If you love wine, or want to learn more about wine, you may be familiar with Napa Valley, one of the most famous wine production regions in the United States. And of course, changes are you have heard of Tuscany as well, where some of Italy’s finest wines are produced. Both regions are stunningly beautiful, and are worth visiting if possible to experience the myriad wine experiences available, not to mention the vast diverse quantity of grape varietals and wines being produced. Of course, old world and new world are quite different, so we wanted to take a look at some of the major differences between wine tasting in California, and wine tasting in Tuscany.
Tuscans Take It Slow…
Wine tours in Tuscany differ greatly from the curated tasting tours California is famous for. Wineries in Tuscany tend to be small, family-run operations, and aside from a few more well-known estates, the experience is quite rustic compared to tasting in California and Napa. In Napa, the tradition is to visit five or even seven wineries’ tasting rooms, where a sommelier will introduce you to the wines available for sale and eventual purchase. Not so on a Tuscan wine tour. Tuscan wine tours tend to be more about the wine and food combination, for one thing, so the visits tend to take longer in general. Tuscan wineries also generally tend to be smaller, family-run operations, so a lot of time is spent walking the grounds and taking in the scenery of what has probably been in a family for many generations. If you are used to the Napa Valley wine tour pace, be prepared to slow down when experiencing a Tuscan wine tour. In Tuscany, you have a very high likelihood of meeting the actual wine producer! In Napa Valley and California many wineries are part of larger wine distribution companies, and while the personnel are of course very knowledgeable, you may not get to meet the actual owner or producer.
And Wine Means Food!
In Napa, many wine tours are focused on really studying and tasting wine whereas a Tuscany wine tasting and tour generally will include a lot of food as well as wine. Wine makers are intent on teaching you the best food to pair with your wine. In California, of course, the sommeliers are just as knowledgeable, but the tasting tradition is more to drink and buy. In Tuscany, your hosts will want to teach you about the culinary traditions of the land, where they most likely grow olive trees and vegetables in addition to their grapes. Depending on the season, you will be offered local cheeses and products to complement the wines you are tasting. That being said, you will also be doing a lot more drinking! In Tuscany when you sit down to the table to taste wine, the pours are healthy, and since you’re eating, you are encouraged to drink after tasting. In California on the other hand, tasting is more fine-tuned and you are meant to taste many wines without really drinking any. The experiences are completely different.
Due to how the Italian wine classification is set up, when visiting wineries in Italy and Tuscany, many of the better-known wines you will taste are necessarily locally produced. Especially if they are classified Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) or Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG). You can be certain that the wine you are drinking is made up of at least a certain percentage of locally produced fruit. In California, the system is completely different. While many wines in Napa are in fact locally produced, it is not guaranteed that the tasting you attend will highlight only California wines. Many wine sellers in California organize theme tastings that allow you to experience wines from all over the world. California vineyards frequently import wine from other world-famous wine production areas such as Chile, Argentina, South Africa or New Zealand, for sale at their wine tasting events in addition to the locally produced wines.
In short, we recommend you taste all the wine you can as much as you can to learn and develop your preferences! Wine tasting tours are a great way to enjoy a day outdoors and learn something new. Tuscan wine tours give you the luxury of enjoying old world scenery in a family setting with lots of food pairings and locally produced specialties, while Napa Valley or California wine tour experiences introduce tasters to new flavors from all over the world. We hope you will join us on a Tuscan wine tour to get a feeling for the amazing wines that Tuscany has to offer throughout the entire region. Then, join us in our school to taste wines from all over Italy