Andrea Brown of Team MissMalini recently spent a week touring Tuscany, Italy, sampling the region’s delicious wines and famous cuisine. Here’s the first of her travelogues on Touring Tuscany!

View from Salcheto

The Tuscan renaissance village of Montepulciano is famed for its exquisite red wine. Not to be confused with the grape variety of the same name, the region’s Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, made from the Sangiovese grape, which translates to ‘blood of Jupiter’, is arguably the best in Italy.

de’ Ricci

In the heart of the village, just a few steps from the main square in town, lies Cantina de’ Ricci. This ancient wine cellar has appeared in the blockbuster Twilight as well as the South American soap opera Passions.

It feels like a journey through time as you walk down the tall steps made for horses into cavernous corridors full of a variety of oak casks aging the famous wine of this region.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Unfortunately, due to lack of availability, we were unable to try the product of this well established winery. Judging by the beauty of this impressive cellar, we fully missed out.

Vineyard Wear

Firmly back in the 21st Century, on the outskirts of Montepulciano, you will find the antithesis of the traditional wine cellar of Cantina de’ Ricci. The bright colors, quirky furnishing and innovative products give Salcheto Winery a bit of a Willy Wonka Factory feel. Just like the King of Chocolate, the team at Salcheto are pushing the boundaries.   Their  approach to wine making is exciting, modern and eco-friendly with a touch of playfulness.

Barrel Chair

They believe “there should be a synergy between the earth and all growing things. With this in mind, we hope to bring romance and passion to the science of fine winemaking, blending time-honored tradition with modern technology”. Solar collectors are used to provide light throughout all the rooms while vertical gardens are used to maintain temperatures in the cellars. They’re so green, they even enable their customers to track their wine’s carbon footprint through the QR code on the back of the bottle.

Solar Collector Pods

After a lunch paired with sustainable wines from the vineyard, we were gifted with a box made from recycled wood of used pallets containing two bottles of the same wine showcasing the effects of different bottle closures, one cork and one screw top. The box housing the wines contains rosemary and sage seeds and an eco-friendly diaper, so you can create your own box garden at home. I love that the kit addresses the issue of waste disposal in a fun and creative manner.

Prosciutto and Cheese

Tim Etherington-Judge, aka @gingerbitters, and I opened the cork closed bottle of Salco Evluzione, 2005 and here is what he had to say:

“This is a complex wine that due to its age keeps its best hidden from the view of most. Upon initial opening the wine is full of unripe plum and cherry flavours with a distinctly sour edge but with a little time, about an hour in this case, it evolves to reveal a decadent, rich, dark cherry and vanilla gusto with bundles of cloves and vanilla.”

Herbs and Wine

I, for one, am looking forward to opening the screw top bottle and seeing if I can detect a difference.

Cin cin!

Up next: Touring Tuscany Part II: Castello di Gargonza