The current popularity of ‘enogastronomy’- wine and food related tourism – may seem new but Italian wines have been drawing visitors since the Greeks overran the Etruscans. However, unlike food, wine in Italy in the last 35 years has changed dramatically. Around that time, Italians began to realize that they could make excellent wines but only if they paid extraordinary attention to their vineyards. Many producers made the choice to stop using so many fertilizers and chemicals. When they decided to start growing huge quantities of grapes per acre, they discovered that even ordinary grapes could produce tremendous results.
If you have any interest whatsoever in wine and are going to be in the Florence area 26, 27, 28 May, you’ll have some terrific opportunities to taste wines, expand your knowledge and do so for free (or inexpensively). In one case, you can taste your way up and down the Italian peninsula without ever leaving the garden tent. Or you can spend a Sunday working your way across Tuscany, visiting wineries that may not normally be open to tourists. You’ll be able to sample wines from agencies, large and small, as well as the wines produced by local consortia. You can meet winemakers and discover their passion about putting the essence of their land into their bottles.
The fourth annual ‘Hundred Wines of Italy’ begins on Friday evening and continues all day Saturday and Sunday. It is put on by the Vinoteca al Chianti at the Hotel Relais Certosa. For 10 euro you receive a tasting glass and admission to a tent, where more than 100 wines will be on offer, along with olive oils and other tasty treats. In this fair, the emphasis is on native grapes, rather than the international varieties that have become popular over the last few years. This event is remarkable because it covers all regions of Italy, from Val d’Aosta to Puglia, including Sardegna and Sicily. The fair is led by top sommeliers who are willing (and certainly able) to help you get the most out of the event by suggesting wines for you to taste, based on your own personal interests. Some of the producers will be present as well.
All types of wine – red, white, rosé, dessert, still and sparkling – will be available for you to taste (and purchase). Of particular interest to Florence visitors is that many of these wines are available in the USA, UK and elsewhere in Europe, not just here in Italy. The festival is open Friday, May 26, from 5pm to 8.30pm; Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 from 10am until 8.30pm. The Hotel Relais Certosa is located just southwest of Florence and can be reached by bus, surface streets, or by taking the Certosa exit from the A1 Highway.
The weekend’s second major wine event is called Cantine Aperte (Open Cantina Day), sponsored by the Movimento Turismo del Vino (MTV). This is an Italy-wide event which began with just a few cantinas in 1993. This year, over 1,000 cantinas will be participating. Giravino, the official guidebook for the movement, suggests that some 1.2 million tasters will be part of the fun on Sunday, May 28 alone. As event participation has grown, both in terms of wine tourists and cantinas involved, some cantinas now choose to remain open on Saturday May 27 as well. Around 120 winemakers in the area will open their doors to tourists, including some 35 producers of Chianti Classico and 13 in lesser-known Chianti Rufina/Pomino. Ten winemakers in Montalcino and nine in Montepulciano will also be showcasing their big red wines, while nine San Gimignano producers will be pouring their whites.
Luigi Giovanni Cappellini, President of the Tuscan branch of MTV, noted that more Tuscan winemakers, large and small, are participating this year. The idea of Open Cantina Day is to give wine lovers a chance to meet wine makers on-site and to get a sense of their work as they transform grapes into wine. The association hopes that visitors will appreciate not only the wine’s aroma and taste but also the history and culture of Italian and Tuscan winemaking, elements that are captured inside the bottle as well. Winemaking in Tuscany can be traced to the days of the Etruscans and since there are Florentine families who can prove that they’ve been making wine here for seven hundred years, this is definitely the place to be on May 28.
Whether you are truly passionate about wine and winemaking or don’t know the difference between a DOC, DOCG, or IGT wine, Open Cantina Day is a great way to learn more than you know, try some new or favorite wines and enjoy the Tuscan countryside. Cin cin!
For more information on Hundred Wines of Italy, call 055 2373267 or visit www.vinotecaalchianti.it.
For more information on Open Cantina Day, call 055 290684 or visit firstname.lastname@example.org.