In this next instalment of Snapshots from a Tourist in Italy, my Dad takes us all on his personalised wine and cheese tour in Tuscany.
Wine & Cheese Experience, Tuscany
We had originally booked two days with Very Tuscany’s Andrea Ciri, as we liked the sound of his personalised tours, as well as the flexibility offered. We subsequently also arranged for Andrea to collect us from Orvieto, to join us for our Sagra, and then take us on to our accommodation in Arezzo.
Naturally, we were keen to sample some of the best wines of the region. We elected first to explore the legendary ‘Nobile di Montepulciano’. So we placed ourselves in Andrea’s capable hands to choose the venues and make the necessary bookings.
Our first visit was to the Carletti family’s Poliziano Estate, on the slopes surrounding Montepulciano.
We enjoyed a conducted tour of this large and modern establishment before settling down to our own private tasting. No one seemed concerned that it was well before mid day!
With due diligence, we worked our way up the range, beginning with a Rosso di Montepulciano, and progressing to the “Nobile”. The wines Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG are usually comprised of 80-100% Sangiovese, 0-20% Merlot or Canaiolo, and the grapes must be from the area around the town. Poliziano offered two wines that meet these criteria. However it came as a surprise for us that the next wine presented for tasting “Le Stanze”, was a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend. That provided us with an interesting comparison to our Australian wines made from the same grapes.
Winery with Andrea’s very comfortable ‘Van’ in the foreground
Tasting Room and Cellar Door
Tasters at Work!
Our second visit took us to the very centre “Centro Storico” of Montepulciano, to Cantine Talosa. “Cantine” means “Cellars” and is an apt description. Somewhat akin to the Orvieto Underground, Montepulciano has many caverns dating back to earlier occupation. Much of the wine of this area has been and still is cellared under the city itself. We lost count of how many steps we descended to explore these caverns. The climb back to street level was rewarded with another personalised and very pleasant wine tasting, accompanied by crusty fresh bread, cheeses and several varieties of local meats, including wild boar sausage. Again, with great pleasure, we were able to sample the range of wines from this producer. For the oenophiles, the top of the range Vino Nobile here was 100% Sangiovese, unlike all the others we tasted, which were blends.
The next day, we set off again from our base in Arezzo, with Andrea having promised us a visit to a cheese maker. Instead of travelling south, as we had to Montepulciano, we travelled to the north west, into the Laterina region. Our visit was to Tenuta Vitereta, a family owned and run operation producing, not just pecorino cheese, but also red, white and fortified wines, and olive oil.
We first collected our personal guide (one of the owner’s daughters), and travelled a kilometre or two to the sheep farm (500 sheep), dairy and cheese making facility. A fast train, heading for Florence, in the near distance barely disturbed the peacefulness of this rural site.
Having absorbed our lesson on pecorino, we returned to the main site, and had a tour of the winery. That worked up an appetite, so we were ready for the tasting that followed. Here, father and daughter were wonderful hosts, allowing us to sample their white (Trebbiano and Chardonnay), rosé (Sangiovese/Cabernet) and red (Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) wines, as well as their various aged pecorino cheeses, and their local salami.
This visit could not end without a taste of the Vin Santo del Chianti, a fitting conclusion to the experience with this multi-faceted producer.
The morning’s harvest
View across the vines
Lunch is served
Lunch is served
Our first Italian Rosé
What experiences over the two days! Not a tour coach or crowd of tourists in sight. Just the four of us, with Andrea as our guide[i]. Private tastings of lovely wines in the most relaxed and pleasant surroundings. Each wine, a different experience to the nose and the palate, and every one enjoyable in its own way.
[i] Without Andrea, we probably would not have found these places. Checking since, only Poliziano appears on Tripadvisor. There is a Tenuta, but not Tenuta Vitereta. Talosa wines get a mention in restaurant reviews, but not the Cantine.