Visiting Florence had been a dream and one of the most awaited experiences was the trip to Chianti to visit the famous wineries there. The trip as like the Truffle hunt (described in my last post), was a well-planned one – almost a month in advance for the Italian sojourn.
There are quite a few wineries in Greve in the Chianti region in Tuscany. Greve is known as one of the most famous wine regions in Italy.
I decided upon the “Castello de Verrazano” for one of the reasons that there was also an “Organic Goats cheese” farm in its close vicinity and I wanted to cover that too…But believe me, the decision to visit this Winery was absolutely the best I had taken for my trip.
We started the journey from Florence via a bus and landed up in this quiet, isolated village at 11.00 in the morning. There was practically no human in sight leaving us to wonder whether we were in the right place after all. There was no sight of the winery or any sign around the small hills and open farmlands around. After walking for a few minutes and asking a lone soul in a shop – who sort of helped us in her broken English and our sad attempt at Italian with out route, we came across a pathway leading us upward to the small hill we had passed. The short walk that we thought, turned out to be an almost 3KM trek. But we kept on going and believe me, the views have been absolutely nothing to regret.
A kind couple in a car, which apparently were also going to the winery, offered us a lift about 10 minutes away from the winery. The look on their faces when we told them we had walked the whole way up was hilarious. They actually thought we were crazy. But believe me, it was a fun time we had walking (Need to mention here that I like walking..Non-walkers, make your vehicular arrangements to reach this place…there is no bus that reaches up to this winery).
Once up, it was absolutely a delightful place making me so glad that I opted for this winery. There was an old castle like house, which apparently was built by the owner’s ages back in time and was now used for manufacturing some part of wine and some part of Balsamic Vinegar. Yup, you read that right…One of the best every Balsamic Vinegar that I have ever come across is manufactured here.
The place has its own vineyards, a restaurant, some rooms for renting for travellers, a wine manufacturing set-up, Balsamic vinegar manufacturing set-up, Olive trees, orange trees and a beautiful black cat. We toured the winery with a few others joining in with us..a mixed crowd of Americans, a couple of Germans and me, the Indian. Believe me, nothing gives you more learning than travelling in mixed cultural groups and understanding their perspectives.
The winery was a typical one – with the vineyards, the fermentation zones and the Aging barrels. They even made the famous Italian Grappa and Vin-santo, a famous Italian dessert wine in the winery, which we sampled later at the tasting session. We made our rounds the cellars, understanding the different varietals in Italy, the aging process and other details.
The most interesting part was the Balsamic vinegar manufacturing. I am not too sure
of the exact process but the wine is matured for some years into this dark glossy liquid that smells and tastes absolutely divine, the original stuff and nothing like the bottled, watery stuff you get in the supermarkets. There were massive aging barrels for these too with every detail mentioned on there about the varietal, the year etc. The place housed a section where they aged pork as well.
After the wine tour, we settled in the restaurant for our wine-tasting session. This was one of the best sessions I have experienced. We were served platters of food and guided about the different wine and food combinations for the best flavour pairing. The best was for the end though with freshly made biscotti and some Grappa from the winery. The flavour combination was something I cannot describe. The crisp taste of the Grappa and the sweet Biscotti. It was like a peace of heaven. For the record, Grappa is known to have about 50% to 60% alcohol content and is manufactured from the grape Pomace usually.
Another interesting part that I came across was that, there was a special varietal of Grape growing in the area outside the restaurant. The grapes looked like perfect wine grapes but in fact, tasted like Strawberries. This was the highlight of the trip for me and the best part was, you could actually jump pluck them off the wine and eat them in the restaurant. That was the most ingenious idea the creator had. Getting your customers to do that sort of connects them with the place and the memories they have with the location.
My friend and me decided to spend some time exploring the open vineyards connecting the winery after lunch. The vast expanse was breathtaking and picturesque with well-maintained vines, more orange trees and even more olive trees bordering the vines. While there wasn’t much fruiting happening at that time, just the experience with the lush green colours and the open country area was enough for us.
We made the long walk back down to the main road, again stopping at times to just live in the moment and take in the atmosphere (also another excuse to take more pictures and make more memories).
Our trip plan further was to visit an Organic Goats cheese farm close by in the area and which; I hope to write about in my next post.
The winery visit in Greve, Chianti, a place that is known to produce some of the best wines in Italy was well worth the walk, the effort and the time spent. The relaxing day, the learning and the food made for a wonderful travel experience and one that will stay with me for a pretty long time.