When I studied abroad in Florence in college, one of the classes I took was the Study of Food and Wine. It was one of the best classes I’ve ever taken, and it really helped me appreciate Italian food and wine and the Slow Food Movement. We learned about truffles, had cheese tastings in class, visited a local pasta factory, and took a class field trip to a Tuscan winery. I remember that small family winery so vividly – their kitchen was beautiful, their wine production occurred onsite, and they cooked us the most delicious lunch…and of course filled us up on wine! When choosing a Tuscan wine tour for our 2019 trip to Florence, I really hoped we would find one that included a small family owned winery too.
We booked with Slow Tour Tuscany, and as I mentioned in this post, we were blown away by this tour company! They helped customize our tours (see Truffle Lovers Tour post), down to the timing and types of wine. Timmer really wanted to try both Chianti Classico and Brunello de Montalcino, and Annalisa made it happen.
Let me also preface this by saying that although I took the Study of Food and Wine back in the day, this was almost 10 years ago, so to brush up on my knowledge I listened to The Everyday Guide to Wine and The Everyday Guide to Wines of Italy (get your copy here and here)*. I love how easily she explains the different wine varieties in a way that makes sense for those not as knowledgeable in wine.
On the morning of our Tuscan wine tour, we got up early to meet the group. It was our driver, Gianni, the booking manager, Virginia, our tour guide, Annalisa, and just one other couple, US expats living in London. We drove through the beautiful countryside of Tuscany before arriving to our first stop: Principi Corsini Villa Le Corti. The Corsini family is one of the oldest noble families in Italy. Their family has had bishops, saints, and even a Pope, and they have been producing wine for over 600 years. Annalisa gave us a private tour of their cellar, where we were able to see where the wine making magic happens.
Slow Tour Tuscany has such a good relationship with the winery, that we were lucky enough to see a secret room that other tours aren’t allowed on! We had to go through it quickly so the other group (a wine safari tour group) didn’t see us go in. This room was unlike anything I had ever seen before – it’s where they dry out the grapes, in a process called “passito,” used in Vin Santo (Tuscan dessert wine) for TEN years! The room was saturated in the aroma of a sweet, sugary bouquet of raisins almost, and it was as if you could taste the grapes just by inhaling. It was cool to see the older grapes (shriveled up and dark purple) next to the newer grapes (still round and green).
We tasted a few wines – a delightful sparkling rose, “Le Corti” a Chianti Classico fermented in the cement vats pictured above, and their Chianti Classico Gran Selezione “Don Tomaso” (their flagship Chianti at the vineyard). All were fantastic. We also had some of the most wonderful olive oil I’ve ever tried. We ended up purchasing some of both, of course.
Brunello di Montalcino
Our next stop was Tornesi, a small family owned winery, where most of the work is done by hand by the family members since 1865. I loved seeing the difference between the larger Corsini estate and the smaller Tornesi winery. We ate a hand cooked lunch there, made with love by the winemaker’s sister. The pasta was absolutely amazing, and they had fried pizza dough as the bread…it was SO GOOD. The meal was paired with their wines, which they were so excited to share with us.
We started with their IGT sangiovese “Le Benducce,” which is aged only in steel vats, and paired perfectly with a charcueterie board. Next we tried the Rosso di Montalcino, a perfectly balanced and fruit forward wine, paired with cheese and the pizza dough. Our pasta course was accompanied by their Brunello di Montalcino, with its strong powerful character and tannin, yet soft and smooth with the bolognese. Finally they opened a bottle of their Brunello di Montalcino Reserva, aged 5 years – 3 years in oak and 2 years in the bottle. Their 2015 vintage we tried is not available for purchase until January 2020, but it was my favorite. We finished with an amazing cake with their Grappa di Montalcino, a digestivo. Throughout the meal, our plates and our glasses were never empty, and the more they could share the more they enjoyed our visit!
I think the best part however, was that we ate lunch with the winemaker’s mother, a sweet 90ish year old Italian grandmother, and hung out with Maurizio, the winemaker. His niece Elisa gave us a tour of the cellar and taught us about their wine making process. The wine was delicious, the food was superb, but the feeling of family was the best. We felt so welcomed and at home at Tornesi, and that was probably my favorite part of the whole day.
The last stop on our winery tour was the Fortress of Montepulciano. The old military fortress was first built in 1261 but was repeatedly destroyed and reconstructed over the years. The fortress has a huge wine bar inside, The Enoliteca. Through the wine bar, we climbed to the top of the fortress for beautiful views overlooking the city of Montepulciano and the Tuscan countryside. We will have to return to Montepulciano one day, because the town itself looked charming and picturesque.
Overall, we had the best Tuscan wine tour that we could have ever imagined. We left with lots of wine, full hearts, and the feeling of gratitude that one gets when you just made new friends for life. We highly recommend Slow Tour Tuscany** for any tours (food, wine, arts, etc.) in Florence!
**We are not getting paid for this endorsement – we just had the best experiences with them!
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