Fear not, I've not gone all cannibalistic on you but it was impossible not to slip in to a bit of Hannibal Lecter lip licking and accompanying movie quotes when on holiday in Italy drinking copious amounts of Chianti. We spent a fortnight right in the heart of Chianti country so it would have been rude not to do some proper wine tasting and learn a wee bit more about this iconic wine producing region.
Vineyards and Cellars abound throughout the area. We had a wine shop and a cellar on our campsite both with a huge stock, knowledgeable staff and an impressive private collection. Twice a week there was a tasting event held by il Colombaio di Cencio so we signed ourselves up to learn a bit more.
Italians almost always have some type of food to accompany their wine drinking so our tasting was paired with a platter of bread, salami and cheeses. We learned about the Sangiovese grape which is the main constituent of a Chianti, the history of the straw encased bottles and how the weather affects production and quality. Our tastings were I Massi (Chianti Classico), I Masisi Riserva (aged Chianti) and Il Futuro.
With our appetites whetted we signed up for a Secrets of Chianti tour organised by our campsite tours and travel office. As we headed off to our first stop our guide explained the origin of the Black Rooster or Gallo Nero seen on the neck of all Chianti Classico.
Legend states that Florence and Siena had a long standing battle over the rights to the Chianti region and agreed to end the feud with a competition. Horsemen would depart from each of the rival cities when the cock crowed and where they met would determine the boundary. Siena chose a well fed white rooster. The cunning Florentines a starving black one. The white rooster crowed at sunrise whilst the hungry black one crowed much earlier giving the Florence horseman a huge head start.Our first stop was Podere Luisa. This is a small organic vineyard and olive groves that is totally family run. Their dedication and sheer hard work were clearly visible. Its certainly a labour of love with all hands on deck from the whole family. The roses at the end of each row help to identify any fungal infection as they will show signs of it before the vines will and treatment can be made.
Time for lunch and tasting. We started with their olive oil on bread and proceeded through each of their wines accompanied by small morsels of delicious food cooked by Grandmother. One of these dishes was Panzanella which each family will make in a slightly different way from day old bread, tomatoes and olive oil.
Last up was their dessert wine Vin Santo (Holy Wine) This comes accompanied with almond biscuits for dipping. Absolutely loved this and bought a bottle to take home along with some olive oil, rose wine and Chianti in a straw encased bottle.
The next stop was at the total opposite end of the scale at the cellars of a famous noble family Lamole di Lamole which is a huge international brand. Their multiple vineyards and olive groves make up only a tiny part of their empire. Their private collection was full of extremely old and valuable bottles which seemed rather precariously stacked for my liking. Further down into the dark and musty cellars to learn more about wine making on an industrial scale.
Time to taste and again food to accompany. Boy and Girl were very impressed that there were soft drinks and bread with Nutella for them. Highlight of girls day. Interesting to see that each glass was rinsed out with wine before our drinks were poured. This is apparently to remove any aromas from the glass. No purchases made here. Felt our Euros were better spent supporting the family vineyard.
Lastly a flying visit to Radda in Chianti. This was a tiny pedestrianised town that was oh so picturesque. Plenty of shopping opportunities and I came away with an apron, tea towel, oven mitts and a bib all bearing the black rooster. Excellent timing for this post as the intended recipient of the bib made his way into the world only this afternoon. Salute to Struan. I'm sure your Mum would appreciate a wee glass of Chianti.