I really don’t need to go into too many details about the beauty of Chianti, do I? Even in December, with the harvested grape vines and the brown trees that you can tell were once filled with leaves of red, orange and yellow, this area is still incredibly beautiful.
Italy wine country.
My mom used to say that if the Italian immigrants knew what northern California looked like, there may have been an even bigger migration out west because the area looks so much like Italy. I’ve been to Sonoma and Napa valleys and I believe she’s right.
First, let’s review. Chianti is a wine-making region within Tuscany. A bottle of “Chianti Classico” means the wine was made in this zone, with a minimum of 80 percent sangiovese grapes. What this also means is you’re going to drink a wonderful bottle of red wine. There are other wines that are Chiantis, but without the “Classico” designation, it wasn’t made here. This also means that you’re going to drink a wonderful bottle of wine.
A few weeks ago on an afternoon trip, we drove around Chianti, visited a little town called San Gusme’ and ended our evening at an olive oil factory eating fire-grilled bruschetta and drinking wine. Thursday, we visited a town called, Vertine, and, like San Gusme’, this was a quaint, stonewalk- laden charming village with flower beds on window sills and rosemary bushes and olive trees abloom. Yes, these places are real. After a lovely drive around castles (not kidding) and rows of pruned grape vines in perfect symmetry, we ended our day at a winery called Castello d’Albola, in Radda.
I love visiting smaller wineries. And because it’s December, a bit outside of the wine tourism season, we were the only guests there and received a terrific private tour.
Our hostess, Veronique Peeters, who speaks about five different languages and is originally from Belgium, said that she’s seen a surge in wine tourism, mostly from young Italians. She took us through the cantina where we saw the magnificent large barrels aging Chianti Classico.
A highlight was a museum-ish type room that had stacks of bottles in it from as late as 1950. Tops were corroded, spider webs and dust clung to every bottle. Veronique said of course, they wouldn’t open one of those older bottles, but some of the more recent vintages, from the past 20 years or so, are good to go.
The second highlight was the tasting. Veronique poured four different wines for us and we enjoyed a sampling of their olive oil. I think whenever you start your day driving around Chianti and end it with glasses of wine in your hands and olive oil for dipping, you can consider that a very good day.