Going on at least one wine tour should be a requisite for every visit to Tuscany. I’ve been on quite a few winery tours over the last couple of years – some fun and fascinating ones – and few less so. Yes, a good tour is always aided by a fun and engaging tour guide, but regardless of your guide’s enthusiasm, you can have a good time and learn a lot about wine.
The following are a few recommendations I have on how to maximize your good time and make the most of your experience.
Be inquisitive and ask questions.
Ask the sommelier or winery representative good questions. Here are some suggestions for what to ask:
- What makes their winery and wines special and different from the rest? Learn about the different kinds of wine they make and which variety they are most well regarded for producing.
- Is there a story behind the design of the labels or behind the name of the winery? The labels and winery names often have interesting histories behind them.
- Does the winery have other properties in Tuscany? Wineries in Tuscany usually have more than one piece of land in different areas to take advantage of the different terroirs.
- How many grape varieties does the winery grow? While the most common grape grown in Tuscany is sangiovese, you’ll be surprised to find that many wineries grow international varieties as well such as merlot, cabernet, and petit verdot. Wineries use these international grape varieties in the wines commonly known as Super Tuscans.
- If you purchase a bottle of wine, how long can you store it for and when would be the best time to drink it?
- What type of food goes best with the wine you are tasting?
- What vintages have been the best in the last decade?
The most important thing to remember while on a tour is to not be shy and ask any and all questions!
Unless you’ve reserved a private tour or it’s a quiet day at the winery, there will be other people you don’t know on the tour with you. These fellow wine enthusiasts could be from anywhere in the world. Make small talk with them and perhaps make some new friends – even if it’s only for the duration of the tour. I’ve met some very interesting people while on wine tours and have learned a lot about the world from them. Making friends along the tour also makes for a more convivial atmosphere as you wander from cellar to cellar.
Learn about the history and work behind the wine!
There are several reasons that we taste wine. If you ask a random sampling of people, they will likely tell you that we taste wine because it compliments or enhances food, because they like it, or because it helps them relax. These are all good reasons, but I believe that the most important one is because of the unique history and craftsmanship behind the libation.
Wine isn’t made overnight and the Chianti hills have been producing wine since Etruscan times. Any labor and time intensive beverage that’s been around for that amount of time must be special. There aren’t shortcuts when it comes to making a good wine and while the technology behind the production of wine has improved over the years, the basic methodology and traditions remain the same which is impressive. On your next tour, take a moment to think about this heritage and the wine making process from start to finish.
Take your time and drink all the wine that is poured into your glass. Don’t necessarily spit or pour it out as you might if you were professionally tasting wines. When you are at a beautiful winery in the Tuscan countryside with your friends and family on vacation, really just relax. Truly enjoy yourself and the wine!