Castles are a great option for wine tours
I recently had some wonderful first time clients from Chicago who requested a last minute tour to go to Greve in Chianti. Since I had little information on what they were looking for I decided to really wow them with two of my favorite castles in that area, Castello di Verrazzano, and Castello di Gabbiano. They are always so beautiful and impressive which is why they are a good option for families also, kids will be wowed by the ancient castles and cellars and can have a bit of space to wonder in the gardens.
They are generally on a higher elevation of approximately 400 to 500 meters above sea level thus the views are stunning!
Just the drive up to the castles is simply breathtaking as you wind up the hills and gaze out over the vineyards and olive orchards for miles. The air is fresh and the smells are enticing, you will be surrounded by seasonal flowers and foliage, it is truly dreamy;)
Visiting the cellars is like walking back in time, going underground into a different world full of French and Italian barrels, grapes aging, prosciutto curing, olive oil stored in old orciao and balsamic vinegar to name a few of the exciting things you will encounter on your trip into the medieval cellars. You won't find this in the new world of winemaking! Of course, there are many great wines coming out of those areas too:-))
The locations of the tastings vary, it could be in a beautifully sunlit room with a view of the garden and fountain, on the terrace overlooking the rolling hills and vineyards or deep in the cellar where you are surrounded by the smell and sounds of barique barrels and aging wine....shhhhhhhh the wine is sleeping;)
Of course, let's not forget the WINES!
These castles have an array of quality Chianti and Chianti Classico wines. From a simple easy drinking Chianti aged in large Italian oak barrels to refined and elegant reserves to creative and alluring Super Tuscans and those who are able some Gran Selections that will knock your socks off! Generally, the Castles are mid-size productions ranging from 250.000 bottles up to a million. These wines can be shipped from the vineyard straight to your door for a reasonable price. Shipping takes approximately four weeks. Many of these vineyards offer a selection of these wines that can be found internationally including the US but with generally higher price points. This is because the simple Chianti that they make to export will have to support many fees placed on top of the original bottles such as import/export fees, taxes, distribution, transportation, marketing and last but not least store or restaurant mark up.
You will, however, have the opportunity at most of them to taste the higher quality wines that generally remain in Italy or may be harder to find abroad, such as some fantastic reserves and Gran Selezione. Of course, you will always have the opportunity to purchase these products to be shipped from the vineyard to your door, you can expect to receive your order within approximately 4 weeks.
I have made real connections with some of my most treasured guests with whom have become treasured friends, it is hard to not have an amazing and memorable experience in Tuscany if it is done right!
TOP SIX CASTLES TO VISIT
CASTELLO DI ALBOLA IN GAIOLE , CHIANTI CLASSICO
The medieval village of Castello di Albola stands on the magnificent Chianti hills, in an unique location known for the charm of its history, for the evocative power of art and for the unique landscape and agrarian context of unrivalled harmony.
Once belonging to some of the most noble Tuscan Families throughout the ages, from the Acciaioli and the Samminiati to the Pazzi and the Ginori Conti, the estate has been in the care and protection of the Zonin Family for over 30 years.
Gianni Zonin’s first task was to ensure that the vineyards would produce high quality grapes, and then to restore the outbuildings and the beautiful villa that had been built in the 16th century but maintained in its two massive towers the traces of the original mediaeval castle. In addition to the recuperation and restoration of the main villa and of the hamlet, the rural outbuildings have also been refurbished and are now used as accommodation. A new winery has also been built, in perfect harmony with the landscape.
The Zonin Family has also enlarged both the vineyards and the estate, which today covers 900 hectares, of which 150 are under vine and where there are also over 4 thousand olive trees.
description via http://www.albola.it/
CASTELLO DI AMA IN GAIOLE, CHINATI CLASSICO
Ama takes its name from a small borgo, or agricultural hamlet, nestled in the hills at an altitude of almost 500 metres. Five centuries ago, it was the hub of a florid farming and winemaking business overseen by a group of local families. “The road from Radda leads to Amma, three miles away on a hill and home to the Pianigiani, Ricucci and Montigiani – the most prominent families in Chianti,” wrote Grand Duke Peter Leopold of Habsburg-Lorraine in his 18th-century Report on the government of Tuscany. “They are well-off country gentry that spend all their income on farming and vineyards, and take care of everything. The hills and valleys surrounding the castle of Amma are the most beautiful in all of Chianti, superbly tended with fertile grain fields, olive groves and magnificent vineyards.” The Grand Duke’s visit is commemorated by a plaque on one of the buildings in the borgo, which are now owned by the winery. CASTELLO DI AMA , the winery, was founded in the 1970s by a group of families who had fallen under the spell of this magical spot. They set themselves the task of reviving Ama’s past glories and of producing a Chianti Classico that would rank among the world’s most prestigious wines.
