Tuscany is famous for its wines, with the region’s vineyards producing a significant proportion of Italy’s annual wine output of 40.8 million hectolitres. The climate and soil is perfectly suited to producing grapes and nowhere is that more true than in the valleys of Tuscany, which is home to dozens of DOC regions.
is famous for its wines, with the region’s vineyards producing a
significant proportion of Italy’s annual wine output of 40.8 million
That figure puts Italy top of the list of the biggest wine producing
countries in the world and it’s for a good reason that the country
produces so much. The climate and soil is perfectly suited to producing
grapes and nowhere is that more true than in the valleys of Tuscany,
which is home to dozens of DOC regions.
DOC stands for Denominazione di origine controllata, which means
“controlled designation of origin”. Only wines from these areas can
carry certain names. A prime example is Chianti – which can only be
printed on the label of wines produced in the area surrounding the
As well as being home to many of the world’s best loved wines Tuscany
is also a region with a great reputation for consistency and while some
wine lovers will argue over whether 1997, 1999 or 2006 were the
greatest vintage since 1985 the fact is the region’s enjoyed a
spectacular run of good years, with 1995, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2001 and
2007 also seen as excellent vintages. More recently the 2011 and 2012
vintages are expected to prove to be wines well worth keeping.
Because of the region’s fantastic wine producing credentials many people on holidays in Tuscany are drawn to visit the vineyards, so we thought we’d put together a list of five of the best to visit.
1. Antinori Chianti Classico
This vineyard is less than 20km from the centre of Florence, just off
the main highway to Siena, but despite this convenient location it’s
often missed as it’s hidden among olive groves and geometrically aligned
vineyards – not to mention the fact much of the winery lies
It’s been run by the Antinori family since 1385, but despite the long
history you won’t find a dusty or old fashioned winery. Thanks to a
newly built building which was opened in 2013 the winery is extremely
active and fantastically well-equipped. This expensive new winery was
made possible because the vineyard is prolific and boasts two of Italy’s
top wines; Solaia and Tignanello.
Designed by one of Italy’s leading architects, Marco Casamonti, the
winery has more than 600 years of winemaking history displayed in its
museum and also has a book shop, art collection and a wine bar and
tasting rooms. These attractions are housed in a mainly subterranean
terracotta structure which helps to generate perfect climatic conditions
needed for the thousands of barrels of wine stored within it.
There’s also a restaurant on site, so you can enjoy a visit between
11am and 7pm (weekdays, 11am to 3pm on Sundays) then sample a delicious
meal on the roof of the building.
2. Castello di Ama
Castello di Ama’s winery was opened more than 30 years ago by Lorenza
Sebasti and Marco Pallanti at a time when the castle hamlet, its
vineyards and olive groves were in a state of abandon. Three decades on
the 12th-century castle is beautifully renovated and has become home to
one of the most important wine-related contemporary art collections in
Italy – and it also produces fantastic fine wines like the Haiku Chianti
Tourists can enjoy the art of world-renowned artists, with the pieces
on site including Daniel Buren’s mirror wall (which reflects the
vineyards) and Anish Kapoor’s ‘Aima’, which is a pulsing red light which
shines brightly from the tiny church of San Venanzio.
The castle estate doesn’t just produce wine either. Like many other
vineyards it produces its own extra virgin olive oil, but a
state-of-the-art olive press means it can bottle one of the Tuscan
countryside’s best oils.
Visits to Castello di Ama are by appointment only and can be arranged at castellodiama.com
3. Castello di Nipozzano
Castello di Nipozzano was built on the outskirts of Florence to
protect the city more than 1,000 years ago and it’s enjoyed a colourful
history. Over the centuries great artists like Donatello and Michelozzo
Michelozzi regularly visited to buy wine from the estate and it was then
destroyed in 1944 during World War II.
The current castle was partially rebuilt but parts of the original building can still be seen, including the original cellar.
Besides getting a look round an historic castle a visit to Nipozzano
also offers the chance to see a true working farm with more than 600ha
of vineyard and olive grove. Chianina and Angus cows can also be seen
roaming free in the fields.
The real reason to visit though, is the wine. You’ll be guided
through the monumental cellars where the Chianti Rùfina is aged and
given the chance to taste this fantastic wine in a beautifully and
tastefully restored old kitchen. On top of that you can enjoy fabulous
views of perfectly maintained vineyards across the valley and,
naturally, you can also buy wines from the vineyard.
Wine is available to buy from as far back as 1864 but the years
priced at the highest premium are Marchese Lamberto Frescobaldi’
favourites: 1960, 1974 and 1981. To find out more about Castello di
Nipozzano visit frescobaldi.it.
This vineyard is also just a few miles from Florence, on the road
towards Prato. The estate has been a well-known producer of wine and
extra-virgin olive oil for more than 1,200 years, since 804. It’s been
in the hands of the current owners, the Contini Bonaccossi family, since
Thanks to the influence of the youngest members of the family (Oscar,
Ettore, Giulia and Duccio – who are all 21-years-old) the winery has a
fantastic wine bar called La Vinsantaia which is open from April to
October. Guests can enjoy informal wine tastings and meals in this bar –
but that’s not all that’s on site.
The huge 650ha estate has been diversified in recent years and boasts
forest, organic vineyards, olive groves, and even a cookery school.
In summer the wine bar is often packed as its terrace offers a
fabulous view of Florence’s Duomo, which is a fantastic site to take in
over the estate’s famous dessert wine, vin santo.
The estate does well out of selling its vintages too, with vintages
of the great Villa di Capezzana dating back to the 1930s in stock.
Vintages to look out for include the 1968 or 1988. Find out more about
the estate at capezzana.it.
Salcheto is well worth a visit because of its unique selling point – it became Europe’s first self-sufficient winery in 2011.
That year’s harvest was produced exclusively using energy from
renewable sources and recycled winery materials. The estate makes use of
ancient water reclamation practices, uses the modern technology of
solar panels, and its wine tanks operate off excess CO2 produced during
The vineyard is also certified as organic and became the first winery
in Europe to be given permission to use the green carbon footprint
sticker on its bottles, while also managing to continue producing
top-notch wines. Although Salcheto is a young vineyard which had its
inaugural vintage in 1990 and its new winery was only completed in 2011,
it has fast carved out a reputation for itself as one of the region’s
Visitors head off on a tour which offers an insight into the
incredible technology in place, meet Salcheto’s president Michele
Manelli and learn how Salcheto is different to other wineries.
On top of all this the estate also overlooks the stunning town of
Montepulciano, and many people would agree it is among the most
beautiful wineries in Tuscany.
If you want to head along, enjoy a tasting and discover for yourself
how high-tech and green principles can make a perfect match then visit salcheto.it to find out more.