Updates on Tuscan wineries to visit by Harry Fawkes, with an introduction by sommelier and wine writer Filippo Bartolotta...
Castello di Nipozzano
Style: What could be more Tuscan than tasting wine in a 1,000-year-old castle made from vines grown in the surrounding farm and owned by Florentine nobility?
Built to guard Florence, great artists such as Donatello and Michelozzo Michelozzi regularly purchased wine from the estate. It was destroyed in 1944, but has been partially rebuilt and you can still view the original cellar at the Renaissance villa.
Nipozzano is the real thing; a true working farm, and a big one at that with more than 600ha, including olive trees and an on-site olive press. Chianina and Angus cows can be seen roaming free in the fields.
A visit will include a tour of the monumental cellars used to age Chianti Rùfina, the higher altitude appellation in the Chianti area. Other highlights include the tasting room in an old kitchen, as well as the views of perfectly maintained vineyards across the valley.
If you are there to buy, the old vintages start from 1864 but Marchese Lamberto Frescobaldi is very fond of the 1960, 1974 or 1981.
Hours and visits: Open on weekdays. Visits must be booked in advance.
Restaurant: There is no restaurant, but you can request that your visit includes a meal using products grown on the property.
Address and contact: Via di Nipozzano, 50060 Pelago, Florence; +39 055 8311050; frescobaldi.com
Style: Historic, rustic, cellar tour with all the traditional wines on show from the Carmignano DOCG.
Just a few miles from Florence, towards Prato, is Capezzana. The estate has been producing wine and extra-virgin olive oil since 804. More recently, the Contini Bonaccossi family has been running the estate since the 1920s.
The youngest members, Oscar, Ettore, Giulia and Duccio – all 25 years old – created the newest aspect of the winery; a wine bar called La Vinsantaia (open April–October) where guests can enjoy informal wine tastings, as well as food.
This is a large, diversified estate, with 650ha of forest, organic vineyards and olive groves, and a cookery school.
In summer, don’t miss the terrace with the view of Florence’s Duomo, and leave room to taste one of Tuscany’s greatest wines – vin santo, a dessert wine made from grapes left to turn to raisins on drying racks.
For those looking to buy, the winery has a great list of library vintages of the great Villa di Capezzana, starting from the 1930s. Still performing well is the 1968 or 1988.
Hours and visits: Open Monday to Saturday. Tours start from €20 per person for a tour and tasting that includes three wines. Booking in advance is recommended.
Restaurant: The Vinsantaia wine bar offers food based on organic products, plus a range of the estate’s wines.
Address and Contact: Via Capezzana 100, 59015 Carmignano; +39 055 8706005; capezzana.it
Antinori, Chianti Classico
Style: Slick architecture and a modern wine tour from one of Tuscany’s most historic families.
Less than 20km from the heart of Florence, right off the main highway going to Siena, is the stunning new Antinori Chianti Classico winery.
Set among olive groves and geometrically aligned vineyards, the winery is almost hidden, as most of it lies underground.
The Antinori family has been in the wine business since 1385 and here you will find an active and prolific wine empire that boasts two of Italy’s top wines: Tignanello and Solaia, produced on a nearby Antinori estate.
First opened in August 2013, the new winery designed by leading Italian architect Marco Casamonti has more than 600 years of winemaking on display in its wine museum. There is a book shop, art collection and, of course, wine bar and tasting rooms.
All of this is housed within a structure using local terracotta, conceived to generate the perfect climatic conditions needed for the barrels.
An incredible iron spine to the building gives the sensation that the floor is actually suspended above the foundation.
Hours and visits: Everyday from 9.30am to 6pm. Guided tours run every hour (10am–4pm) for €35 per person – booking essential if you would like the tour in English. Custom tour options are available. There are several casual tasting options for those visiting without reservations. The top tour, Bottaia Cru, takes two-and-a-half hours and includes lunch at the Rinuccio 1180 restaurant with wine matching.
Restaurant: On the top floor, in Rinuccio 1180, chef Matteo Cambi cooks a perfect ‘Chianti burger’.
Address and Contact: Via Cassia per Siena 133, 50026 Bargino, San Casciano in Val di Pesa. +39 055 2359700; antinori.it
Castello di Ama
Style: Legendary Chianti wine estate, full of history mixed with contemporary art
When Lorenza Sebasti and Marco Pallanti started Castello di Ama a little over 35 years ago, the hamlet and its vineyards and olive groves were in a state of abandon.
Today, the 12th-century castle is beautifully renovated and has one of the most important wine-related contemporary art installations, as well as fantastic fine wines, such as the Haiku Chianti Classico.
