Chianti. I don’t know about you but I grew up in a household that loved the stuff and we always had the empty twine-covered bottles sitting around the house with candles shoved into them.
Being a little (a lot) older now, I finally understand where those bottles came from and why my parents loved the stuff so much. Chianti the wine comes from central Tuscany, an area between Florence and Siena called Chianti, filled with dreamy landscapes of gentle hills and idyllic farmhouses surrounded by vineyards.
There are lots of little towns dotted throughout the district, the easiest to reach by bus is Greve in Chianti which has a Wine Museum and an annual wine fair in early September. It also has the excellent Le Cantina di Greve in Chianti, a wine shop stocking over 1200 varieties with 140 available to taste using their prepaid wine card system. And don’t miss the towns of Panzano, famous for its Florentine steak, and Castellina with its Etruscan roots and archaeological museum.
Most of the wineries in the area welcome visitors, and will do tours and tastings. What you’ll quickly learn is that chianti is not just the chianti classico you expect. There are three distinct wine-production regions within the area and eight sub-zones, all producing distinctively different tasting wine. You’ll need a car and a map to really explore them all. The only issue is, who’s going to drive? One solution is to take a tour – but don’t be surprised if the bus is clanking with bottles and the passengers are singing on the way home.
To really get the full experience, stay in the region for a few days and take a cooking course. Then when you get home, you’ll have great food and wine to enjoy by the light of those candles stuck into empty Chianti bottles.