It was this wine, and the vineyards it derives from, that forged an alliance between Lorenza Sebasti and Marco Pallanti, the couple who run the winery today. Lorenza is Roman, the second generation of one of the winery’s founding families. Winemaker Marco is a Tuscan born and bred, who honed his craft partly on home ground, and partly in France. For more than 30 years now they have dedicated themselves to making exceptional wines at Ama.
Marco was named Winemaker of the Year in the 2003 edition of the most authoritative Italian wine guide, the Gambero Rosso’s Vini d’Italia. In 2004, the company was awarded the Impresa e Cultura (Business and Culture) prize, sponsored by Confindustria, ICE, Sviluppo Italia and Palermo city council, for “best track record of investment in culture”. A year later, in 2005, Castello di Ama was named Best Winery of the Year by the Gambero Rosso wine guide. San Lorenzo was ranked sixth in the Wine Spectator’s Best Wines of the World list in 2010. Between 2006 and 2012, Marco served two terms as the president of the Consorzio del Chianti Classico, the renowned wine zone’s governing consortium.
description via http://www.castellodiama.com/azienda/
CASTELLO DI VERRAZZANO IN GREVE, CHIANTI CLASSICO
Thanks to the location of the castle at the center of the property, the grapes reach the cellar in just a few minutes to be quickly and gently pressed and put to ferment in small quantities at a controlled temperature.
The ancient cellars date back to the XVIth century. Aging takes place in Slavonian oak barrels placed along the corridors, protected from sudden temperature changes. 3 years old oak barrels of 30 hl. capacity are used for the elevation of the Chianti and Chianti Classico Riserva, and new barriques (Allier and Vosges) for the elevation of Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Sassello and of the Super Tuscan Bottiglia Particolare.
By visiting the winery, surrounded by the scents of fine oak barrels, one enters into the heart of the castle, where selections of the best vintages since 1924 are kept.
Remained unchanged within its boundaries for over 1000 years, the estate of 230 acres owns 52 hectares of vineyards at altitudes between 260 and 420 meters above sea level, in a stony soil rich in limestone.
The vineyards are periodically renewed according to a program that keeps the average age of the plant around 12 years.
Types of farming are the traditional ones used for the territory of Chianti Classico, which is the horizontal spurred cordon decking at 60 cm from ground level, and Guyot.
The existing 52 hectares of vineyards are divided into single vineyards located on the more suited ground with the best properties and microclimate. The grapes used are mostly red grapes, among which Sangiovese clearly stands out, along with other varieties including Merlot, Canaiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Colorino, and only a small percentage of white grapes like Trebbiano Toscano, Traminer and Malvasia lunga del Chianti.
The excellent climatic conditions of vineyards, combined with improved farming techniques aimed at obtaining a better phyto-sanitary state plant of the grapes, and the limited production yield per hectare (about 60 quintals of grape) enable to produce fine wines, characterized by the maximum expression of the terroir-vine combination.
A completely organic fertilization and the agronomic techniques adopted, including the practice of “grassing” aim at a rigorous respect for the environment and its balance.
The harvest, which usually take place between September 25th and October 25th, is done exclusively by hand through a careful selection of grapes.
description via http://www.verrazzano.com/
CASTELLO DI GABBIANO IN GREVE, CHIANTI CLASSICO
“THE QUALITY OF WINE IS BORN IN THE VINE”
The castle vineyards snake through the clay and limestone rock-filled soil of the estate.
It is the alliance between the land and the vine that makes the difference: each vine has its own characteristics, requirements and reaction, important to be thoroughly familiar with both the grape and the land to know how to manage.
The analysis of the earth, the choice of the rootstocks and the selection of the clones, as well the pruning back and the careful, skillful handling of the vine throughout its productive cycle, makes it possible to obtain a healthy grape with uniform ripening: the quality of the grapes is at the heart of a good wine.
