Italy Wine Country Travel: When Tuscany Calls

Italy Wine Country Travels

Italy wine country travel doesn’t only mean Piedmont at Girl’s Gotta Drink. Let’s take a break from Northern Italy and talk Tuscan wine travel. 

Last week I visited to the most well-known part of Italy wine country, Tuscany. Please don’t freak out if you prefer another region. I said “most well-known”, not best part of Italy wine country. Everyone is allowed their individual favorite, in my humble opinion.

I’ve visited Tuscany a handful of times, but never felt a connection like I did on this trip. It was a business trip, so I experienced tastings and appointments in a different way. Before we get into that I’ll start with a quick Girl’s Gotta Drink update.

A busy few months 

Marketing projects and Barolo wine tour requests are coming in from all over. To add to that I recently joined a U.S.-based company that brings European wines to Americans in a unique way. My role is part time, so I will continue my marketing work with local wine producers and wine vendors as well as the logistical management of our Barolo wine tours.

To kick things off with this new company, VinConnect, I visited various producers in their portfolio. We started in my area of Barbaresco and Barolo, then hit the road for Tuscany.

What is VinConnect? 

VinConnect builds and manages mailing lists and wine club programs for European producers in the U.S. It enables U.S. winelovers and collectors to get their wines delivered directly to their homes.

Each winery has a separate mailing list, so you pick the producers you are interested in. Members receive special offers and early new releases from producers. The lists are free to join and there is no obligation to buy or minimum purchase required. For more information on VinConnect, click here.

Tuscan Travel

On the trip, we hit nine Tuscan wine producers in about three days, so I can’t go into detail on each producer in this post. It’s more to serve as a reference point for readers looking to visit producers in this part of Italy wine country.

I plan to do more in-depth pieces on some of these Tuscan wine producers in the coming months. But for now, I hope you will put some of them on your list for your Tuscan wine travels. Each has something special to share.

Italy Wine Country Travel: Chianti Wineries to Visit 

Castello dei Rampolla

Castello dei Rampolla is a must for your Italy wine country travels. Located in Panzano in Chianti, the estate sits in the Conca d’Oro or the Golden Basin.

The winemaking focus began in the mid-60s when Alceo di Napoli Rampolla set out to make a world-class Chianti Classico wine. His dream was realized with the support of the esteemed late winemaker Giacamo Tachis.

Castello dei Rampolla has been one of Tuscany’s leading estates for more than four decades.

– Antonio Galloni, Vinous

Today Alceo’s children Maurizia and Luca carry on his legacy through their own innovations. They started practicing biodynamic agriculture two decades ago; all the cellar and vineyard work follows the lunar calendar. In addition, they began producing wines without sulfites in 2010. We tasted two, a natural wine called Trebianco from the tank and a Sangiovese from the barrel.

  • Website: Casetellodeirampolla.it
  • Winery Tours and Tastings: By appointment only from March 20 to October 31 October, Monday to Friday from 9:00 am – 1:00 pm. Schedule appointment at least one week before the visit. Inquire about tour fees.
  •  Contact: info at castellodeirampolla.it
  • Area: Panzano, Chianti
Chianti Wineries to visit
We tasted Castello dei Rampallo’s natural wine, Trebianco right from the tank with Maurizia. Like the Sangiovese we tried from the barrel, it has no sulfites.
Chianti Wineries to visit
The Castello dei Rampolla farm has been owned by the family since 1739.

Fattoria La Massa 

Fattoria La Massa is also located in Panzano and is part of Chianti Classico. But, a traditional Chianti Classico producer it is not. For a unique addition to your Italy wine country travels visit Giampaolo Motta’s state-of-the-art cellar.

La Massa is one of the finest values in wine today.

– Antonio Galloni, Vinous

The cellar was designed by an architect Bernard Mazieres of Bordeaux. It is both aesthetically appealing and powerfully functional. Giampaolo combined his love for Bordeaux with his Chianti winemaking dreams, building a winery that makes only IGT wines.

What is IGT? 

The Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) designation was created to accommodate growers who do not meet DOC or DOCG regulations, but produce great wines.

Italy Wine Country Chianti
Fattoria La Massa’s new winery is done with a Ferrari and racing theme. The tank room represents the engine, the black and white is the racing flag.
Italy Wine Country Chianti
We did a vineyard visit with Fattoria La Massa’s agronomist, Francesco Bufalini. He explained the extensive soil analysis and microclimate considerations they do to ensure they plant just the right clones in the optimum locations.

Podere Il Carnasciale 

Il Carnisciale does one grape and one alone, Il Caberlot. It is not a hybrid or a blend of two different wines, but a cross variety. Discovered near Verona by agronomist Remigio Bordini, it is believed to be a natural crossing of Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

The vine was offered around for planting, but it got no takers. Owner Moritz Rogosky explained that was because so little was known about its resistance to disease and the like. Moritz said that was exactly why his father went for it. 

Il Carnisciale is the only winery to produce the unclassified Il Caberlot grape. It’s offered in two labels, Il Caberlot and Il Carnisciale. Il Caberlot is done only in magnum with the best juice from the vintage.

