Wine Tasting in Tuscany

We’re planning on visiting Italy (Florence, Milan, and Venice) this summer, and I’m hoping to be able to do a day of wine tasting while we’re there. One problem: I know almost nothing about Italian wine, and even less about the logistics of how to go about wine tasting in Italy. I do enjoy Super Tuscans and to a lesser extent, Chianti, but don’t have much experience with either and essentially none with other Italian wines. I couldn’t name a single Italian producer other than Ruffino.

I’ve done a bunch of Googling, but have been unable to find anything other than generic $100ish dollar tours, which I’m sure are not going to be very high quality. I was wondering if anyone here has any tips on where to stay (as in which town / city), any good tours with higher quality wineries, and if no tours are available, a few recommendations for which wineries I should try to visit. Any help with this would be sincerely appreciated!

Florence would be pretty doable for a day trip into the closer parts of Tuscany, though be aware that driving through Tuscany wine country is a lot slower than it looks on the map (though delightful if you aren’t pressed for time). I guess with modern map programs that part will sort itself out.

Will you have a car, and if so, do you mind some medium adventurous driving?

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Municipal bus from Florence Central to Panzano is an hour ride. Less to Greve.

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Depending on how much you actually want to groove at the winery vs. just tasting wines by the glass , consider enotecca’s.

Here is a board favorite, somewhat centrally located in Florence (between the river and the Pitti Palace)

[Wine Tastings - Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina

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This is a place we visited (and had drunk their wines for many years before that, though I almost never see them in the USA anymore). Traditional wines, historic 500 year old castle with amazing old caves and cellar treasures, friendly non-commercial type place, they served us nice prosciutto and cheese with our tasting.

But that was a long time ago, I don’t really know what the deal is. It didn’t cost a penny when we visited, but I think the winery visit world in Italy is changing.

Looks like a 50 minute drive from Florence.

I’d rather visit some interesting small wineries which you can visit just by sending them an email and asking whether they are available when you are there. Virtually all the winery visits in Italy are free unless you’re visiting big wineries which cater specifically for tourists.

If you can rent a car or get a taxi, I’d go and visit some great small winery close to Florence instead of any big name with expensive winery tours - for example Candialle is a superb producer making serious old-school Chianti Classico and some characterful Super Tuscans in Panzano, half an hour’s drive south (approx. 30 miles) from Florence.

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We did a 2 day tasting. The first day was Brunello where he tasted Casanova di Neri, Talenti, Altesino and 2 smaller places. The second was in Chianti. All small places. We used Donatella and her company. https://www.winetourintuscany.com/ I highly recommend. Our tours were private.

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I second this. However, if you like Super Tuscans, I would check their offerings before reaching out. Many near Florence will focus on Chianti Classico (or Colli Fiorentini), and might not make a Super Tuscan, as those grapes are more prevalent on the Tuscan coast. That said, plenty have vineyards in those areas, or grow French grapes on their estate, and make a Super Tuscan that they offer at their winery in Chianti. Volpaia comes to mind as one I visited.

If you plan on driving and don’t want too much of a hike from Florence, I particularly like the wine around San Casciano and between Greve and Radda.

I’d also echo Barry’s advice. Visiting wineries can be interesting, engaging, informative and can make a ‘connection’ that goes beyond a mere commodity. However enoteche are an easier way to ‘play the field’ with a wide range of wine styles. It also means you don’t have to leave your base, be it Firenze, Milano or Venezia.

The are different styles of enoteche, from simply a wine shop, through a place to drink/taste wines, or to ones where food is every bit the star the wine is. Whilst not a 100% certainty, what we’ve found frequently with those that serve food, is it tends to be smaller / lighter dishes, but invariably really tasty, and hence have become something of an antidote to a larger (e.g. agriturismo) meal the night before.

To find ones local to where you are, just do a google map search for ‘enoteca’ and check the website to see if they do food, wines by the glass, or are merely a wine shop.

For ones that serve wine by the glass (with or without food) there is often a chalk board listing what’s open, though sometimes it’s simply the bottles that are on the counter. On a couple of occasions, they’ve also said they could open anything in the shop, as long as we’d commit to having a couple of glasses of wine from that bottle. I suspect that would be the case in many, but not all.

When we have wine bars in the UK, they are usually nothing like this. With cheaper ‘commodity’ wines, marked up 300-500% (you’ll often pay a very small premium in an enoteca). They’ve been a joy for us over the years, and we’ve made some super discoveries in them.