Visitors can enjoy artworks including Daniel Buren’s mirror wall, which reflects the vineyards, or Anish Kapoor’s ‘Aima’, with its pulsing red light in the tiny church of San Venanzio.
While many wine producers also make extra-virgin olive oil, Castello di Ama has a state-of-the-art olive press that allows the Pallantis to bottle one of the countryside’s best oils – a must try!
If you’re looking to buy, see our article charting 30 years of Castello di Ama’s L’Apparita.
Hours and visits: Visits are private, for a fee and by appointment only.
Restaurant: Il Ristoro di Ama is set in a Tuscan house with antique furniture and modern design elements. It’s a wonderful way to try the estate’s wines, paired with fantastic cuisine.
Livernano & Casalvento
Style: Rustic, Etruscan hamlet that has been lovingly restored.
Bob Cuillo was born to a poor family in the Bronx, New York, but he went on to own one of the largest car dealerships in the US. After this, he dedicated himself to his passion: music. From the 1970s he produced films and shows on Broadway and in London.
What does this have to do with wine? Well, Cuillo bought Casalvento, a property in the heart of Chianti Classico, in 1997 and neighbouring wine estate Livernano in 2002, resulting in a 185ha combined with 25ha under vine. He restored the old Livernano village and turned it into a country resort with a restaurant.
Today, Cuillo’s wife, Gudrun, meets almost every visitor to the winery, so a wine tour here is one of the most personable experiences in Tuscany.
Hours and visits: Open daily at the Casalvento estate for wine tours. You can drop in for an informal wine bar visit or make an appointment for a proper tour and tasting, which start at €35 per head.
Restaurant: Chef Andrea Mancini’s restaurant is in a beautiful valley. If you’re lucky you’ll be there when one of Cuillo’s famous singer friends provide impromptu entertainment.
Address and Contact: Livernano 67/A, 53017 Radda in Chianti; +39 0577 738353; livernano.it
Le Macchiole, Bolgheri
Style: Polished, family-run Bolgheri winery where the focus is well and truly on international, single varietal wines.
Bolgheri has become world famous for its ‘Super Tuscan’ wines. It is a must-visit area and, dare we say it, a welcome change from Sangiovese.
On your way there, as you cut inland from the coast, you’ll have to dodge Lycra clad cyclists, before you find yourself at the imposing gate of the legendary estate Le Macchiole.
Run by Cinzia Merli and her two sons, Elia and Mattia Le Macchiole, this winery is less formal than the gate suggests. As you take the small, private tour around the organic Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Merlot vineyards, you’ll notice a large mural by Italian street artist Ozmo – similar in style to Banksy – which hints at the family’s creativity.
A tour of the cellar is followed by a tasting in one of two rooms, where you can try one of the best single Cabernet Francs Italy produces along with single varietal Merlots and Syrah.
Hours and visits: Open Monday-Friday for wine tours. Reservations are needed and should be booked at least a week in advance. Tastings start at €35 per head.
Prima Pietra, Riparbella
Style: Remote, tranquil and a lovely setting to taste a vertical of Super Tuscan wines.
If the numbers of cyclists and tourists in and around Bolgheri is overwhelming, then Riparbella is your antidote.
This is the first winery bought by Massimo Ferragamo – see below for the second – and the team has been making Bordeaux blends here since 2007. A wine tour has recently been added to this small vineyard.
After a drive into the small town of Riparbella, you come to the gates of Prima Pietra and the first thing to hit you is the tranquil scene across the Tuscan coast from high up in the hills.
Our attentive host, Alice, took us around the vineyards with a glass of Chardonnay in-hand, followed by a tour of the cellar and a tasting of back-vintages in the tasting room, which is set outside and allows you to fully appreciate that view.
Hours and visits: Open daily for wine tours. The winery advises that you book ahead. But, because the tasting room is brand new, you might get away with booking on the day if you are lucky. Enquire for costs.
Restaurant: There isn’t a restaurant, but if you book ahead then you can order a plate of Tuscan cheeses served with fresh bread, extra virgin olive oil from Castiglion del Bosco and honey.
Other information to note about visiting this area
Sassicaia has changed its visiting policy and only take bookings through trade partners. If you are in the UK, contact Armit Wines and if you are visiting from the US, try Kobrand Wine and Spirits.
Ornellaia has started to do visits, but you’ll need to book several months in advance.
