Food & Wine
Tuscany Trip Report: Wine Tour of Chianti
After one night in Florence, I was ready to start the real part of my trip — wine tasting in the Tuscan countryside. The Hertz rental car location was only a few blocks from the Westin Excelsior Florence, so I checked out and walked over with my luggage to pick up the car.
After a couple of false starts, where my GPS indicated the turns a little too late, I finally got unlost and headed into the Chianti region. I had solicited advice from my wine friends and narrowed the list of wineries for the first day to three. Which surprisingly made for a hectic day.
Isole e Olena
My first stop was Isole e Olena. I’d emailed them in advance about a tour, and though they couldn’t oblige because it was harvest time, invited me to come by for a tasting during business hours. The drive in was picture-perfect Tuscan winery, complete with dogs basking in the sun by the door.
The inside, particularly the room where I tasted was modern and sparsely furnished with an amazing view of the vineyards. I was excited to try Isole e Olena wine because they take a modern approach.
The tasting started with a historical overview of winemaking in Chianti, which I much appreciated as I knew little about it. It also helped me understand how their methods differ from tradition.
I was intrigued to hear they’re testing how their wines age in screwtop vs cork and delighted to be able to try their Chardonnay and Syrah, uncommon in the area but both quite good. The Chiantis were vibrant and fresh. I fell in love. And as luck had it, the winemaker Paolo De Marchi happened to swing by the office so I got to meet him before I left.
I was having such a good time at Isole e Olena that I wound up being late to my second appointment — lunch and a tour at Casa Emma. Which meant I was immediately seated outside on the patio to start my lunch with pairings. Not necessarily a bad thing. You can read about the full menu and pairings here, but to cut to the chase: appetizers from fresh ingredients and homemade pasta!
Casa Emma wines were good, but at their price points (14-50€) not amazing. So I wound up buying a bottle to drink that night but didn’t ship anything home. A very enjoyable experience and at 40-50€ for the whole thing, well worth it.
I actually had plenty of time to make it to my next stop, Nittardi, if my GPS had cooperated. Much of the drive to the winery wound up being on a narrow, ridgetop gravel road, and it wasn’t clear the first few times I passed it, that my turn was what looked like a steep livestock path.
Turns out it was a road, a very terrifying road, so I arrived at the beautiful grounds a little rattled. But I made it and was soon tasting wines in the small basement room lined with bottles and big barrels. My luck held and my tasting was actually done by one of the winemakers/owners.
The tasting was fantastic — they have two vineyards, the one I was at and then one close to the Tuscan coast. So I got to taste very different flavors influenced by the soil and different growing conditions. It also meant I got to taste a white wine or two which made for a nice change. 🙂
I enjoyed ALL the wines there, but particularly their Casanuova di Nittardi Chianti Classico, 100% Sangiovese with bright yet integrated flavors, I couldn’t believe it was only around 20 euros.
I loved the history too — every year they commission a different artist to create two works for this wine. The label and a separate piece for the wrapping. Very cool decor!
There was no cost for the tasting and I was wishing I could check a bag on my way home. On tip though, when leaving, don’t take a left if you have a tiny rental car, mine stalled out 5 times trying to get up the hill!
It wound up being a great day! I got taste wines at a modern innovative winery, a more traditional one, and ending at one that is doing a bit of both. Next time though I think I’ll hire a driver so I don’t have to deal with the gravel roads.
More from this trip:
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