Wine Touring in Tuscany
Concierge.com's insider take:
Most of the larger wineries in the three most famous zones—Chianti Classico, Montalcino, and Montepulciano—now offer the chance to taste and purchase either directly from the estate or via an outlet in the nearest town. Some have moved into catering too, expanding their tasting rooms into small taverns, restaurants, or wine bars, but few offer vineyard visits or anything more interactive. One of the exceptions is the Fattoria dei Barbi (www.fattoriadeibarbi.net), one of the oldest Brunello di Montalcino estates, and one of the first anywhere in Italy to open its doors to visitors (www.consorziobrunellodimontalcino.it). As well as free tastings in the winery, the estate organizes guided tastings for groups of between eight and 30 people, which can be booked ahead via the website; it also has a rustic restaurant, the Taverna dei Barbi, and several self-catering apartments. The estate plays host to the Museo della Comunità di Montalcino e del Brunello, with a fascinating collection of artifacts, including children's games and winemaking tools, illustrating the history of the local community and the area's long wine-growing traditions (www.museodelbrunello.it). Montalcino is also the destination and focus of the new Treno del Vino, a "slow tourism" scheme promoted by local winemaker Roberto Cipresso, who is behind the ongoing transformation of Montalcino's abandoned train station into a multitasking wine space that will house a "Virtual Museum of Wine," a research center, a wine cellar, and a shop offering tastings and purchase of wine and edible Tuscan delicacies. The station is reached from Siena on a vintage train—see the website for times and prices (www.winestation.it). Services begin in the summer of 2007 on an experimental basis; by 2008, the train will have its own restored "tasting car," where the wine will keep flowing durng the journey. Another initiative launched in 2007 by the Terre di Siena tourist board, Degsustazioni ad Arte, pairs memorable wines with memorable works of art in various locations around the province: See www.terresiena.it for details.