From the golden days of Bacchus and as early as Plato, Aristotle and Lucretius, learned souls often dealt with the concept of wine and how tastings define our essence. In more modern times, two scholars even won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their research on the senses of taste and smell, in 2004.
The reasons why we are so fascinated with the world of wine and vine growing are connected to a desire to taste something extraordinary, but also to learn about a specific wine culture. Many areas around the world are proper destinations of what one may call wine tourism, from Stellenbosch in South Africa to Burgundy in France or the Napa Valley in California. When it comes to Italian wine, every area across the country will impress with its superior wine production, Tuscany perhaps leading the way. Let’s explore the dreamy world of Tuscan wine production.
Tuscany – wine seeped in history
In the words of Salvador Dalí, “The connoisseur does not drink wine, but tastes its secrets”. This is certainly true, for although there seems to be very little mediocre wine around, the history of some wine cellars goes back hundreds of years, and so do their secrets that turn grapes into drinking marvels. Tuscany charms every visitor, landscapes that stir the soul with one rolling hill and one pastel-coloured farmhouse after the other, some of its wineries among the best in the world: beyond the charm of ethereal landscapes, however, lies a powerful combination of a fruitful soil, excellent exposure, the ideal climate and astounding skills in wine production that yield incredible results. Tuscany indeed possesses one of the most iconic wine cultures around, with famous superstars like Brunello di Montalcino or Chianti, but also other exquisite examples from smaller, yet extraordinary vineyards. Let’s explore.
When wine meets art – Cantina Lunae
Looking at neighbouring Liguria, Cantina Lunae is akin to a work of art. In a constant dialogue with the surrounding nature, every space in the winery is carefully studied with the most suitable use of light, soft furnishings and architectural elements: this can only lead to the creation of fabulous wine. Based in Luni, just across the border from north-western Tuscany, Cantina Lunae wines express the territory they stem from, between the sea and the mountains. The small plots where the vines grow exploit the varied geological compositions of the soil and the outcome is a series of wide-ranging wines employing Vermentino grapes – Etichetta Nera, Grigia and Bianca - or local ones – Albarola, Vermentino Nero and Ciliegiolo – red wines in several combinations of Sangiovese, Merlot, Pollera Nera, Alicante, Albarossa or Massaretta and others – with special crus and DOC wines that surprise and impress connoisseurs. Every surrounding element, from the purity of nearby marble to the fluidity of water, with the combination of a temperate climate, is preserved and respected, in a nurturing process that has been pursued by the Bosoni family for four generations.
Legally defined in 1716 – although identified as a region in the 13th century –
Chiantishire, as it is known to many foreigners, Chianti Classico vineyards recognise a strict area between Florence and Siena. The grapes employed to produce Chianti Classico, Sangiovese, are only grown here and the outcome is either a light-bodied or full-bodied type of wine, which is robust and fruity at the same time. Among the many wineries in the region, Antinori nel Chianti Classico is certainly one of the most celebrated. Its history dating back to 1180 (!!), this winery located in Bargino, south of Florence, was voted the best in the world in 2022. Designed by the architect Marco Casamonti, it was opened in 2012, although the Antinori have been wine growers for an astonishing twenty-six generations! The wines you will taste are, unsurprisingly, Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG, Chianti Classico DOCG Peppoli and the Vinsanto Chianti Classico, whose production in the whole of Tuscany dates back to medieval times. The vineyard is part of Toscana Wine Architecture, outlining fourteen notable vineyards across Tuscany that blend superior quality and prime design, planned by leading contemporary architects.
Badia a Passignano is another Antinori winery in the Chianti Classico area. The Badia sits within a protected nature area and is an ancient Vallombrosan monastery dating back to the 11th century AD (although some sources say it already existed in the 4th c.), which hosts astonishing jewels such as a Last Supper fresco by the brothers Davida and Domenico Ghirlandaio and frescoed lunettes by Cosimo Rosselli, all works dating back to the 15th century. Located at 300 metres above sea level, with the soil containing sandstone and parts of clay, Hungarian oak barrels guard the finest Badia a Passignano Chianti Classico DOCG Gran Selezione wine, of course made with Sangiovese grapes. The cantina is located under the monastery, where vaulted ceilings and thick walls can maintain the correct temperature and humidity level for a supreme vintage.
