Tuscany always evokes a certain set of images: rolling hills, cypress trees, Renaissance castles, terracotta roofs, stone farmhouses and tables groaning under the weight of mouth-watering food and wine. Central Italy's reputation for la dolce vita owes a lot to its wine industry, which is inextricably linked to its olive and vine-clad landscape. Some of the best wine tours in Tuscany take place in Chianti, a region where immaculately maintained rows of vines snake down fertile valleys into dense woodland. Most visitors to Tuscany base themselves in Florence or Siena, two culture-packed cities that are never far from a crop of top-quality wineries. The region's specialty drink is Chianti, probably the most famous of Italy's wines. It is a dry red wine, famous for its earthy flavor inherited from the sweet-sour Sangiovese grape. An authentic Chianti must be produced in the Chianti region and made from at least 80% Sangiovese grapes.
Ranging from light and fruity to full-bodied with a finish that can tend towards bitterness, Chianti's sour cherry and plum taste goes well with most food. All varieties of Chianti should have hints of tea leaves, spices, and violets, while the aged reserves are exceptionally full-bodied, and the newer varieties have a whiff of oak.
While wine tasting in Chianti, you learn about the production process directly from the winemakers and sommeliers. The Gallo Nero (Black Rooster) trademark produces Chianti in two main versions: Chianti and Chianti Classico. Classico is the Rolls-Royce of the brand because it is produced from grapes harvested in the best vineyards in Tuscany. The internationally renowned Antinori Chianti Classico Winery is perhaps the most famous in the Chianti Wine Consortium. Wine enthusiasts can take a tour of the abbey's cellar complex, sample wine from the family's estates across Tuscany, and follow up with a Michelin star 5-course tasting menu.
The Chianti vineyards are divided into seven sub-zones that each produce their own Chianti wine with a specific name and label. Greve is Chianti's wine-making hub. If you time your visit for September's autumn harvest, you can swirl, sniff and sip with abandon at the Chianti Classico Wine Fair. Nearby Montefioralle is considered one of the most beautiful hamlets in Italy and home to Azienda Agricola Montefioralle, a small family-run Chianti Classico vineyard. The hilltop village of Castelnuovo Berardenga is the most southerly of the Chianti Classico zones, and the Felsina Winery merits a visit for its outstanding Chianti Classicos and flavorsome olive oil. Wine veterans and novices alike will discover some quality wines and olive oils purchased at authentic local enotecas (wine shops) across Chianti.
Even those who don't like wine will find something to love in the outstanding natural beauty, delicious cuisine, and rich cultural heritage of Chianti's 20-kilometer wine trail. The winding roads will take you through a captivating palette of colors dotted with hilltop fortresses, stone villages and, of course, vineyards. In addition to some high-quality bottles of wine, you will come home with some impressive photographs and cherished memories.
About Rory Brown: After spending the first 40 years of his life in the United States, Rory Brown decided to focus on the quality of life and began living internationally. He now spends his time in Lake Como, Italy, Sydney, Australia, Charleston, South Carolina, and Kauai, Hawaii. His appreciation for simple health food that embraces local traditions of excellence has earned him credit among farm-to-table communities everywhere he goes.
Brown began his career as a technologist and has always focused on healthy lifestyle choices. His well-researched lifestyle writing has increasingly focused on living life to the fullest each day throughout the world.
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