VALDORCIA and the CRETE SENESI
Brunello, Vino Nobile, Valdorcia wines
Valdorcia, romantic Tuscany
Rolling fields, as you really imagine they should roll, pastures, few scatterd stone houses, evoke a quiet, pastoral picture. “Le Crete” an ideal Arcadian scenery, flawless like a Renaissance masterpiece, like an images from our mind’s eye, are in each and every brochure, calendar, movie, that made it a big Tuscan icon, like David, and the Leaning Tower before it. As we cross the undulated fields, small towns come into sight, delightful parish churches, eerie dungeons, monasteries concealed in the woods. All appear painted with art, the sheep tracing mysterious patterns in their fields, a cypress in the middle of nothing, the volcano, tall, darker in the backdrop.
This part of the Orcia valley is surrounded by hills praised, worshipped at times, by the wine lovers worldwide: Montepulciano, and Montalcino are there, with their cellars, and the classic vineyard, olive groves, scary castles, and amazing farmhouses. While Pienza makes great pecorino cheese, the two towns nearby, keep ageing their legendary wines, ageing for us: no better place for the best vertical tasting: the finest cheeses, with the finest wines.
• Montalcino, hidden vineyards • Sant’Antimo Romanesque abbey
• Montalcino town • Montepulciano’s cave cellars
• Pienza the towns, the cheeses • Renaissance treasures
Day by Day, the itinerary
Day 1 Montalcino S. Antimo abbey Day 2 Montepulciano, Pienza
Day 3 Montalcino, Monteoliveto or Siena
Day 1 Montalcino southern vineyards, S. Antimo abbey
Montalcino. On the Montalcino hill, a dreamland for winelovers and vintners, there are almost 200 wineries, on different terroirs, of different sizes and ages. Our tasting experience begins in the southern side, between S. Angelo and Castelnuovo. Like in every wine country with a long tradition, we find estates, with a very long history: Ciacci Piccolomini, Villa a Sesta, Argiano for example, established by old Sienese landowners families four or five hundreds years ago. Or famous huge wineries, like Coldorcia or Banfi, and family size, often amazing wineries which every year produce only a few thousands bottles, with special and unique characters.
Along the old Cassia Road, we find the St. Antimo Abbey, a Romanesque masterpiece, with an history of over 1000 years, dating back to the Charlemagne’s trip to Rome. Few French monks take care of it, and preserve their ancient tradition, like the Gregorian chants which we could happen to listen to if we come at the right hours.
We spend the afternoon in the Montalcino town, where every shop is wine boutique, and we taste in a local enoteca, or very close to the center, in one of the family estates where the Brunello tradition was started in late 1800.
Day 2 Montepulciano, Vino Nobile, the Pienza cheeses
Today isdedicated to Montepulciano high on a steep ridge, with a great view on Valdichiana. This is the source of the Vino Nobile, the oldest, long ageing, austere Sangiovese wine. It could be properly called an historical supertuscan, because since the Renaissance at least it was made, rich and tannic, for the more demaninding noble families of Florence. We taste it in ancient, undeground cellars, right below the Renaissance “palazzi” of the more powerful families. Some of them which not unusually conceal some Etruscan tombs, are venerable temples of wine. Dug in the safer places, in the heart of the hill, right under the mansion of their older whealthy producers: Contucci, Redi, La Talosa, Avignonesi...
In the afternoon, instead we enjoy another tasting at a winery, and we visit Pienza, an hamlet which has three major appeals, beside than one of the more scenic views on the Crete Senesi: the architecture, its sheep cheeses. The Crete or “clays” is a farmland area that offers some of the more representative pictures of Tuscany, that you must have certainly seen: rolling fields, few houses, no vineyards for once, rare cypress trees, and an amazing range of colours changing in each season. A specialized sheperds tradition give us a variety of fine sheep cheeses, the famous pecorino toscano, every food lover can see that no other food would be more welcome here, between Montepulciano and Montalcino that make such wines. The architectural heritage of Pienza is small, of course, but significant. The town, a village of farmers and thieves, somehow “belonged” to Pope Pious family, it was completely redesigned in 1500 by the architect Rossellino, and it is since regarded like a little jewel of the Renaissance architecture.
Day 3 Montalcino northern vineyards, Monteoliveto or Siena
In the morning we enjoy a farewell Brunello tasting in an small,valuable estate on the northen slope of the hill, which is where the vitners are mostly real local families, who make Rosso and Brunello in the traditional way. Later on we can to pay a short visit to Siena, to its celebrated Campo square and to the Duomo, or we can take a detour and visit the Monte Oliveto Maggiore abbey, from 1400 “only”. This majestic building, placed in a splendid location as a monastery should be, guards in its cloister a cycle of paintings by Sodoma and Signorelli, some of the more beautiful, and interesting Renaissance frescoes.