Over the years Il Carnasciale has acquired cult status among readers who crave the finest Tuscany has to offer, and rightly so. These are some of the most unique wines from Italy.

− Antonio Galloni, Vinous

Today the estate has four vineyards, which are all vinified separately. Before bottling they blind taste 22 glasses from those four vineyards. The top goes in the large format and the remaining is bottled in standard 750 ml size, labeled Il Carnasciale. 

Click to read more about Podere Il Carnasciale and Il Caberlot wine. Definitely worth a visit on your Italy Wine Country travels!

  • Website: Il Caberlot
  • Winery Tours & Tastings: By appointment only.
  • Contact: contact at caberlot.eu
  • Area: Southern Chianti hills of Valdarno (just outside the Chianti Classico appellation.)
Il Caberlot vineryards
The very first vineyard for the cross Cabernet Franc and Merlot variety. The area was once filled with olive trees, but Mortiz’s parents wanted to plant grapes there. Legally they could not plant vines until all the olive trees died.
Italy Wine Country Chianti
Each of the four Caberlot vineyards is vinified separately; blending does not take place until just before bottling after a blind tasting exercise. We tasted all four vineyards of the 2014 vintage.

Italy Wine Country Travel: Montalcino Wineries to Visit

Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona

The story of Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona is the stuff that dreams are made of. And, the beautiful location makes it a favorite Italy wine country stop in Montalcino.

In 1985, the Countess Ciacci Piccolomini passed away without an heir for the property. The estate had been in her family since 1877. The Countess surprised everyone, including the man himself, when she willed the property to farm manager, Giuseppe Bianchini. He not only lived on the land, but his children were born there. 

Giuseppe had a passion for wine with dreams of making a great Brunello, something that never interested the Countess. Until then Giuseppe had made small amounts for both personal and local consumption. Upon receipt, he sold a portion of the estate to pay inheritance taxes, then focused on making classic Brunello from the perfect plots. 

The Ciacci Brunellos are classic wines from Castelnuovo dell’Abate, which means they are built on textural warmth, richness and volume, all influences of nearby Maremma.

– Antonio Galloni, Vinous

  • Website: CiacciPiccolomini.com
  • Winery Tours & Tastings: 
    • Palazzo Wine Cellar: By appointment only.
    • Molinello: Appointment only for cellar tours, walk-in wine shop.
  • Contact: visite at ciaccipiccolomini.com
  • Area: Southwest side of Montalcino, near Castlenuove dell’Abate.
Ciacci Piccolomini Montalcino
Ciacci’s Sangiovese ages in only large oak barrels, while the international varieties age in barrique.
Italy Wine Country Montalcino
We tasted the Rosso di Montalcino 2014 (100% Sangiovese grosso), Ateo (Cab Sauvignon, Merlot blend), Fabivs 2013 (100% Syrah), and Brunello di Montalcino 2011 (100% Sangiovese grosso).

Altesino

The incredible Altesino estate is centered around the 15th century Palazzo Altesi. It spans some 80 hectares. The flagship wine is the single-vineyard Brunello di Montalcino Montosoli. 

This little mound of a hill sits at the foot of the Montalcino promontory like its own little island strewn haphazardly, and somewhat provokingly, in front of the whole town to admire. It seemingly mocks Montalcino with its unique sense of self. Montosoli has good reason to be smug. Of the many single-vineyard expressions in the appellation, this is one of the most distinct and profound with delicate floral and mineral nuances that are elegantly interwoven within a thicker textural consistency.

– Monica Larner, The Wine Advovate

Montosoli’s 100 percent Sangiovese grapes are cultivated in its most prestigious vineyard. Today Altesino produces an average of 250,000 bottles of wine annually.

Italy Wine Country Montalcino
Altesino is a 15th century wine making estate, located in Northern Montalcino.
Italy Wine Country
Altesino’s top wine is the single vineyard Brunello di Montalcino, Montsoli. The first vintage for this wine was 1975; it is only made in years when the fruit is perfect.

Cerbaiona

Just before we visited Cerbaiona we had lunch in the village of Montalcino. We heard the gentleman working there passionately lamenting to the table next to ours about the estate. It wasn’t the first reference we heard on this trip. In October 2015 news broke of the sale of the historic Cerbaiona estate to an American group, led by an Oregon-based venture capitalist.

Tongues are still wagging at the sale; rumors suggest it is the most ever paid for an Italian wine estate. And, to outsiders no less. We were lucky enough to not only visit the winery before the impending renovations but also to taste from both barrel and tank.

Cerbaiona had been owned by the Molinari family for the past 40 years. They own a small, but choice vineyard that intersects between Northern and Southern Montalcino. Cebaiona has a total of 2 hectares, but only 1.5 hectares qualify as Brunello di Montalcino. So, the world only gets about 650 cases of their Brunello di Montalcino each year, making it a coveted find for wine collectors.

