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Published: October 18th 2011
Tuscan Wine Tour
The scenery was breathtaking and having Donatella showing us around made for a brilliant day!
DONATELLA’S TUSCAN WINE TOUR
We spent most of today in rural Tuscany with a company called Wine Tour in Tuscany owned and operated by Donatella. She picked us up in her minivan from outside our Hotel at 8.45am. There were 5 other people in our group, a couple in their 30ths from Seattle in the States and another American couple in their mid 20’s and a friend of theirs who was older.
The Tour was possibly an odd choice for us because we have no real interest in wine, but reading Donatella’s website and reading the Trip Advisor reviews we were confident the tour would give us the opportunity to experience the ‘real’ Tuscany – and so it proved!
We headed south towards the heart of Brunello wine country – Brunello is one of the most famous Italian wines. On the way we stopped at an organic farm that produced its own cheeses from goat and sheep milk, and its own wine. To get to the farm we had to drive for a few Kms on a gravel road so it was a fair way off the beaten track. The views across rural Tuscany as we drove
Christina explains her organic cheese making process
up the drive to the house were amazing. There were even Peacocks walking around the yard, apparently they are very effective snake killers and their presence keeps the snakes away.
We sat at a table with the most brilliant views and were given samples of the wine and cheeses to enjoy. The sheep milk cheeses were truffle flavoured, walnut flavoured, standard cheese 6 months old and standard cheese 2 years old. They were very tasty, especially the walnut flavoured one, as you would expect the aged cheese was very strong but delicious. I can’t eat goat cheese at all, to me it all tastes like smelly old goat, but Jeanette and the others enjoyed them. It was a bit strange having sheep milk cheese, there are millions of sheep in New Zealand but we use them almost exclusively for wool and meat production.
The owner Christina then took us into the ‘factory’ area where their range of specialist cheeses was made. As an example to get the walnut flavour the cheese is surrounded with leaves from a walnut tree and placed in a container to mature - with the flavour from the leaves transfering to the cheese over
An organic Perspective
Katia talks about her wine while we sample the fruits of her labour
time. There was another cheese surrounded by straw, and various other weird combinations. I say weird but they have developed a very specialist high end organic cheese business selling to exclusive shops. It’s great that they have been able to turn their passion into a viable business.
SAN POLINO WINES
From there it was off to the area surrounding Montalcino – Brunello Wine country, only wines produced in this area can use the prestigious Brunello name. We visited San Polino Winery an organic winery in another spectacular setting. It is a small vineyard run by a husband and wife team. Katia (who is English but has been living in Italy for many years) showed us the vines and explained how they would be prepared for the new season. She also talked about the differences and special challenges of producing high quality organic wines. Of course there was a San Polino Brunello tasting this time complemented with bread and olive oil (produced on the property). It was quite a buzz sitting in the vineyard looking over the Tuscan countryside eating and drinking products produced on the site.
WINES THE ITALIAN WAY
By this stage the whole thing was becoming
very interesting, for Italians wine (and food) is a passion and Donatella did an outstanding job explaining things in a way that even us novices could understand and appreciate. There are very strict regulations around producing certified Brunello Wine - including the watering of vines is not permitted even when things are desperately dry (as they are now). This is because Italians believe that the wines should truly reflect the climate in which they are produced, and staying true to nature gives each vintage its special personality.
Producing Brunello is also a long term project, grapes can’t be harvested until the vine is 10 years old and once picked it is 5 years before the finished product can be sold.
It was lunch time so Donatella took us to Alberto’s, a small restaurant on a vineyard where people must book in advance. In fact it’s not just a vineyard/restaurant, Alberto has a fascination with plants and he has species from all around the world giving him an amazing selection of fruit, vegetables and herbs – Including Kiwi Fruit!.
For lunch he made us his special long strip pasta –made from chicken eggs (produced by Alberto's
Sant' Antimo Abbey
We got to here the Monks Gregorian chants in this perfect setting -something special
chickens of course) and flour for a starter and lamb and spinach for a main. Washed down with a couple of bottles of his red wine and a grappa to finish. By this time everyone was getting on pretty well and it was obvious we were going to have a fantastic day.
For a complete change after lunch we went to the Abbey Sant’ Antimo which is located in (another) picture perfect valley just south of Montalcino. The imposing 12th century Romanesque Abbey is said to be one of the finest examples of its type in Italy. The Abbey is famous for the Gregorian chants of its Monks. Donatella timed our visit so we could listen to them, the setting the sound, the whole experience was something else.
SALVIONI WINES –THE TOP OF THE TREE
The final winery we visited was Salvioni – they are one of Italy’s finest. Recently four wines were selected as the best in Italy and the Salvioni Brunello was one of the four. Again we were treated to an in depth but easy to understand explanation and had plenty of samples before we were on our way. A bottle of Salvioni
Jeanette and our fabulous host Donatella at the end of our brillant day in the Tuscan countryside
Brunello 2006 is $115 Euros to buy so its top end tipple - although not the most expensive we saw in the Montalcino shops - that was 170 Euro per bottle. There were plenty of Brunello's priced at between 12 and 20 Euro's for those on a more limited budget!
We then had half an hour to walk through Montalcino before heading back to Siena. We got in at about 6pm. What a fabulous day. Donatella was full of energy and her enthusiasm was infectious. Given we are only in Siena for 3 days it was a great way to get out into the Tuscan countryside and make the most of our time there. We would thoroughly recommend Donatella and her Wine Tour of Tuscany –even if you’re not big on wines! Her knowledge is fantastic so if you are a keen wine buff then I'm sure you would find this tour absolutely brilliant.
Not that we needed any more food, but for dinner we headed down to the Piazza del Campo (despite the temptations of the Irsih Pub across the road from the hotel!) and enjoyed an alfresco dinner overlooking the square and surrounding historic buildings – magic.
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