A nearly 9,000-square-mile region of rolling verdant hills, salty coastline, and picturesque hilltop hamlets, Tuscany is an incredible play land for the eno-curious. The region’s heavy-hitters are many, from Chianti Classico, to Brunello, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano—and, of course, the famous Super Tuscans. It’s filled with landmark wineries and epic winemakers who know it, so they’ve created incredible experiences and tasting rooms to attract visitors, from fairytale to futuristic, combing natural landscapes with award-winning architects. Whether you’ve only got time for a light tasting or want to make a day out of a full regional experience, we’ve got you covered. Exploring this countryside is the tastiest way to truly understand Tuscany, which is why we’ve picked our favorite wine tours and wine tastings in Florence.
Badia a Coltibuono
Badia a Coltibuono is set in a beautiful landscape of rich greens near Siena. Its charming medieval building, a historic abbey with a romantic atmosphere, looks like the backdrop to a Raffaello painting. Guests reserve their Chianti tasting in advance, so you can be sure that everyone here has done their research—you’ll be in good company. The entry-level wine tasting, though well planned, doesn’t include snacks. If you’re looking for a bite, go for the more advanced tasting, which includes charcuterie and bruschetta.
Cantina Salcheto enjoys an enviable and jaw-dropping location—in the beautiful hills of Montepulciano—and manages to toe the line between rustic and futuristic, if that’s possible. The 40-acre main vineyard is Tuscany at its best: rolling hills, rich colors, and a state-of-the-art cellar that’s impressive in looks and, of course, in inventory—here, you’re drinking Rosso di Toscana IGT and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG. There’s no food in the basic tasting, but you can upgrade to the paired tasting or enjoy lunch at Salcheto’s onsite enoteca.
Rocca di Frassinello is a beautiful and modernist winery designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano. The feat of geometry—whose rich ambers and reds seem to fold into the greens of Grosseto along Tuscany’s coastline—is a must-stop for architecture buffs and oenophiles alike. Rocca di Frassinello isn’t the kind of place you just happen upon—Maremma, in the south of Tuscany, is rugged cowboy country, so there are no crowds; rather, you’ll be tasting cult favorite wines alongside well-researched and well-traveled culture vultures.
Ornellaia, which produces superb Super Tuscans that most can only dream of tasting, is one of the most exclusive wineries in Tuscany, and it’s the perfect place to come with wine-loving friends. The landscape itself is worth the trip, with verdant and beautifully landscaped hills dotted with castle and towers here and there along the coastline between Livorno and Grosseto. Visitors will gain a fully immersive lesson in the world of winemaker Axel Heinz’s Super Tuscans and innovative wines, which are favorites among collectors sommeliers the world over.
Castello di Ama
Located in a beautiful medieval hilltop town just north of Siena in Chianti, Castello di Ama feels like an old-fashioned fairytale—one that also happens to be a destination for contemporary art. Lush vineyards produce award-winning wine; gardens are a backdrop to 14 site-specific works and installations by 13 international artists, a combination that attracts wine connoisseurs and art lovers alike. The tour and tasting of Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG also includes bruschetta, though if you’re looking for something heartier, the surrounding picturesque village has an enoteca.
Biondi Santi Tenuta Greppo
One of the most popular wineries in the world, Biondi Santi’s tours and tastings are superbly rated—for good reason. This is the seat of Brunello di Montalcino, one of the most popular reds coming out of Tuscany around the world. When you book, you’re asked a series of questions relating to your knowledge of and interest in wine; from there, you’ll be matched with a guide and tour type. Even those with little (or no) knowledge can enjoy the sweeping views and the history of the vineyard, as well as the universally edifying experience of learning about trade and practice.
Antinori nel Chiati Classico
Antinori nel Chianti Classico is nothing if not monumental: a striking contemporary sculptural edifice that epitomizes the winery’s impact on Italy’s history and culture. Antinori is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) producers of wine, and one of the most historic: the label defined, and then redefined, Chianti Classico, upgrading it from a table wine to a prestige one. The architecture, designed by Marco Casamonti, best exemplifies this grandeur. Antinori plays the classics; expect plenty of silky Chianti Classico.
Altesino is a postcard-perfect Italian country villa off a charming dirt road in the Montalcino hills. The late-14th-century Palazzo Altesino sets the stage for an elegant wine. Visits are private; often it’s only you, your group, and the winemaker. The focus is Altesino’s award-winning wines, from Brunello di Montalcino DOCG to Rosso di Montalcino, and you can also a enjoy a decent snacks pairing. The beautiful location promises to win everyone over, no matter how much they know about wine.
DiVine Tours offers a series of bespoke wine tours around Tuscany and other select parts of Italy—Umbria, Sicily, Puglia, and Piedmont, among others—all of which are highly personalized and professional. Miriam, DiVine’s owner and founder, is a consummate professional who hires top-notch guides and experts. Her tours are very organized and very easy to understand, and you can customize pretty much everything. These tours are excellent for those interested in attaining robust knowledge of area wineries and their history, but they’re not for people who don’t like wine.
A walled hamlet on a Chianti hill, Volpaia is the quintessential Tuscan wine fantasy visit. The town itself is charming and the castle drips with Florentine history, having served as a key defensive outpost for the Florentine Republic during its heyday. Volpaia wines are exceptional Chianti Classicos, and that’s what you’ll learn about on a private tour. The staff is very personable and friendly—but most importantly, they know and love Volpaia, and that enthusiasm is infectious.
Podere Le Ripi
A beautiful Tuscan drive through winding rustic roads ends at Podere le Ripi, a photogenic winery with a modern reception and tasting area. Winemaker Francesco Illy (of the Illy coffee family) is known industry-wide as an innovator; his wines are biodynamic—and he himself is dynamic, too. After a tasting and snack, you’ll leave with one key takeaway: that you can at once embrace and buck tradition while still creating great wine.
Felsina’s picture-perfect stone entrance comes into view after you’ve slowly meandered around the hills and valleys of Chianti—and what a sight it is. Here, the mentality is purist; everything you eat comes from the surrounding land. The olive oil is from single cultivars, and the oil-making process strictly adheres to Veronelli’s rules of pressing. You can have a simple Chianti wine tasting, a wine tasting with a light lunch, or a wine and olive oil tasting with lunch alongside other wine lovers, culinary travelers, and anyone interested in the hows and whys of wine- and olive-making.
Written by Erica Firpo, January 18th 2019, for CNTraveler
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