Here at Walkabout Florence we’re pretty passionate about our food and wine: after all, we’re Italian, so what’s not to be passionate about! For those people lucky enough to visit this beautiful country on a holiday, there’s just so much to enjoy in terms of not just the wine, but also the culture, art, history, architecture and simply the famous Italian ‘bella vita’.
We really do think this is the best place in the world and the hundreds and hundreds of happy guests we meet certainly seem to agree!
Come on One of the Best Tuscany Wine Tours
While everyone has their own personal reasons for making their dream of an Italian holiday come true, there are many who come specifically to immerse in the production of the vineyards that abound here – particularly in our favourite part of the country. We’re very proud to say we think we’ve got the very best Tuscany wine tours on offer, led by our wonderful local guides and visiting some of Chianti’s top vineyards – as well as some that are delightful hidden secrets.
Our guests tend to be a mix of genuine aficionados, people who enjoy a tipple and want to sample a range of world-famous varieties, and also quite a few first-timers – people who really know nothing about them but want to find out in one of the best places on the planet to do so!
This blog post is aimed at that last group and also for those who are thinking that just maybe they might like to learn more about what to expect on the tours we offer.
So we’ve asked one of our favourite guides to talk about what you’ll experience and how to make the very most of a day trip through the most beautiful wine producing region in Italy, and we’re just going to say it – the world!
First Time? What to Know Before you Go
Before we go any further, probably the first thing you should know is that, for a first-timer, the easiest way to absolutely guarantee that you’ll make the most of every moment is to book on to a small group tour with a reputable operator and some like minded travellers. Of course, you could do it on your own, hire a car or take public transport and try to juggle all the logistics, but that can actually be extremely stressful if you’re not familiar with the language and country – not to mention working out where to visit and then not knowing what to do when you get there.
The solution? Book with us on our renowned Chianti Wine Tour. Not only will you get to visit multiple estates and learn all about the production of the famous Chianti Classicos and others, but because you’ll be accompanied by one of our passionate and highly knowledgeable guides, you’ll be able to learn so much. And, by the way, our guides love questions, so you’ll be able to find out everything you’ve ever wanted to know but were afraid to ask in case you looked silly.
Our wonderful guides are the reason our day trips are among the best Tuscany wine tours on offer – and, as a bonus, our Chianti Wine Tour introduces you to the delicious traditional gourmet cuisine of the region as well.
Ready to be tempted? If you have a little bit of knowledge ahead of time you’ll find out that knowing nothing about wine is no hindrance when you’re on the best Tuscany wine tours. We’ve put together some basic facts on the area so you can learn the most important stuff straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.
The Chianti Region
If you know a little about the region through which you’ll be travelling before you get there your experience will certainly be enhanced, so here’s a brief run-down.
Chianti covers an area in central Tuscany and while the borders are a little blurred, we can safely say it includes the provinces of Siena and Florence and slightly beyond. Within the magnificent landscape there are around eight larger towns and many hamlets, rolling vineyards, olive groves, castles and charming churches.
Chianti has a thriving tourism industry – a no-brainer because it’s unbelievably beautiful and imbued with a rich history and culture – but its main draw card really is the agriculture and farming, namely the production of things like olive oil and, you guessed it, the wine.
This part of Italy is extremely accessible from Florence, the main touristic hub of the region, which means that day tours out into the countryside are common practice. Many visitors tend to use Florence as a base and then travel out to explore the surrounding area on multiple day trips. (Which is where we come in.) While you can, of course, choose to self-drive around the area, for a first-timer it’s much more relaxing to let someone else do the driving and navigating while you just sit back and do the tasting.
Top tip: While we do offer the best Tuscany wine tours, remember that’s not all we do! Check out our great range of other day trips from Florence too.
The Famous Chiantis
You might have heard the word and thought, ‘well is it a drink or a place?’ The answer is that it’s both. The reds known widely as Chianti date back to the early 1700s and were traditionally bottled in a stout bottle wrapped in a straw basket called a ‘fiasco’. (Nowadays you won’t see that so much, if at all.)
To be able to use the name, the product must be made from at least 80% Sangiovese grapes. Some makers blend the Sangiovese with other grapes like:
- Canaiolo Nero
Generally they are high in tannins and acidity, giving them a dry, earthy taste, overtones of cherries and strawberries, and the ability to be paired with a wide variety of foods.
The Classico is the higher-end version and every bottle will be labelled clearly so you can determine whether it is a regular Chianti or a Classico. While in 1967 the Italian government created the region’s Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC), in the seventies some producers began to make their versions using unapproved high-quality international grapes – these became known as the ‘super Tuscans’.
These later went on to win approval with the country’s highest classification: the Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG). The two designations are now classified separately.
