One day we journey between Greve Panzano and Passignano, the other between Radda, Gaiole, Brolio and Castelnuovo.
A trip in the Chianti Hills is, for a wine lover, like walking to the Ganga springs. We reach right where the more famous of the Italian wines is made since a few centuries. All this in the more picturesque and outstanding setting: a patchwork of vineyards, woods, and olive groves, dotted by hamlets, villas, and castles, create the most delicate pictures, that can charme you at each hill and each new valley.
The southern Chianti, is a land of oak forests, ancient castles with mysterious names - Spaltenna, Barbischio, Montegrossi, Meleto, Vertine, Cacchiano, and above all Brolio - and high vineyards. The area of Radda and Castellina, walled towns, and Gaiole, is the Chianti Storico exactely where the old Sangiovese blend was perfected, and first called Chianti, in medieval times. The landscape itself, with castles and few lost hamlets, may seem like a shot of the good old feudal times.
The Northern Chianti, is instead more populated and intensely cultivated, the vineyard belt is dotted by hundreds of romantic homes, noble Florentine villas, and parish churches like miniature basilicas. Panzano, Montefioralle, or Passignano look like postcard pictures of teh most ideal Tuscan scenery.
This unique scenery has been defined “the more moving of the human landscapes”, where human work designed the local nature gently, with elegance one would say, everything has a perfect human size: fileds, houses, olive trees, small vineyards, and the pencil-like cypresses, stand like guardians all around. It may appear so picture-perfect, just because it “has” been painted, so many times, and, more recently, filmed. It belongs to our imagination, because it is already in our eyes and our hearts.
The wines are smoother, easier in a way, and sooner ready to drink, a great starting point to get to love Chianti. At that point, yoou may wantto approach the "supertuscans", the first of which were conceived here: Tignanello, and Solaia by Antinori, they opened the path to the supertuscans, that everyone seems to love.
Radda, Castellina, Gaiole are hill towns where the wine was named Chianti in 1300 already, got appellation rules as early as 1700, and started to be proudly called Classico since 1932. These places, hence, are legendary in the wine’s history! We are reaching the headwaters - or headwines perhaps? - of the most iconic Italian wine, of one of the more carefully made, and protected, in order to get the peak of the quality for most of the production. Chianti Classico, Riserva, Gran Selezione, and several single vineyards will make these days a constant discovery and a fascinating experience of the great Sangiovese grape.
Where to pick and what to taste, then, in our Chianti tour? We could pick wineries that got that many “points/100” by the famous wine guru, or magazine. But we won’t, we invite you to wineries that really portray characters, and history at times, of this amazing terroirs. Some are famous, others are “secret”, there may be a family size cellars run by father and daughter, a medium size boutique winery owned by a creative wine lover, there are modern designer’s wineries, as well as noble villas and time honoured castles dating back to 300, 500 years, or to deep medieval times. Altogether, they witness the origin, the tradition, and the complexity of the Chianti wine world. Sitting at the tasting table, you discover what range of styles, and intensities Chianti may include, until you find by yourself your favourite winery, and your ideal Chianti Classico.
There are young fresh wines, drinkable which remind old times Chianti. Those including with white grapes too, boosted with the governo toscano technique, sold next may already, in the famous straw lined fiasco bottles. There are finer Chiantis, medium-bodied, to drink at 3-5 years age, which are our favourites, with just a touch of oak to round the original red fruits flavours. And there are, eventually, the great riservas, and single vineyards aged one or two years in barrel, which jump above all that. Intense, full-bodied wines that you better take with you at home, waiting for their peak performance, at 8 or 10 years age.
In many wineries you can taste IGT wines too, which blend the traditional Sangiovese grape, with Cab, Merlot, or anythinglese in extremely free proportions, and quickly age in barriques, to provide a wider range of flavours, and to what we may call international taste.
The last, and more special wines, in Chianti as in the whole of Tuscany, is the Vinsanto, a delicate straw wine that dates back to the Renaissance. White grapes, Trebbiano and Malvasia, 3 years ageing or much more, what comes out is a sweet, or acidic and dry, wine as you like, that can sweeten or cleanse you palate after a meal, or can be enjoyed as a meditation wine at the end of the day.
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