Touring the Chianti Wine Country

A confession: I’m no wine connoisseur. I can barely tell the difference between a red and a white wine and if it costs more than $10 a bottle it’s expensive in my book.

However I am in Florence which is near/in the Chianti Classico wine region of Italy and I’ve never done a wine tour before so “when in Rome…“.

Florence, Italy - Bottle of Chianti Classico

After a little research on the Internet I found a moderately priced group tour with Angela. Meet up at a piazza by the river at 9:45 and we’ll be on our way.

I leave my apartment early, so I can stop by one of my favorite neighborhood cafes, The Cafe Verdi and grab some caffeine, along with a pastry. Don’t want to start out wine tasting on an empty stomach.

The buzz at the Cafe Verdi this morning is the vandalizing of the theatre across the street (Teatro Verdi) by graffiti artists. (Sidenote: Italy, while a nice place to visit, is literally polluted by graffiti pretty much everywhere. It really detracts from the ambiance of the place. Unfortunately I think I’m becoming numb to it).

I start to order a caffè Americano when the owner behind the bar suggests a cappuccino. “Va bene (that’s fine)” I say. “Un cappuccino”. This meets with her approval. I now need to pick out a pastry and since none of them are labeled and nothing is obviously chocolate (cioccolato), I resort to my standby of pointing and saying “Questo (this).”

Florence, Italy - Latte in Espresso bar

I finish at the cafe and get to the piazza where I meet up with the other group members waiting. Angela and a couple of other drivers show up and we are assigned vehicles. As luck would have it, I get a pretty good deal. I’m the only one traveling with Angela initially because we are picking up two other participants (Melody and Lisa) about 20-25 minutes down the road, on the way to the first winery. I get my own private lesson in winemaking, the different types of Chianti wine, the region, etc.

Angela tells me that I’ll hear this information two more times on the tour; I tell her that hopefully by then it will start sinking in (it really did help me understand the differences between the different qualities of wine and the wine making process).

We pick up Melody and Lisa, two friends from Pittsburgh, outside a monastery from around the 10th century and head to the first vineyard winery. I don’t remember its name but it was small and intimate. Arianna shows us around and gives us the tour, from the different barrels where it’s aged (depending on the quality) to the room where it’s bottled. Then we sample 4-5 different types of wine, ask questions, compare, etc.

Florence, Italy - Aging Barrels of Chianti Classico

Florence, Italy - Bottles of Chianti Classico

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We grab a quick lunch of pizza in a tiny, medieval town and then we’re off to the second winery. The drive takes us through some beautiful countryside, which is a treat. Traveling by train is easy but surprisingly, it’s not necessarily the most scenic way to travel. At the second winery we meet up with some of the people from one of the other cars, tour their production facility and cellar, and then taste 4 of their wines.

Florence, Italy - Vineyards in Tuscan Hills

Florence, Italy - Aging Barrels of Chianti Classico

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This is not as intimate as the first winery, however here we are given 4 glasses at once so that we can compare them side by side. Their methods are discussed as well as the grapes, mixture, and which parts of the vineyard are used for which wines. Interesting even for a wine neophyte such as myself.

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Overall a good day, beautiful countryside, and nice weather. The altitude is much higher than Florence so it is a bit cooler. The small group I traveled with made it a very enjoyable experience.

lorence, Italy - Bottles of Chianti Classico

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~ by l on September 28, 2009.

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