There are seven sub-zones in the Chianti DOCG area:
- Colli Fiorentini
- Colli Aretini
- Colline Pisane
- Colli Senesi
The purpose of knowing this is not to overload you if you’re a novice, but just to give you an indication as to how the region is designated in terms of its grape growing. Simply getting a basic ‘layout of the land’ will help you to understand the concept of the differences that are achieved from different soils, sub-climates and production methods.
What I really love about our Walkabout Florence tours (and I’m sure you will too!) is that our itineraries are designed so guests get the widest and most authentic overview of the many local producers. That’s why we visit a lesser-known family vineyard as well as one of the most prestigious estates in the entire region. Don’t ask me to pick a favourite though, because I love them all the same!
Top tip: The more you sample the more you’ll be conscious of the diversity of flavours, so get into the habit of really tasting what’s in your mouth and, when you notice something, speak to your guide about it.
Our guides are passionate aficionados themselves and they love the opportunity to share their knowledge with guests.
Learning About Perfect Pairings
As mentioned above, the wines from the region go with a huge variety of food, but the beauty of being on one of our Wine and Food Safaris is that you’ll have the opportunity to learn from the experts just what the most amazing pairings can be – and how the locals do it.
To this end, we visit two estates (which are very different from each other) to enjoy food and wine tastings onsite, as well as enjoying an amazing lunch in a traditional Tuscan restaurant – accompanied by perfectly paired wines of course.
In the lovely town of Greve, we even visit a famous butcher to choose a selection of salami, which we’ll later pair with the products of a wonderful family owned winery that we visit.
Because the wines are so adaptable to a vast range of flavours, the locals here pretty much don’t drink anything else. I mean, why would they?
Here are some examples of favourite pairings of the local Chianti to give you some ideas to start with:
- Tomato based pasta sauces
- Roasted and grilled meats (lamb, wild boar, pork, beef)
- Pecorino cheese (and any other cheese)
- Tuscan olive oil
Mouth watering isn’t it? And if you think it sounds good, just wait until you’re there in person… satisfaction guaranteed!
Fast Facts About Chianti (the region and the wine)
The name is protected by Italian law and can only be applied to wines made in the region.
Records indicate it started out as a white, with mentions of such until 1398 and only becoming a red from somewhere around the fifteenth to the eighteenth century.
The Classicos (including the Riservas) are denoted by a black rooster on the label.
The Riserva name denotes an advanced ageing process.
The Superiore name denotes that it goes beyond the required standards of DOC regulations. Often this means it is aged in oak, for instance, which is not a requirement of the DOC.
The region has become so popular with British visitors that it’s gained the nickname ‘Chiantishire’.
The nutrient rich soils of this area not only give the wine its intense flavours, the same applies to other local produce like olives, tomatoes and even the cured meats.
The Florentine and Sienese municipalities are lobbying hard to have the region nominated as a UNESCO protected site on the grounds of its unique cultural, agricultural, landscape, tourism and economic features.
The area encompasses around 250 square kilometres and as well as Florence and Siena includes numerous other notable towns including Castellina, Greve, Gaiole and Radda.
Is it Worth Coming if I Know Nothing About Wine?
The answer to that is a resounding ‘yes!’ You really don’t have to go into any great depth of learning if you don’t want to – there are some people who are simply there to enjoy the world-famous tastes and flavours of this part of the world, and that’s absolutely fine.
In my experience, though, when you’re in a place as agriculturally abundant as this, you can’t help but become a little intrigued by finding all about the traditional processes and production methods. Guests have told me over and over again that there’s just something so special about being here that makes them feel closer to the land and the old ways of doing things. ‘Provenance’ has become rather a buzzword in the last decade or so, and I honestly don’t think there’s anywhere else in the world that allows you to enjoy the immersion into culture and its relationship with cuisine as much as here.
So, if you’re looking for the best Tuscany wine tours, I invite you to join my colleagues and me and allow us to show you just what we’ve got. Bring a sense of fun, an open heart and a healthy appetite and whether you already know a whole lot about wine or you don’t know anything except that it tastes good, you’ll find a lot to love. And a lot to eat and drink too…
Spero di vedervi presto. (Hope to see you soon!)
We Are Walkabout Florence
As one of the most renowned and respected independent tour operators in the business, here at Walkabout Florence we’re proud of our diverse range of fun, fulfilling day tours that introduce visitors to the wonderful art, history and culture of Italy. Our knowledgeable and passionate guides are committed to guests’ satisfaction and we’re proud of their reputation for excellence. From cultural day tours and food and wine safaris, to Vespa and Fiat 500 tours, our highly acclaimed day trips are guaranteed to give you the most enjoyable experience possible.