A wine tasting in the winter? In Tuscany? I was looking forward to mild temperatures and a relaxed drink with views of the picturesque countryside. Finally, an escape from the dreary German weather to enjoy a few rays of sunlight. Nope! When Miri and I got off the plan after a turbulent landing in Florence, we found sullen weather just like home and a biting wind that almost blew us back to Hanover. We fought on against the storm to the car rental station and got under way toward the small village of Castelfalfi. Miri knew which turns to take, since she used to live and work there. Her eyes sparkled at the sight of the gentle, cypress-lined hills and, despite clouds in the sky, I also found myself excited about the scenery.
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Tenuta di Castelfalfi
TUI acquired the small village of Castelfalfi from the neighbouring municipality of Montaione in 2007, and has since lovingly restored and modernised it. The result was been one of the most exciting tourism projects in Italy and throughout Europe. The so-called Tenuta di Castelfalfi includes restaurants, apartments, villas, tennis courts, a golf course, a swimming pool, farms, and so on and so on… All nestled in the picturesque countryside of Tuscany. Il Castelfalfi, the first 5-star hotel by TUI BLUE, is situated in the middle of the resort.
On our arrival, hotel manager Marco Metge – whom you may already know from our earlier interview – greeted us warmly. After a brief greeting we started promptly toward the wine tasting. From Miri the wine-grouch, the enthusiasm was limited, but I was looking forward to getting to know the intricacies of wine tasting. Maybe I could learn how to use statements like “fruity aroma with a strongly acidic aftertaste” correctly in the future, or impress people by saying things like, “It’s pleasing to the eye, bright blond with green hues.”
Matteo the winemaker
The estate of Tenuta is spread over 24 acres, roughly the size of 34 football pitches. There are five wines that come from the vineyards in Castelfalfi. Four reds and, for the first time in the past year, a white wine. They still use steel and wooden barrels in this small winery. We were given all the info by the winemaker Matteo Mosti, who accompanied us during the wine tasting. Matteo first took me and Miri through the building, talked about the intricacies of production, and explained all the different steps. We then entered a cool room, which was decorated in dark colours.
Wooden barrels were on the walls all around us, some larger than others. Matteo told us that the wines in the larger barrels were the ones that needed to mature longer. On a rustic table in the middle of the room, they already had the five wines from Castelfalfi waiting for us. Namely, San Piero, Cerchiaia, Poggionero, Poggio Alla Fame, and Poggio I Soli. They were all presented in the minimalistic, yet classy-looking bottles of Tenuta. The wine tasting could begin.
The Four Steps of Wine Tasting
Although I drink a glass of wine with my food from time to time, I am certainly no expert. In most cases, I just follow the recommendations of the waiter or the experts in wine shops. The intricacies of wine tasting were also unknown to me, so Matteo explained the procedure to me in four steps:
First, you consider the colour of the wine. When held up to the light, the wine will reveal whether it’s light or dark, how intense the colour is, and what tints are present. All of these play a role for experts.
The wine is then gently swirled, which lets it pick up more oxygen and develop its full aroma. Important: Hold the wine glass by the stem to avoid heating the wine and unsightly finger prints on the glass.
Now you smell the wine. Is it flowery, fruity, or neutral? In the aroma, the vine should remind you of fruits, for example apples, pears, and berries, spring flowers, or rich, green fields – every flavour is unique.
In the last step is to taste the wine – either with or without slurping. Supposedly, slurping increases the air flow, and thus the flavour. You should roll the wine over your tongue and “chew it” a little. The taste should keep the promises of the bouquet and offer a pleasant aftertaste.
All right, time to taste the San Piero from 2014. The “starter wine” reflected ruby red and purple in the light and tasted as fruity as it smelled. I then tasted the bright red Cerchiaia, a Chianti from 2014 with a fresh taste and smell of forest berries. This was followed by the ruby red Poggionero from 2013, which was fruity and spicy at the same time, as was the pride of the house: the Poggio Alla Fame from 2013. The latter had a light touch of tobacco and tasted just as intensely as the bright red colours shone in the light. Finally, I was served the white Poggio I Soli, which was my personal favorite from the tasting because of its refreshing, fruity aroma.
I didn’t become a sommelier in that hour, but I came a big step closer to understanding the subject. Incidentally, I suggest that you only drink the wines in moderation. Usually in a wine tasting, you try more than five – sometimes up to thirty varieties. If you drink the last drop of every glass, you could easily end up under the table.
Olive oil and white bread
In addition to the excellent wines, the mill belonging to the estate makes just-as-excellent olive oils. On request, this will get served to you on a piece of Tuscan white bread during a wine tasting. The oils Extra and Extra Casa al Bosco are pressed from fruits from about 10,000 of the village’s own olive trees. On our way from the airport in Florence, I had noticed that sprawling olive groves dominated the landscape of Tuscany as much as the endless rows of cypresses. Do you own some random olive trees and don’t know what to do with your fruit? No problem! At this oil mill, everyone can bring their olives and have them pressed by professionals on-site. Around 400 suppliers from Tuscany use this service. And while the mill dutifully does its work, the farmers can wait right there, watch the process closely, and then take their returns home.
We also got to take something home. Miri the wine-philistine was actually pleased with the delicious olive oil and I couldn’t wait to take a bottle from the wine tasting home myself. Cheers!