Italy’s wines are world famous and growing rapidly in recognition for their quality and diversity. An interest in wine can become a lifelong passion and no country demonstrates this better than Italy, where over 350 indigenous grapes grow in unique locations all across the country. Tuscany in particular holds a prominent position in the Italian wine sector, having given rise to many of the great wines that are held in the highest regard around the world. The stunning landscapes of Tuscany are crisscrossed with wide rippling ribbons of vineyards, lush with precious fruit in the waning days of August. Wine lovers flock to Tuscany to taste the famous wines in view of the hills where they are grown; however, most visitors know very little about the actual process of wine making, and the careful attention and thoughtful planning that lies behind the production of this fabulous beverage. Where better to learn about vinification than in beautiful Tuscany, where unique microclimates, temperate weather, rolling land and gentle sea breezes all combine to create a captivating setting for wines that have been made and treasured for thousands of years.
The wines we drink all over the world are diverse, with endless variations in taste, body, complexity, color and on and on. But each wine comes from one single fruit, the simple grape. One of the oldest staples of the human diet, the grape is the center of it all. Many winemakers say that great wines are made in the vineyard, where climate, soil, pruning, weeding, harvesting and many other processes ensure the quality, consistency and taste profile of the grapes that will end up in our glasses. This is certainly true, but not enough can be said about the craft of the enologist, the winemaker, at work in his cellar after the harvest, when human choices regarding fermenting, blending and ageing will ultimately dictate the characteristics of the wine. Actually going to a vineyard in Tuscany, the deliciously seductive region that combines the splendor of nature and excellence in wine making, is an eye opening and often emotional experience. Seeing the vines with their leaves fluttering in the warm sunshine, then visiting the hallowed cellars rich with the fruity, tangy, woodsy smell of wines gently maturing under watchful eyes, is an experience that forever changes how we view the wines we drink.
Making wine is an endlessly fascinating process with a few simple basic rules, the first being that white wines are harvested, pressed and then fermented without their skins. Red wines are harvested, pressed and fermented with their skins, which is where they gain their color, their body, their astringent tannins and other important elements that contribute to the final product. In the misty past when wine making began, approximately 8000 years ago, wine was fermented in clay amphorae. Since that time, many developments have brought us to our current happy situation, where enologists can choose from stainless steel tanks, glass lined cement vessels, wooden barrels and other containers to use for fermentation. Technology has added the ability to control temperature, filtration, blending and many more processes, giving modern wine makers various options as they fine tune their wines after fermentation, through to ageing and bottling. Each step and each decision impacts the wine, this is the magic of the alchemy behind the luscious end result, and there is barely an enologist on the planet who will share all of their secrets. Tuscan wine makers are known for their warm welcoming hospitality, taking great pride and satisfaction in showing guests the well ordered perfection of their vineyards and the underground glory of their cellars, but don’t expect to hear their secrets revealed!
Nothing compares to seeing the stages of the wine making process in an active cellar. Vineyards such as beautiful Castello Della Paneretta in the stunning Val d’Elsa, give true seekers the key to this mysterious and delicious world, inviting the curious to discover the secrets of bringing wine to life in the cellars of a 14th century castle in the heart of Chianti Classico. Tuscany is blessed with thrilling, heady venues for unforgettable experiences in classic working wine cellars, where guests see, touch, smell and taste the entire journey from vine to goblet in the company of renowned, experienced enologists and sommeliers.