Today I went on a tour to Chianti and it was an amazing experience, one of my favorite ones so far! My hotel arranged for me to join a small group through http://www.mytours.it and Marco picked me up at 2:00 in his van, where I joined seven others from New Zealand, Brazil and Boston. For the next six hours I was treated to an awesome encounter, visiting two family run small wineries in the Chianti province, one in Sant’ Appiano and one in Castellina in Chianti.
Halfway between Firenze and Siena, Chianti is a major wine and olive producing area in Italy, and it is the only area where the authentic Chianti Classico wine is produced.
Sant’ Appiano is a very small village with only a few homes and not many more residents. Sant’ Appiano was formerly the estate of the esteemed Pitti family (of the Pitti Palace in Florence) many centuries ago. Now it is a small winery which produces approximately 90,000 bottles of wine each year, and the wines are sold only in Italy. Since olive trees are also abundant in this area, Sant’ Appiano also produces its own extra virgin olive oil.
Barbara, the owner, warmly welcomed us when we arrived and soon her brother and co-owner, Francesco, joined us in the wine cellar. Not only did they provide us with a complete explanation of how their wines are produced, but afterwards treated us to a tasting of three of their wines, and included some of the most wonderful appetizers to go along with the wine. They could not have been any nicer. Their family has been producing this wine for the last fifty years, and they know wine!
Afterwards, Marco drive us to the town of Castellina in Chianti where we visited Casamonti, another family-operated winery on 350 acres, where the owner, Annarita, and just five others produce wine, olive oil, organic spices, and cured meats from a specific type of pig which is raised only by them. It is incredible that all of this work is done by only a few people. They have 3000 olive trees and I learned that olives from five different types of trees go into the production of olive oil. The olives are harvested in November and December both by hand and only recently by machine.
Annarita gave us the grand tour of Casamonti, both outside and in, including an upfront and personal look at their home-made prosciutto hanging in freezers, and you could still see the hooves of the pigs. It was an amazing tour, which culminated in a beautiful table set for us, and Annarita’s right-hand man, Allessandro, pouring three different wines, two Chiantis and a Merlot blend, for us to taste. Needless to say everything was delicious. Annarita had prepared some bruschettas made with her mother’s recipes and after we left there, we did not need another meal! They also do not export their wines outside of Italy, so I thought it was really special to be able to taste wines that you cannot find anywhere else. I did purchase some and had them shipped home, so I guess I will be hosting a wine tasting ater I return.
On the way home, although it was not part of the tour, Marco took us to the tiny village of Monteriggioni, where only 52 people reside today. There is a castle and the town appears as it did 800 years ago. It was a beautiful end to another wonderful in Italy.