Tuscany has long since been synonymous with seriously breathtaking scenery, so much so that it’s inspired artists and writers for centuries; with Da Vinci, Dante and Michelangelo amongst them. In this enchanting landscape of undulating hills and winding roads, you’ll find glorious sunflower fields, ancient olive groves, medieval ruins and wonderfully wild forests. And, of course, there’s another thing that might spring to mind when you think of Tuscany and that’s wine. Oh, lovely wine. It’s home to some of Italy’s most renowned labels, with hectares of grape-heavy vineyards adding to the landscape’s unique patchwork.
You don’t need to know your Chianti from your Carmignano to appreciate the riches of Tuscany’s wine production, and even the most tentative of tasters can enjoy a winery visit or two. Whether you plan on stopping off for lunch with vineyard views as you pass through, making a weekend of it with a night at a historic hotel or maybe you’re just in the area to take a painting class or gastronomy tour, you can find it all accompanied by a glass of seriously good red from one of Tuscany’s wineries. Start with one of our favourites and you might find yourself ‘gramming the terroir of your favourite ‘Super Tuscan’ yet…
Livernano and Casalvento
Best for: a personal touch
This charming estate is a result of the entrepreneurial story of Bob Cuillo, a Bronx-born kid who wound up owning the USA’s most successful car dealership. Money made, he could afford to turn to his passion for film and theatre production, before purchasing the Caselvento property in 1997 and, later, the neighbouring wine estate and village of Livernano in 2002. He and his wife since transformed Livernano village into an elegant, rural resort, complete with a restaurant, whilst Caselvento houses the winery’s state-of-the-art cellar. The wine here combines age-old Tuscan grapes with contemporary techniques and know-how, to create varieties that pack a punch well above their estate’s size and weight. Gudrun, Cuillo’s wife, meets the majority of touring visitors, offering a particularly personal touch that you won’t find from the larger contenders.
Antinori Chianti Classico
Best for: modern architecture
Set just 20 kilometres from Florence, the Antinori Chianti Classico winery is worth visiting not least for its production of two of Italy’s top wines (Solaia and Tignanello) but also for its stunning design. Whilst the Antinori-family history of wine-making goes back over 600 years, the innovative wine cellar here is at up to date as they come. Designed by Marco Casamonti – one of Italy’s leading architects – and taking over seven years to complete, the contemporary structure uses natural materials, such as terracotta, steel, wood and glass, in great complement to the surrounding natural beauty. There’s a perfectly placed restaurant on the rooftop, offering awesome views over the area and a menu that pairs the best of the region’s wine and produce. There’s also a wine museum, a book shop, an art collection, and, of course, a wine bar and tasting rooms.
Castello di Nipozzano
Best for: the real deal
Castello di Nipozzano is situated in the heart of Chianti Rùfina, which sits in the hills to the east of Florence and overlooks the Arno River Valley. Over 1000 years ago, a magnificent castle was built here to protect Florence and, although it was later destroyed in 1944, the original cellars can still be viewed in the estate’s Renaissance villa. The revered Renaissance artist Donatello was said to frequently purchase wines from this estate, which comes as no surprise when you consider that Castello di Nipozzano went on to blaze the trail for both cabernet sauvignon and merlot, amongst others. As well as knowing a thing (or two-hundred!) about wine, the estate is home to a working farm and an olive plantation, plus adopts eco-friendly practices, with lighter-weight bottles, renewable energy systems and AgriQualità certified growing practices.
Best for: eco-friendliness
This organic and biodynamic wine estate is embedded in the historic Vino Nobile area, around an hour’s drive southeast of Siena. Salcheto is dedicated to sustainability and, in 2011, became Europe’s first self-sufficient winery. As such, it was also the first company in the world to certify the carbon footprint of a bottle of wine. Needless to say, if you want to see eco-friendly viticulture at its best, this is the place to do it. And, it needn’t be a fleeting visit; the estate’s 13th-century farmhouse has been renovated into nine plush bed-and-breakfast suites, with air conditioning and use of naturally powered hot tubs. The Enoteca serves brilliant brunches and lunches, which incorporate black truffles from the estate, home-grown herbs and vegetables, and Tuscan meats and cheeses. During the harvest period, wine-tasting sessions are also offered. There are eight varieties of wine to try and buy, and you can also pick up estate-produced honey – an encouraged bi-product of the eight on-site bee hives that aid the vineyard’s vital pollination.
Best for: history
Barone Ricasoli is Italy’s oldest winery, having produced its first bottle in 1141. And, legend has it that Baron Bettino Ricasoli himself invented Chianti back in 1872. Today, the same family are responsible for production, turning out an impressive three million bottles a year from this notably attractive estate. Visitors can learn of the 14 wines, two grappas and two olive oils that are produced here over a vineyard tour, or, for something a little different, opt for a sunset tour, a watercolour lesson or a culinary wine tour. If you’re pushed for time, head straight to the wine shop, where you can pick up Barone Ricasoli wines alongside other local specialities. There’s a charming restaurant on site too, offering a true taste of the Chianti region through carefully selected produce. Whilst here, you’d be hard pushed to miss the impressive Castello di Brolio – an ancient castle that, combined with 230 hectares of surrounding lands, is the largest in the Chianti Classico area.
Castello di Ama
Best for: art
The Castello di Ama vineyard and winery is situated at an altitude of around 500 metres, in a 12th-century hamlet that’s set in the heart of the Chianti Classico wine region. It was established in the 1960s by a group of families who were dedicated to preserving the agricultural history and natural beauty of this beguiling Tuscan spot. Today, the winery is run by Lorenza Sebasti and Marco Pallanti (an Italian couple with barrels’ worth of winemaking experience between them) and produces 11 different varieties, using their own-grown grapes. You’ll also find a wonderful selection of site-specific artworks scattered around the place (AKA Castello di Ama for Contemporary Art); from 1999 to 2014, a number of artists were asked to create unique installation works that were inspired by the terroir. The results include a captivating mirror wall by Daniel Buren and Anish Kapoor’s Aima, which sits in the floor of the hamlet’s dinky San Venanzio church. Be sure to try the award-winning olive oil whilst you’re here too, it’s some of the region’s best.
Castiglion del Bosco
Best for: luxury
Situated in an 11th-century hamlet, this beautiful estate sits within the Orcia valley – a UNESCO World Heritage site which is renowned for its knockout scenery. A variety of tours and tastings are available, all of which offer the opportunity to experience the impressive barrel cellar and the elegant tasting room. Some incorporate food pairings too, giving guests the chance to sample local cheeses, olive oil and honey. Whilst it, undoubtedly, makes an excellent place to start, you’ll find much more than just a winery here. Castiglion del Bosco is also home to the gorgeous Rosewood hotel, allowing visitors to extend their stay and fully immerse themselves in the legendary landscapes. The Spa at Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco is set in the estate’s old wine cellars, whilst the 18-hole golf course offers even more of an excuse to stay put – it was designed by former winner of the British Open, Tom Weiskopf.
It’s worth noting that vineyard tours often require reservations in advance, so check a winery’s website prior to visiting to ensure you make the most of your time. Whether large or small, wineries may or may not charge a small fee for tasting sessions and, either way, it’s polite to purchase a bottle or two before you leave – something to consider pre-trip, when planning your luggage requirements.
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