The history of viticulture in the Chianti region in Tuscany dates back to the time of the Etruscans in the eighth century BC. The wine evolved over time from a pale light white wine to a deep red wine. And it was once readily recognisable in its squat bottle, enclosed in a straw basket know as a fiasco.
As you drive around Tuscany you will see the patchwork of combed cultivated fields for which the area is well known. In the 19th century there was severe blight that destroyed many vineyards and many workers left to pursue new lives in other countries. Those that stayed behind revitalized the area by replanting high yielding grapes that were a more hardy variety.
However, the word Chianti unavoidably evokes the homonym wine produced on this land. The very first wine to obtain a certified denomination of origin, Chianti wine was created in the 19th century by one of Chianti’s most influential figures, Bettino Ricasoli at Castello di Brolio in the town of Gaiole, nowadays part of the Siena’s province. This is the very heart of this territory. The area and the wine produced here is in fact called Chianti Classico, to distinguish it from the rest of the Chianti area.
Ricasoli traveled throughout Germany and France to study winemaking and returned with cuttings of grape varieties that he experimented with. Finally settling on a blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Malvasia grapes for his wine.
The roads that cross the Chianti in all directions are bordered by wonderful landscapes, vineyards, Tuscan villas and historic towns. Such a wealth of tourist attractions has given life to the Chianti Classico wine road, a mapped itinerary for self guided tours. Following this trail on select paved roads through the countryside, you are able to choose the spots that most interest you, the activities you would like to experience, the wine farms to visit and the typically Tuscan eating places to taste the famous cuisine of this region. This territory is so abundant with things to do and see that you will be able to spend your full holiday on the Chianti wine road and still have plenty left to see. The best thing is to select one of the many charming Tuscan villas that dot the Chianti landscape as your vacation rental. This way you will shorten your car trips and have more time to dedicate to enjoy places, wines, and food.
Several wine producers along the road provide a variety of wine tours for all tastes. The standard tour includes a guided walk in the vineyard with an explanation of the cultivation and harvesting methods, it continues in the cellar to show the ageing process of various vintages, and ends up with a wine sampling that might be complemented by food tasting. You may be offered bottles of their wine to buy, but you are not obliged to do so. Tours can also be much more complex and expensive. It is up to you which one to choose. Again, staying in a Tuscan villa in Chianti might be the best choice, as your accommodation host will be a great source of information on wine tours and best towns to visit.
Vineyards and Places to Visit
Speaking of towns, you should not miss out on visiting Gaiole. Here you will see the Castello di Brolio, which produces an excellent Chianti Classico, and still belongs to the Ricasoli family. Wine and castle tours are possible on selected days. Visit the town, to discover a the markets. A handful of houses are still protected by its bastions, and the heavy watchtower is a perpetual reminder of the ancient war between Siena and Florence.
Panzano is another delightful town to visit with lot. It is especially famous for its so-called “gold basin”, a special terroir where great wine selections are grown. Continue to discover Greve in Chianti, another great hub for wine making. Here you will find the Castle of Verrazzano, an ancient possession of the famous seafarer’s family, and on Saturdays you can enjoy the popular Mercatale di Greve, among the large open markets of Tuscany.
Photo By Mattana from Wikimedia Commons
Continuing on you will find San Casciano val di Pesa. Here is the famous Villa Machiavelli, the residence of Niccolò Machiavelli during his exile. Make sure to be here in September for the Grape Harvesting Festival.
Head towards Siena visiting Tavernelle Val di Pesa and the exquisite Barberino Val D’Elsa. Then reach Poggibonsi, a major center near San Gimignano and an ideal location between Florence and Siena to search for Tuscan villas. Your next stop will be in Castellina in Chianti, immediately followed by Radda in Chianti, the ancient hub of the Chianti league in the middle ages and the last stop along your itinerary.
Have fun and enjoy your visits to the many wine towns in Chianti, live, laugh and indulge.