Castiglion del Bosco, Montalcino
Style: Slick, fashionable and indulgent, with 12 wine tour experts on-hand, two wonderful restaurants and their own truffle forests. What else would you expect from an estate owned by Massimo Ferragamo?
The ancient hamlet was built in 1100, right in the heart of the Orcia valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its breathtaking landscape.
Massimo Ferragamo bought the estate 15 years ago, complete with 13th century church and frescos. Not only did he create a beautiful winery producing modern-style Brunello, he has also a built a splendid resort with two great restaurants, a spa and one of Italy’s most sought-after golf courses, designed by Tom Weiskopf.
The wine tour, which is very well pitched for all levels of wine knowledge, takes you out to the vineyards to see the Campo del Drago plot, one of the most picturesque in Italy, before a trip to the barrel cellar in an impressive wooden amphitheatre. It finishes in the slick tasting room, complete with local cheeses and salami.
We would thoroughly recommend booking for lunch in either restaurant listed below; both are over seen by new head chef Matteo Temperini, who had previously earned a Michelin Star at La Sponda. All the ingredients are grown in the hamlet in a fantastic organic vegetable garden.
Hours and visits: Various types of visit that can be arranged at a time to suit, depending on your interests. Booking beforehand is required.
Restaurant: The main restaurant, Campo del Drago, is known for its excellent fare in elegant surroundings. For a more casual dining experience, there is a traditional trattoria and cosy wine bar with a stunning terrace overlooking the valley. And the wine list offers top Italian wines at great prices.
Col d’Orcia, Montalcino
Style: Old fashioned and endearing organic farm with a tasting room that has a dining room table and family paintings on the wall.
Col d’Orcia is one of the largest wineries in the famed Montalcino area and it’s owned by the Cinzano family, of Vermouth fame.
A visit here is like taking a step back in time and is a world away from the slick Castiglion del Bosco above.
It’s located down the Montalcino hill and is opposite large-scale producer Banfi, which also has a lovely visitor offering that includes luxury accommodation in the castle complex.
A tasting at Col d’Orcia feels like a family affair, despite the scale of production.
A quick tour around the organic wine-producing farm is followed by a tasting in a space that feels like the Cinzano family’s dining room. A Tuscan Pinot Grigio, Sant’Antimo wines and, of course, Brunello are all up for tasting, including an array of back-vintages.
There’s also a small wine shop where you can purchase those amazing older vintages, as well as the farm’s olive oil.
Hours and visits: Various types of visit that can be arranged starting from €15. Booking beforehand is recommended, especially for food options.
Restaurant: Col d’Orcia does not have a restaurant but is happy to cook for parties who would like to visit. There is a kitchen next to the tasting room or plates of antipasto can be arranged. With an organic farm, ingredients are set to be fresh and local.
Address and Contact: Località Via Giuncheti, 53024 Montalcino SI, Italy. +39 0577 80891; coldorcia.com
Other information around Montalcino
Biondi Santi, Tenuta il Greppo, has changed its visiting policy and only takes bookings through trade partners. If you are in the UK, contact Liberty Wines and if you are visiting from the US, try Wilson Daniels. You might be lucky if you email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you do get in, then look out for the Biondi Santi, Tenuta il Greppo 1975, which made the Decanter hall of fame.
Style: IGT wines from an organic estate with stunning views from the enoteca.
Salcheto said it had become self-sufficient in 2011, making it one of the first in Europe. Most of the energy comes from renewable sources and recycled winery materials. There are water reclamation practices, solar panels providing energy to the cellar and wine tanks that operate off the excess CO2 that is produced during fermentation.
Salcheto is also certified organic and produces top-notch wines.
Although Salcheto’s inaugural vintage was 1990, the new winery was only completed in 2011. Overlooking the stunning town of Montepulciano, Salcheto is one of the most beautiful wineries in Tuscany.
Its president, Michele Manelli, is the mastermind behind this ambitious project, which has culminated in Obvius, a supremely pure, new-release wine that offers an ‘all fruit experience’.
Visitors to the estate are given an insight into the incredible technology in-place as they tour the production facility and ageing room. A subsequent tasting is likely to make you a firm believer in both the high-tech and green principles espoused here.
Hours and visits: Open daily from 11am to 5pm. Tours can be arranged by appointment with a tasting of three wines, starting at €10 per person.
Restaurant: There’s an enoteca where you can taste Salcheto’s wines by the glass and enjoy a light lunch of cold cuts, cheeses and other simple dishes. The views from the terrace overlooking Montepulciano are beautiful.
Address and Contact: Via di Villa Bianca 15, 53045 Montepulciano. +39 0578 799031; salcheto.it