the Maremma region as the "wild west" where the wild boar population outgrows the human! 

Latin gives such authority to clever sayings: "A non-drinkers life is sad". Maremma covers several important wine designations in Tuscany - all from the famous Super Tuscans area in the North in Bolgheri, inland the Sangiovese still reigns with the DOCG appellations Morellino di Scansano and Montecucco, coastal wines include the whites Vermentino & Ansonica. Climate is hot & dry, soil types vary from area to area but tend to be quite fertile, hence great for other crops than wine. But since it seemed like easy catch to make plentiful of concentrated wines in Maremma, it became the hot spot for many wineries in Northern Tuscany to purchase land (as it was also much cheaper than any other affirmed wine region in Tuscany). 

During our short week-end we visited 3 completely different areas; Monte Argentario (Ansonica grapes), Magliano, Marciano & Scansano for Morellino (Sangiovese grapes) & Pitigliano (Ciliegiolo grapes & various native white grapes). Wines have been tasted, territory's been covered & studied - we're getting more & more ready for our SUPER EXCITING Etruscan Coast - Drink like an Etruscan God - Fufluns Week Tour in 2017!

Every time we go on one of these weekends and it's worth sharing, I always feel the best possible way is to show you the areas in pictures. After all, pictures speak for themselves - so lots of pictures to follow underneath...

Places we ate: Da Caino (Montemerano), Braccio (beach - Porto Ercole), Fattoria di Magliano (Magliano)
Wineries visited: Antonio Camillo, Poderi di Capoduomo, Sassotondo
We stayed at: Fattoria di Magliano - stunning location and B&B (with a very good breakfast, might I add) and family style restaurant, great views & huge pool (and had it been warmer we would have been splashing it, but we'll be back!) - AND it's a winery, too - so plenty of wine to be tasted right there!
More info on Maremma: Great resource/blog to Maremma is Mapitout

Typical Maremma landscape

 A street from inside the borgo of Scansano

Magliano in Toscana
Fattoria di Magliano where we stayed
Visiting with Antonio Camillo

 After working years for Poggio Argentiera, he started on his own just a few years ago

Restaurant da Caino in the beautiful village Montemerano
 Let the tasting menu begin!

A legendary chef, Valeria Piccini

The trip goes to Monte Argentario

 Quite impressed with this white Ansonica aged in Acacia barrels

 Stefano is popping open the bottles...
Pitigliano - the city built on and out of Tufo stone
Sassotondo winery
 Frost last week has gotten to some of the plants :(
 New friends
 Tufo cave served as wine cellar
 Ciliegiolo wine
 Tuscany lit by spring!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Art & Wine in Tuscany

I think by now I've made my point of view quite clear - I think of wine being so much more than a beverage of simple or more complex nature. People who work in the wine industry are usually driven by a passion that somehow got them caught up in dealing with wine professionally. Often people have incredibly diverse backgrounds, not necessarily with a scientific approach but often a bit more artsy which gives a little romance to the business.

Some may argue that wine is art in itself, and I'm not contrary to the thought.
But here by talking of art I'm thinking more in the direction of visual arts...sculptures, painting and the like. Some winery owners are artists themselves, and others collect art to display on their already beautiful estates.

So here's a list of a few wineries that come to mind if you love art & wine, and want to discover wineries in Tuscany that have an inclination to both!

Castello di Romitorio (Montalcino) - Renowned artist Sandro Chia was the founder of this respectable winery in Montalcino. The new cantina is quite artistic and also the labels of Castello di Romitorio have always stood out with the artsy nude bacchus inviting to another glass of Brunello!

Fattoria Nittardi (Castellina in Chianti) - The winery is like a contemporary art playground with a giant chess game and statues of various artists in display all around the property. Even some vats inside the winery have been painted decoratively. Every year a famous artist is commissioned to paint the label of the pure Sangiovese Chianti Classico, real collectors' labels!

Maté (Montalcino) - Visit this excellent Brunello producer in the South of Montalcino with owner Candace's art directly on the labels of her wines. She tells that she used to paint and now she makes wine, simply because making wine is so time-consuming, but she's stil an artist at heart! Candace lives in the most picturesque house ever - if you get lucky you can maybe get her to give you a peak inside!

Torre Alberghieri (Impruneta) - Here you can not just enjoy the happy art made by the owners Rodolfo & Roberto, but also enjoy a private painting class (whilst drinking wine) and the end of which you have a piece of art to take with you home and enjoy forever! See this link for more details & prices.

Casato Prime Donne (Montalcino) - owned by talented Donatella Cinelli Colombini who every year adds a piece of art of contemporary Tuscan artists, yet to become famous. The pieces are displayed around the estate and can be enjoyed by visiting the grounds, there's even a vineyard trek that one can do which is a really nice winery activity!

Castello di Ama (Gaiole in Chianti) - at Ama the art runs in the veins as much as the wine does. The contemporary art shown during the tour of the estate is magnificent and stands up to the beautiful wines produced at the estate. Definitely worth an outing and now there is even a restaurant at the estate, so all your senses can be indulged!

Molino di Grace (Panzano in Chianti) - founded by an American art collector who wanted to do with wine what he did with art, and now around 20 yrs later he's been able to prove that he was indeed able to do so. You can admire some statues around the modern cellar and the winery is easily accessible off of the road from Panzano that goes to Radda.

Personally not a huge art buff, I do love when the art gets witsy and when it has an element of wine stuff in it - that's to me the ultimate art!

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