Follow a Natural Tuscan Wine Road
Colline Lucchesi, Chianti and Montalcino
This exclusive “short break” has been specially tailored for a group of eight wine connoisseurs who wish to understand more fully the meaning of natural and organic wines. You will learn about wines that are not only produced organically, but also made using natural yeasts that respect the wine’s physical parameters during the vinification process. In the course of the sojourn, you will visit six excellent wine producers in Tuscany (in the areas of Colline Lucchesi, Chianti and Montalcino). Jérome Van der Putt, the expert guide who has been selected for this tour of wine producers in Tuscany, will accompany the entire trip.
During this trip you will receive in-depth instruction on grape growing and winemaking generally, as well as the differences between conventional/industrial wine and wine that’s “as natural as possible”. Visits to the wine producers will focus not simply on tasting, but will offer the chance for open discussions about the vinification process and its impact on the characteristics of each wine.
Accommodations are lovely and characteristic of the simple yet elegant style of these fine producers.
The trip begins on Saturday in the area of Colline Lucchesi. This is a little-known, up-and-coming wine region overlooking the celebrated city of Lucca with vineyards nestled in the foothills of the Apennine Mountains. Fine limestone/sandstone soils have provided excellent conditions for viticulture here ever since the area was ruled by France in the early 19th century. Not surprisingly, French varietals (Cabernet, Chardonnay) flourish, as does Sangiovese and some unusual white grapes like Trebbiano Toscano, Grechetto, Malvasia del Chianti and Vermentino.
You will settle into the Fabbrica di San Martino (just 5 km outside Lucca) around noon, then enjoy lunch prepared by the owner, a former restaurant owner. There will be plenty of time to relax over the meal while listening to an introduction to natural wine production. Three out of four nights will be spent in the estate’s apartments, tucked inside the property in a lovely renovated building. The accommodations display a splendid blend of 16th century charm and 21st century comfort. Surrounded by 20 hectares of vineyards, olive groves and woods, the winery is rich in ambiance and history. B,L
On Sunday you will travel to Chianti to visit two excellent Chianti Classico makers, both small family-run wineries that are not open to large groups. One, a relatively young winery with consistently high marks from critics, states its philosophy of winemaking in this way: “During the wine making process we pay strict attention to quality control. We keep sulfites levels low and do not add tannins or other additives. We firmly believe in a product that reflects the geographical area where it was produced and not in concocted wines fashioned to suit the vagaries of the moment.” The second winery has been “biodynamic” certified since 1983 and will help us understand exactly what that means in terms of wine production as well as the final product.
Sunday lunch is the Italians’ favorite “slow meal” of the week, and you will spend it in style at Ristorante Arnolfo. Here guests are treated to unforgettable gastronomic delights in a mediaeval village deep in the heart of the Chianti hills. Ristorante Arnolfo is a worthy representative of Italian gourmet cuisine, with two well-deserved Michelin stars. The chef’s philosophy is to use only the finest ingredients and to respect Tuscan tradition while constantly innovating. Late afternoon return to Fabbrica di San Martino and dinner on your own. B,L
On Monday morning you will travel to the region of Montalcino in Southern Tuscany. Today’s visit will focus on the production of Rosso di Montalcino. Six “cru” vineyards make up this dynamic young winery, which is certified organic and has used biodynamic methods since 2002. The wines are vinified separately, creating unrepeatable expressions of their terroir of origin in the year the grapes were grown.
You will be free in the afternoon to visit the stunning Abbey of Sant’Antimo (www.antimo.it), still a working monastery and home to one of Italy’s finest Romanesque churches. Monday night will be spent dining and resting at “La Chiusa” (Italian for “enclosed”). Originally La Chiusa was an oil mill “enclosed” within a large working farm and used by all the neighbors. Still functioning until recently, the mill is now a country auberge boasting 15 typical rooms and a restaurant that prepares dishes in the best Tuscan tradition. B, D
Tuesday is dedicated to Brunello di Montalcino, which is considered the crown jewel of the southern Tuscan wines. Brunello (meaning “the small dark one”) is a pure expression of the muscular Sangiovese cru grosso grapes, which thrive in the area’s sand and limestone soil and warmer climate. One of the vintners you visit even plants aromatic herbs like rosemary, lavender and thyme among the vines to add flavor and aroma to the final product. Aged for at least 4 years (of which at least 2 years in oak casks), Brunello is more tannic than Chianti but with age becomes sublime. A leisurely lunch will take place at one of the two wineries visited today.
Late afternoon return to our rooms at Fabbrica di San Martino. B, L
Departure after breakfast on Wednesday morning. B
*B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner provided