While location is everything, the traditional winemaking practices used also merit high praise. The 2010 Montalcino vintage is lauded as a top release. For Cerbaiona, that yielded a Wine of the Year honor from Italy’s most authoritative wine guide, Guida Essenzial ai Vini d’Italia. And, Antonio Galloni gave it a perfect 100 score, saying:

In all my years of tasting the wines of Montalcino, I have only come across two wines with this level of textural unctuosity and sweetness.

– Antonio Galloni on 2010 Cerbaiona Brunello di Montalcino

  • Website: Cerbaiona.net (Italian)
  • Winery Tours & Tastings: The estate is currently being renovated, so tours and tastings are on a speciality basis.
  • Area: Northeast of the village of Montalcino
Italy Wine Country Montalcino
We tasted the 2015 Cerbaiona Brunello di Montalcino from the tank. 2010 is a spectacular vintage; Antonio Galloni gave the 2010 Cerbaiona Brunello di Montalcino 100 points.
Cerbaiona Montalcino
Cebaiona’s new estate manager is using the famed chapel as a make-shift office as renovation begins.

Canalicchio di Sopra

Canalicchio di Sopra is another historic Montalcino producer with ties that make it a must for your Italy wine country travels. Primo Pacenti, an early Brunello pioneer, opened the estate in 1962 and helped found the Consorzio di Vino Brunello di Montalcino. The estate was passed down to his son-in-law, Pier Luigi Ripaccioli. Today it is run by Primo’s grandchildren, Simonetta, Marco, and Francesco.

Readers who have not tasted these wines owe it to themselves to do so. Canalicchio di Sopra is without question one of the most exciting estates in Montalcino today.

– Antonio Galloni, Vinous

We were lucky enough to not only spend time tasting with owner Francesco, but we also were his guests for two nights at his beautiful wine relais, just across from the winery.

Rosso di Montalcino
We tasted the 2014 Rosso di Montalcino and the 2011 Brunello di Montalcino at Canalicchio di Sopra. Both are lovely wines. The Rosso pictured is a powerful Baby Brunello showing juicy red fruits and hints of floral on the nose.
Where to stay in Tuscany
We stayed at the Canalicchio di Sopra wine relais. You will find five apartments of different sizes, a pool, and breakfast surrounded by vineyards.

Tenuta di Trinoro

A visit to Tenuta di Trinoro is not an easy trek, but it is well worth the travel. Located in the Val d’Orcia the estate sits on 500 acres – 52 of which are planted with vines.

We were hosted by winemaker Andrea Franchetti for an enchanting evening. Our three-course dinner was made of all fresh ingredients, right from the farm. He explained that he loved the location so much that he decided to make wine there just so he could stay.

One of the most respected and accomplished wine estates in Italy.

– Monica Larner, The Wine Advocate

Tenuta di Trinoro is another estate that is making only IGT wines, producing Bordeaux varieties of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot. They also follow the lunar calendar for all winemaking, vineyard to cellar.

Andrea shared with us what he considers one of the best wines he’s ever made, his 2001 Tenuta di Trinoro. It’s a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot with some Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. Only several hundred cases of the wine are produced annually.

Tenuta di Trinoro
We made it to Tenuta di Trinoro just after dusk, so missed the spectacular sunset. Photo Credit: Sarah Bray, Tenuta di Trinoro
Italy Wine Country
We feasted on the most amazing dinner, all products of the farmhouse. Our host, winemaker Andrea Franchetti treated us to incredible food and this amazing 2001 – he says it was one of the best wines he’s ever made. Photo Credit: Tenuta di Trinoro, Sarah Bray.

Italy Wine Country Travel: Tuscan Coast Wineries to Visit

Tua Rita 

Located near the Tuscan Coast in Bolgheri, Tua Rita is a family-owned estate. Purchased in 1984 by Rita Tua and her husband Virgilio Bisti, the name comes from an inversion of her name.

Tua Rita was one of the first to make Super Tuscan wines near Livorno. The winery released their first high-end wine in 1992, a Bordeaux blend they call Giusto di NotriThe accolades from this led to the powerful growth for the winery and into the production of their 100 percent Merlot, Redigaffi in 1999.

…as close to perfect as a wine can get.

– Robert Parker on the 1999 Redigaffi. 

In 2000 he gave Tua Rita’s Redigaffi 100 points, the first Italian wine to receive the perfect rating. 

  • Website: TuaRita.it
  • Winery Tours & Tastings: By appointment only.
  • Contact: To book a tasting, click here.
  • Area: Bolgheri
Tua Rita Tuscan Coast Wineries
Tua Rita is located on the Tuscan Coast, considered part of Bolgheri. The wines are all IGT.
Tua Rita Bolgheri
We tasted the coming releases, not yet in bottle. It included Tua Rita’s 100% Merlot, Redigaffi.

Tuscan Wine Travels

I hope this list is helpful in selecting some interesting places to visit on your Italy wine country travels. Find more pictures from our visits at the Girl’s Gotta Drink Facebook page or on Instagram.

And, let me know if we can help you with your Italy wine country travels. Since we live in Piedmont we do most of our tours here, but can certainly help with travel planning and coordination else where. Learn more at our wine tour page.

What are some of your favorite Tuscan wineries? Please, share below! 

More Tuscan Travels: 

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