Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Lambrusco revival!

One of the things I love the most are improvised visits to wineries that we discover along the way. Since we've had the kids the way we travel is mainly by car (simply because all the stuff that is needed!) so in driving back to Tuscany from Piedmont we stopped around Modena where food is heavenly - and it happened to be lunch time!
During lunch we had a delightful bottle of local Lambrusco. You heard of Lambrusco before? You're right, it's not exactly known to be the most phenomenal wine of Italy. Firstly it's an easy wine to remember because it's both the name of the wine grape (native to Emilia Romagna) and of the wine, usually made in a slightly fizzy version. In the past it was mass produced in a sweet version, exported, and contributed to the cheap reputation Italian wine got during the 70'ies. 
Nowadays, there's a revival (generally of native grapes) and together with better wine making techniques & a market of curious wine drinkers this wine is now getting to levels better than ever.
We surely enjoyed our visit to the winery called Podere il Saliceto. I completely forgot my nice camera, but thankfully the Iphone doesn't do such a bad job :)

When in the area, do stop in to eat at Ristorante Laghi (right off of the highway and next to a few lakes). You wouldn't believe by the look of the place how well you could eat!!!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Pictures from a midsummer Barolo wine tour

Thought I would share a few pictures from our trip to Barolo. For those of you not so familiar with Barolo, it's a wine region South of Turin in Piemonte at the feet of the Alps. Together with Brunello di Montalcino in Tuscany, Barolo is considered the most prestigious wine region in Italy and produces wines that are known to age - a rather rare phenomenon for Italian wines until recently. Both regions demand sky high prices on the market, the former gives usually more powerful wines because of the warmer climate and the latter more elegance thanks to a cooler latitude. 

In Barolo, from a village by the same name, vineyards are packed into every space of land that could possibly be grown to grapes (even Northern facing slopes!), with wineries of both the more historical kind but also a lot of modern establishments dot the landscape. 

So quite a bit cooler than Tuscany, this region boasts completely other grapes, especially the much popular Nebbiolo used for Barolo amongst others. Another of my favorite grapes is Barbera which usually gives birth to more yummy wines that are ready to be enjoyed at a young age. There are many more, but these are the 2 we've mainly enjoyed during our brief stay.

In Barolo a French-like Cru system is applied where each plot of land within its area is named. Some areas have become more famous than others due to favorable location and know-how of historical producers of promoting their zone (e.g. Bussia, Brunate, Cannubi...)

Where Tuscany is otherwise characterised by olive groves, Piemonte has the Nocciola IGP from hazelnut groves that grow adjacent to the important vineyards. Foods are generally quite different. Still lots of meats, slow cooked in Barolo for example. Great cow cheeses versus the Tuscan sheep cheeses, different pastas usually thinner and obviously different shapes, hazelnuts & chocolateB Breads are not super exciting (neither are Tuscan ones though - I mean, comparing to French bread!) except of the bread sticks "grissini" that go down only too easily!

The landscape is incredibly open and offers spectacular views. This picture was taken from the village of La Morra.

The Grape Tours van - www.barolo-wine-tours.com 

Castiglione Falletto in the center of Barolo, see the hazelnut trees in the foreground.

Nebbiolo, the region's claim to fame. Takes its name from the frequent fogs that hang out in the valleys.

La Morra is one of the highest lying villages - all worth paying a visit.

Can't not visit a winery or 2... We recommend Josetta Saffirio & Vajra where we enjoyed great tastings.

The younger brother of Barolo DOCG can be labeled Langhe Nebbiolo DOC, and is usually a declassified Barolo (intentionally of course)

View from Serralunga d'Alba on the East side of the Barolo region

I assume, a local. Picturesque character.

Love, love wine tasting! Here trying a Rossese Bianco (grape variety originally from Liguria - Cinque Terre - but also found here)

Castello de la Volta, just above Barolo village - just beautiful.

Two restaurant suggestions for you if you're in the area where we ate divinely:
L'Osteria del Vignaiolo - definitely go for the free choice tasting menu as it is a great deal!
La Coccinella - is just outside the border of Barolo, but really worth the drive. Yum!

Friday, August 14, 2015

New Tuscan Wine Tours Site!

So this year is just full of good excuses not to "have time" to write blog posts. The past few weeks, for example, have been "busy" with holidays as the kids are off from their schools & preschools. And then I've had the fun project of building a new and bit more modern web-site as I started to feel that the one I was using became more & more outdated...
So here's the new version which we'll use for the bookings for 2016 which are already rolling in! For the moment being you can view it on this address: www.grapetourstuscany.com

Sunday, July 5, 2015


Alvalenti (the very cool cartoon artist of Siena) has made our own personalised label for the fantastic balsamic that we get from Modena. We've already been selling this stuff for yrs and because it does so well we thought it would be nice to add our personal touch to the label...
It's available on our site www.tuscany-in-a-bottle.com for purchase together with a wide selection of Tuscan wines and olive oil.

It would be too easy to say that balsamic goes well on salads, fun to notice though that it goes well with cheeses like Parmigiano Reggiano, or try it on a steak with great olive oil, on fruits like strawberries or even on vanilla gelato...

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 eat...drive 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 Wineries...at 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 http://www.selvapiana.it/ but you are probably best of calling ahead or just dropping by.

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