You can't go to Tuscany and not visit a vineyard, right? But planning a vineyard tour can be confusing, with all the disorganized information available online.
On my recent trip to Italy, I spent a day road-tripping through Tuscany. This is the second post in my Tuscan road trip series, and you can find part 1 here, where you'll find all the information about the Tuscan region in general, the best way to get around, and some towns to visit. Here's all the information you ever wanted about the vineyards of Tuscany.
How to select a Tuscan vineyard:
There are way too many, and they are all good. You can't really go wrong when you're in one of the best wine-producing regions in the world, so don't stress as much as I did, and spend 6+ hours researching different vineyards (especially if, like me, you don't care about wine. LOL) Two factors you'll want to consider when selecting a vineyard are its size and location.
Size: Do you want to visit a small, medium or large vineyard? I'd recommend the small and medium-sized ones because they take smaller groups, are less crowded, and generally give you a more personal experience since they are family-run. But make sure you email in advance and make a reservation! Most tours are actually free; vineyards will charge you only if you opt for wine tasting or choose to purchase some bottles.
Location: This depends entirely on you and your itinerary! The main vineyard regions/towns are: anywhere in Chianti (for the Chianti classico wine), Montalcino (for the Brunello wine), Montepulciano (for the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano), and San Gimignano (for the Vernaccia wine). I've given a broad overview of the geography of different Tuscan regions in my blog post here.
If you don't have a preference, I'd suggest choosing something in Montalcino, since it will allow you to drive through the Val D'Orcia (a UNESCO world heritage site, and one of the most scenic drives you'll ever experience); it also has lots of restaurants, and fits in well if you're trying to do a day trip from Florence or Rome. Montalcino is a 50 minute drive from Siena, 2 hour drive from Florence, and a 2 hour 30 minute drive from Rome.
Vineyards you can visit:
Here are some small to medium-sized vineyards that came up in my research:
Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona, Montalcino
Poggio Antico, Montalcino– the one I visited, also has an excellent (but pricey) restaurant on site (it was shut during the winter so I couldn’t try it)
An excellent link listing out vineyards, bars and restaurants in the different Tuscan towns: http://www.winewordswisdom.com/travel_itineraries/southern-tuscany-wine-tour.html
The Val D'Orcia Region - Drive from Siena to Montalcino:
My road trip through Tuscany was split into two parts - in the morning, we drove from Florence to Siena (driving directions and trip details ), spent a few hours in the town, and then moved forward to Montalcino, for a vineyard tour. Drive along the SR 2 from Siena to Montalcino (50 minute journey) to experience the heart of the Val D'Orcia region. It was one of the most scenic drives of my life, and even though I visited right in the middle of winter (early February), the countryside was lush green!
We decided to have lunch on the way to the vineyard, so we left Siena after a couple of hours of wandering around. Our original plan was to find a restaurant in Montalcino, close to Poggio Antico (the vineyard we were visiting), but we got really hungry along the way, and stopped at the first decent place we could find - Il Conte Dino. Since it was winter, it was completely empty - but it turned out to be a gem! The service was impeccable, the food was just delicious (fresh truffles like never before) and they customized dishes to our liking!
Visiting the vineyard at Poggio Antico:
I had read great reviews about this small family-run vineyard, so I decided to book a tour with them. The tour itself only took 15 minutes, but it was so informative! Did you know that depending on the type of taste and texture desired, wine is stored in oak barrels with different properties? Some barrels add a dry texture to the wine, while some make the wine spicy. Barrels with different properties are imported from across Europe - France and Croatia being some of the popular spots. Poggio Antico has a gorgeous property that you can walk through. Barren vineyards in February, unfortunately, but it still looked really stunning in my opinion. I can't even imagine what it must look like in the summer!
To plan this trip, you'll need to fly into Rome or Florence. You can look for tickets here.
Do you have any recommendations for great vineyards in Tuscany? Next time I'd love to visit in the summer and rent a villa there ????
More Italy travel inspiration here!