A poetic marvel - Bolgheri
Ever since Giosuè Carducci wrote his splendid 1874 Davanti San Guido poem, Bolgheri has become a dream and a fascination to everyone. The alley leading to this small bijou town, lined with 2,500 cypress trees, is indeed poetic, and it paves the way to a wine experience unlike any other one you’ve ever had. Several factors yield a good vintage: the soil, the exposure and the skill of the vine growers. The sun clearly pays a part, for it can alter the sugar level, hence the alcohol level, according to the intensity of the exposure. Here in Bolgheri you have a third, key element that contributes to creating a masterpiece: the sea. The gentle breeze that comes in from the nearby coast, combined with the sandy, slightly clay soil, mitigates the heat and protects from the cold in winter: the grapes are sheltered from the elements and can thus deliver world-class results.
Here is a selection of top class wineries where you can enjoy the best this territory can offer.
Beyond extraordinary – Bolgheri wineries
South of Bolgheri and Castagneto Carducci lies the Tenuta Argentiera, one of the largest in the area. Producing Bolgheri DOC and DOC Superiore, Toscana IGT and Toscana IGT Vermentino and rosé wines, their vineyards extend from the hills to the sea and a tasting overlooking the coast is simply dreamy. The Swiss architect Mario Botta designed the funky architecture of Petra Wine, further south in the Val di Cornia: environmentally sustainable, the simple, rational design of the exterior “emphasises the beauty and the depth of the landscape”. Deep in the heart of the Maremma, the various 100% organic wines entail several combinations of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah grapes. Founded in 1944, at Tenuta San Guido time seems to have stood still. Producing the famous Sassicaia DOC wine, the name comes from the stony soil it is produced in and it is inspired by Burgundy wines, containing Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes. Other wines in their collection are Guidalberto, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and Le Difese, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese grapes. Managed by the Antinori family but owned by the Della Gheradesca family since the 17th century, Tenuta Guado al Tasso extends over 320 hectares in the Bolgheri amphitheatre, with vineyards cultivated with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot , Vermentino Nero and Bianco.
Established in 1981, Ornellaia wine estate is owned by the Frescobaldi family, winemakers for over seven centuries. Among the first to dedicate themselves to Super Tuscan Sassicaia and Bolgheri superior, their wines offer a Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon blends, plus a 100% merlot version. Each year, an international artist is called to create a series of limited edition wine labels for their Vendemmia d’artista project.
The courage of being bold - Super Tuscan wines
True as in all stories, however, sometimes rules need to be challenged. And It takes courage to be a rule-breaker. Everywhere in Italy, strict rules are in place regarding wine production – the so-called Disciplinare – relating to times of harvest, aging and especially the types of grapes employed for every vintage. Back in the 1970s, a group of ambitious local wine growers grew so frustrated with the local bureaucracy with reference to wine that they started introducing foreign grapes into their vintage. This is how the first Super Tuscan wines came into being, the name probably given by Robert Parker in his Wine Advocate review, and defines Tuscan wines that have acquired international success, despite their being so challenging – or perhaps precisely because of that reason! Among the first, famous examples was Tignanello, created by the Antinori family in 1971, with Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, thus challenging traditional methods and creating an equally noble wine. The Consortium controlling wine production eventually granted the IGT designation (Typical Geographical Indication) in 1992, allowing wine growers to be more creative with their experimentations. These days, the most famous Super Tuscans are Sassicaia, Ornellaia and Tignanello.
Be inspired by our cooking classes at Il Bottaccio
Surely wine can be tasted and enjoyed on its own, but it is best appreciated when it accompanies a joyous meal. Learn how to combine the best in wine culture with the flair of our creative chef Nino Mosca. Cooking is the expression of love, dedication and creativity: combining influences from the sea and the mountains, with added modern experimentations, only the finest ingredients are sourced and employed. One of the very few properties in Versilia to organise tailor-made cooking classes, sessions take place in the morning and last three hours: in a proper hands-on fashion, we will guide you through every process, crafting your very own, personalised menu, with lunch to follow. At Il Bottaccio, you too can become a chef for a day!