As we traveled out of the bustling city of Florence and up a series of hills, my significant other and I were glad we had not opted to drive ourselves around the Chianti region. Narrow, weaving roadways, which were expertly maneuvered by our tour guide, gave way to beautiful views of the Tuscan countryside…
Chianti is home most notably to the Sangiovese grape and, when following a strict set of rules, the Chianti Classico wine (you have probably seen the black rooster on the bottle). Chianti Classico used to be made primarily with Sangiovese and also white grapes. Since 2006, however, the rules no longer allow the blending of white grapes. Chianti Classico is at least 80% Sangiovese and must age for at least 12 months before release (there are different categories depending on the length of the aging). Other rules apply.
Our first winery stop was at Castellinuzza e Piuca near the village of Lamole. We were served a light lunch as we sampled their three fabulous wines. The woman who met with us indicated they are a fourth generation farm and her husband and brother-in-law are the winemakers. They make a “traditional” Chianti, using white and red grapes (the wine cannot be called Chianti Classico due to the white grapes) and two Chianti Classico wines. We also walked down to some of their vineyards and saw their new Sangiovese plants (see photo below).
Our second winery stop was at Casaloste located in Panzano in Chianti. We were grouped with two other couples for our wine tasting and were expertly guided through the wines by a winery staff member. She regaled the group with stories about the winery and the wines. Her energy and enthusiasm were contagious, and the wines were fantastic.
Our tasting guide highlighted the various rules and strict quality control for Chianti Classico. She mentioned that their current vintage was removed from the barrels and is waiting in stainless steel tanks for bottling but they are unable to bottle until there is an inspection, tasting, and certification of this wine as being “Chianti Classico.”
Our tasting guide also shared that the winery is owned by a husband and wife team. We learned the husband wanted to be a winemaker so he earned his masters degree in winemaking. The family relocated from Naples City to Tuscany to start their vineyard. In addition to Sangiovese-based wine, including three Chianti Classico wines of various aging, he makes a Merlot-based wine (with a little Sangiovese). When asked the reason he chose Merlot specifically, we were told “because he likes to drink Merlot.” Fair enough. Our tasting guide also shared that making wines outside the strict rules of Chianti Classico allows for more of the winemaker’s creativity to shine through, which this winemaker enjoys.
A beautiful setting, friendly, knowledgeable hosts, excellent wines, and someone else driving along the narrow hilly roads all made for a very memorable winery experience.