I enthusiastically second Randy’s recommendation of Donatella - we did our second Tuscany visit with her this past October and she connected us with 5 wonderful small wineries producing excellent Brunello and Chianti. Her usual tour is set up for 8 people, but you can arrange for a private tour with a smaller party (more 4 per person if less than 8).

It’s been 7 years but I remember drinking Solaia by the glass at the Antinori wine bar in Florence. It was cheaper by the glass than by the bottle! Maybe 30eu a glass and that came with cheese and bread sticks

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yes, I forgot to mention that enoteche often bring out nibbles with every drink, from the mundane (a few crisps, nuts or breadsticks), to more substantial plates of nibbles. In places in Torino they have at times got so carried away, that aperitivo hour(s) can easily see you eat enough to ruin any appetite for an evening meal.

I was more selective with the wineries that I wanted to experience when my wife and I visited 2 weeks ago. The reason being that I wanted to tour-and-taste the properties that I’ve never visited and whose wines I had grown to like, consistently buy and cellar. Also, since both wife and I enjoy driving in European countryside roads, it’s always my thing not rely on 3rd party wine-tour operators, and to personally email/call for appointments the wineries that I would target, even when they have costs associated with the visit.

Our tour-and-tasting at Conti Costanti in Montalcino on Monday last week was a most enjoyable experience, even for my wife who is a non alcohol drinker. The back-road drive in that part of Tuscany was exhilarating and fun. I cancelled in advance a booking at another property as it became evident that our trip schedules were getting tighter.

Also, a morning walk and delicious lunch within the town of Montepulciano was another happy experience prior to heading for Montalcino. Many tasting bars in town, but decided to order selected by-the-glass local wines (Vino Nobile) with lunch.

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Indeed Montepulciano makes tasting easy, without the usual appointments. There are indeed good places to east, and it offers more in itself as a destination. A pain to get to by train (in short, you can’t Cianciano Terme - Chiusi is the nearest station), though bus isn’t bad, as it drops you at the shallower slope! I think there is car parking near the bus station.

My concern for Mike would be a purely stylistic one. This is the opposite end of the wine style scale to super-tuscans and the wines very much tend towards the bony (which I love, but Mike might not)

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Montalcino is a terrific area to visit and to dine, and probably the wines would hit the spot, but it’s like a 2 hour drive from central Florence. I’ve done it as a day trip just driving, but not everyone is that devoted.

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Not sure if you’re set on staying in Florence, I have been to Tuscany three times and have found Siena is a great home base and pretty central to the Val d’Orcia, which in my opinion is the most beautiful part of Tuscany. One one occasion we stayed near Montalcino which is perfect if you want to taste the famous Brunello wines, some of my favorite wines in the world. But just know they are very different from the Super Tuscan style. My favorite Brunello producers are Il Palazzone, Podere le Ripi, Le Ragnaie, and Altesino. Tastings at any of those would be a great experience.

Antinori also does a good tasting, they have their main property off the interstate but there is also another property Badia a Passignano, an old monastery, and they have a phenomenal restaurant. You can do a wine pairing dinner with all of their wines which includes their Super Tuscan wines Tignanello and Guado al Tasso which might be more your speed.

Hope it’s a great trip for you
Cheers

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Given that you plan on visiting in the summer, perhaps minimize the amount of time you stay in the big cities due to crowds and heat. Consider staying in smaller places like Montalcino, Pienza, or Montepulciano

Nothing wrong with this being the case, but given that this is the case, I would thumbs up the suggestion of doing your wine tasting / education of Tuscan wines at an enoteca or something similar in Florence. Make a meal out of it with a board (tagliere) of charcuterie/cheese/etc and pick someplace that can knowledgeably put together a wine tasting for you. Relax, drink as much as you want, socialize or not, and have no worries on the road or getting back to your hotel. The link that Barry provided seems to be a good choice, but Google is also your friend to find a place that seems to offer what you are looking for. Good luck.

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I used Grape tours out of Florence for a group trip into Chianti. It was a good experience and we drank good wine. We day tripped ourselves into Montalcino and hit Badia a Passignano. The latter poured their chianti classico, Tignanello, Guado al Tasso and Solaia.

In 2015 i had a flight of three wines at the Antinori wine bar in Florence. They were out of Tig and had to substitute. A 1/2 glass of each for 31.eu! It felt like stealing. Best wine bar experience ever



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