Have you ever thought about wine tasting in Tuscany and just become so overwhelmed due to the abundance of excellent wines? You are not the only one! Many people visiting Florence, and Tuscany in general, are shocked by the amount of choices there are when it comes to the wine lists and end up either drinking watered-down table wine or overpriced bottles at the restauranteurs’ suggestion. Therefore, it is important to study before you arrive and consider taking a course while you are here, so you can truly get the most out of your experience in Tuscany.
Going on a wine tasting tour, or taking a wine class, besides being a lot of fun, can certainly contribute to an improved Tuscany experience. You will learn to discern and appreciate some of Italy’s best wines on your own, without depending on a sommelier or guide for help. You can also truly impress dinner guests when you return home and teach them all you learned on your cultural experience in Italy.
As a wine region, Tuscany is one of the most famous in the world, and for good reason. Similar to Bordeaux in France, Tuscany has acquired fame due to its rich terroir and variable geography that allows for a wide variety of grapes to truly flourish and produce excellent fruit. Tuscany is famous for producing some wines you have surely heard of, including Chianti, Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Nobile di Montepulciano, Vernaccia, Bolgheri, and the ever sought-after Super Tuscan blends. Many of these wines are made from the sangiovese grape, which grows throughout the region, but depending on where it is grown, the wine produced can be extremely different.
Wine classification is also extremely complex in Italy. Whereas in the United States wines are labeled based on their producer and the grapes included, in Italy wine labels don’t necessarily explain what is in the bottle you are about to purchase. You will notice that some wines are labeled table wine, where as others carry the denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) label, and still others are stamped with DOCG – denominazione di origine controllata e garantita! If you are interested in tasting excellent wines, it is important to learn what these labels actually mean and know what to look for (or avoid) at differing price points.
Wine tasting and wine classes in Italy are also extremely different from any experiences you might have had in the United States, or even France or Spain. Italians love to pair their chianti classico with food, and many Tuscan wines have specific food pairings that fit them. In some cases, it can be easy to determine (a nice crisp vernaccia with some light seafood makes perfect sense), but when we get to the heavier Tuscan reds, like Bolgheri, Nobile di Montepulciano or a Brunello di Montalcino, there are subtle differences that lend one wine to one dish and another to something completely different.
Much of the pairings that you might learn about in a Tuscan wine class are actually due to regional differences, so not only will you be getting a lesson in how to taste wine properly, and pair it with the best local ingredients for an all-encompassing experience, but you will also get a lesson in Italian history and geography. After hours in museums, sitting around a table and speaking with local food and wine experts is a great way to learn about the more fun side of the Tuscan culture.
Taking a wine class to truly understand the subtle differences and complexities of the world of Tuscan wine is certainly a worthwhile investment. Wine is such an integral part of the Tuscan culture and is not to be missed when you are in Florence or Tuscany. While many Italians will jokingly call themselves sommeliers by virtue of being born in the land of plenty, many times they are not really licensed experts. A wine tour will be greatly enhanced by a course of at least a few hours so you can truly appreciate not only the work that goes into making the wine, but also the tastes, textures and smells of the wine (and inevitable food) itself.
After taking a course and enjoying a tour, you will be fully equipped to stock your hotel room with the best wine available, and be able to determine what really is worth bringing home. You can also take advantage of some of the local producers’ deals on shipping directly to your home so you can continue to enjoy Tuscany’s abundance all year long. By taking a class you will also establish important contact in Florence that you can keep in touch with for your continued culinary education, and hopefully for future trips to Florence. Your increased knowledge of Chianti, Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Nobile di Montepulciano, Sassicaia, Vermentino, Vernaccia and the many other locally produced wines will be a gift that is always improving and helping you to navigate supermarkets and restaurants so you get the best value and taste available, in Tuscany and at home