In the land survey presented by Tommaso Soderini in 1464 to the ‘Offi cials’ of the Land Registry of the Republic of Florence, it was noted that wine and oil were the most highly prized produce of the estate. The construction of the cellars, whose vaulted structure demonstrates their use for wine production, was begun in 1124. In that epoch, the castle belonged to one of the most important banking families of Florence, the Bardi, who, in the second half of the thirteenth century, began the extension of the fortress by building perimeter walls and battlements in the typical Guelph style of the era. The castle remained in the possession of the Bardi until the early part of the 15th century, when it passed to the Soderini family, one of the most politically infl uential families in Florence. It was the Soderini who were responsible for the conversion of the turreted manor house of Gabbiano in Fattoria, already completed by the late 15th century, according to the description in the “land survey” presented in 1480 by the father of Pier Soderini, Tommaso, to the Land Registry “Offi cials” of the Land Registry of the Republic of Florence. In the course of the century, new buildings were added on several occasions, as can be deduced from the stonework, which reveals various phases of development, until it was converted into a large quadrilateral building, which also formed a kind of private fortalice, being furnished with four cylindrical turrets reinforcing the corners. It was while in the possession of the Soderini that the Castle was converted into a structure more like the present one, with the construction in 1505 of round towers at the four corners of the castle, displaying French architectural infl uence. When the Soderini’s struggle against the Medici led to them being declared rebels in the 16th century and banned from Florence, the Castle was abandoned for a long time. Only in the 17th century, when the Soderini were able to return to their homeland, was the Castle given new life, as the inscription on a sandstone plaque over the entrance door informs us. Under the two coats of arms of the Sorderini, the following is inscribed: “FRANC. SODERINUS SENAT.GASP.F.RURIS HUIUS IN FAMIGLIA RESTITUTOR SUB.A MDCLII” Above the coats of arms lies the motto that was dictated by Pier Soderini on the occasion of his election as gonfalonier, or standard bearer, which reads “IUS UT PALMA FLO” (“Iustus ut palma fl orebit”). From the 19th century onwards, the families who owned the property carried out various restoration works, fully respecting the features of the architectural complex of the Castle. In the complex of buildings annexed to the castle, there is the neo-classical style private chapel which was built in the 19th century under the ownership of the Del Turco family, according to an inscription inside the little church dating from the restoration works in 1957 by the Lemmi.
description via http://www.castellogabbiano.it/it/
CASTELLO DI BROLIO IN GAIOLE, CHIANTI CLASSICO
The first stones of Brolio Castle date back to the middle ages. The castle passed into the hands of the Ricasoli family thanks to an exchange of lands in 1141. Brolio, on the border between the territories of Siena and Florence, soon became the stage for all the disputes of the period, representing the Florentine bulwark against the fearsome Siena. Through the centuries the castle has suffered attack and destruction in numerous historical battles, from Aragonese and Spanish attacks during the fifteenth century, to disputes in the seventeenth century right through to bombings and artillery attacks during the Second World War.
The castle has been rebuilt and modified several times and today it bears the marks of the different eras: from the fortified medieval bastions to the Romanesque and neo-Gothic additions and the unique nineteenth century Tuscan details.
The castle is surrounded by 230 hectares of vineyards, forming part of the farm's lands, making it the largest in the Chianti Classico area: 1,200 hectares in the communes of Gaiole and Castelnuovo Berardenga - valleys, hills, woods of oak and chestnut trees, 26 hectares of olive groves, all enjoying the beauty and the wide variety of soils and climate in this central Chianti area.
Barone Ricasoli is the oldest winery in Italy and according to Family Business, a leading American magazine that lists world classification of family businesses, Barone Ricasoli is the fourth oldest company in the world still in the same place from the beginning and the second in the wine industry.
The name Ricasoli has been linked to wine since 1141, when Brolio Castle passed into the hands of the Ricasoli family.
description via http://www.ricasoli.it/
CASTELLO DI MONSANTO, CHIANTI CLASSICO
There are two places at Monsanto which captivate each visitor with their charm and magic: “Collina del Poggio” and the 18th-century historic cellar. The Company has its origins right here. When Giuliana and Fabrizio Bianchi reached Monsanto for the first time, in 1961, they were enraptured by the beauty of the landscapes which can be enjoyed from the top of the Poggio; from the height of its 310 metres of marl, it is possible to appreciate a bird’s eye view which takes in the paternal towers of San Gimignano to the tops of the Chianti Fiorentino, from Monte Amiata to the peaks of the Apuan Alps. A distant glance sheltered by a nearby boundary: a hedge of Mediterranean woods guarded by the proud and watchful Castello di Monsanto. Nowadays, it is enough to take a few steps towards the top of the Poggio to take in the energy which led Giuliana and Fabrizio up to here. From this generous hill the warm and balmy air of currents coming from the sea to mitigate a miscellaneous and long-lived vegetation can be scented. With closed eyes, it is possible to sense the breath of the intuition which seduced Fabrizio to believe in this area. It was tasting the wines in the historic cellar that strengthened any premonition. His Piedmontese culture and his passion for Burgundy gave him the instruments to discover an elixir of longevity in that wine, rich in vibrant tannins and precious mineralities. Thus the idea to make a Cru in the Chianti Classico area was born for the first time between a climb up the Poggio and a descent to the cellar. It was 1962 when the first 6,000 bottles of “Vigneto il Poggio” were produced.