Martin Luther is attributed as saying, “Beer is made by men, wine by God.” I am not one who enjoys theological arguments, nor would I presume to refute one of history’s greatest religious scholars. So when given the chance to sample the goodness of God’s creation, I choose to jump at the chance. Lindsey and I spend much of our day on a wine and oil tour with Elena Benvenuti and some of her tour guide colleagues.
Yes, once again I get a free ride, with my only responsibility being to document my trip with photos and text. Elena thinks I am doing her a favor, but I came here to experience Italy and write about it anyway, so these little jaunts fit right into my plans and my budget. The tour is not typical, though, as the main purpose is for the tour guides to touch base with the farm management, and most of the conversations are in Italian about schedules, prices, group sizes and products the farms offer. Still, we get to see how the wine is made and we get to sample it, so we have absolutely no complaints.
The first vineyard we visit is the Fattoria del Teso, a 63-acre estate
|Vinsanto and cantucci|
|Check out the ceiling.|
We also explore the cellar, which is full wall-to-wall with 70 or 80 huge oak barrels. Sadly, a previous owner of the farm left the barrels empty, which allowed them to dry out, and they are no longer usable because they would leak if refilled. The cellar is now used to entertain groups of people, and the barrels add much to the ambiance, so they are not useless. In addition, they are gradually in the process of being restored, I am told, though I have little idea what that process entails.
|Big barrels that serve only as ambiance now.|
Now we’re on to the Fattoria del Buonamico, only five minutes away. This tenuta—estate—changed ownership in 2008, and the new owner has invested millions, maybe billions, in the most modern equipment available. It is packed full of shiny steel and aluminum tanks and machines replete with computers and control panels. There is a machine to pick the grapes, a machine to separate the stems and leaves from the grapes and then another for pressing the grapes—softly, at just the right impact and temperature, I am told. The fermentation process is also carefully controlled at the proper rate and temperature for each type of grape. Twelve types of wine are made, including a spumante, a sparkling rosé made with the Italian Charmat method. Elena tells me that finding spumante in Tuscany is kind of like “finding a white fly,” because spumante has typically only been made in France and Northern Italy.
|Shiny, computer-controlled wine vats.|
As we sample the wines here, it turns out the sparkling wine passes the demanding tastes of imported sommelier Lindsey Spadoni, who ends up buying a bottle. I ask for her expert analysis, and she explains: “It is a little more flavorful while still being light and champagne-like. I’ve never seen sparkling rosé before, so it seems quite unusual. And nothing says celebration like a bubbly drink.”
The last farm is the Fattoria La Torre, which is just below the hill of Montecarlo and has a best close-up view of the church tower. It is not only a farm but also a restaurant and agriturismo, and we peek inside one of the empty apartments, which is spacious, clean and very modern. Perhaps now that I have more experience tasting wine at the two previous farms, I can do a better job of describing the Syrah Toscana Esse that we taste. Here we go: “Aromas of tar, dark chocolate and meat follow through to a full body, with super soft velvety tannins and a long caressing finish. There’s lots of toasty oak, but this is delicious all the same. Best after 2009.”
Amazingly, I look at a poster on the wall and find this is word-for-word what one of the professional judges at a wine show said about it, proof positive that I have become an expert . . . plagiarist. Anyway, in my own words now, it was good wine, like all the other ones.
|A fancy bottling machine first flips the bottles upside down and rinses them. Then it fills them (far right) . . .|
|then caps them, while two workers wait to remove the bottles and put them in cases and onto their truck.|