One of the things that I was really excited about while planning our trip to Europe was learning more about wine. I wanted to immerse myself in not only learning about the different varieties but how to properly taste and appreciate wines from different regions. Given that I currently am calling Florence my home, now was the best time to learn more about Tuscan wines, specifically those from the Chianti region. Of course the best way to learn more about wine is with a wine tour group which is why I signed on with Italy on a Budget Tours to head off on their Grape Escape day trip from Florence.
What I liked most about this tour was that it started first at a winery combined with a wine tasting school. This was a great time to learn more about why you swirl and twirl a wine glass before drinking. Hint: it’s not just to make you look cool. You want to swirl the wine around in your glass to get more oxygen into the wine and allow the wine to open up giving off pleasant aromas to help you taste. If you’re not a pro, do this on a table but if you’re feeling more confident you can certainly do this in the air and watch the colors swirl the glass.
Now it’s time to smell the wine. Stick your entire nose and mouth into the glass and breath in deep with your eyes closed. Do you smell cherries or tobacco or oak? These are scents that you should encounter but if you happen to smell wet newspaper, a moldy basement or a wet dog then chances are your wine has gone bad. As much as it kills, throw that bottle away.
Now it’s time to taste. Take a sip of the wine, hold it in your mouth and then swallow. Now you’re ready to actually taste the wine. Take another sip of the wine and swish it around in your mouth and then suck in some air through your teeth to twirl it around even more. Then swallow and notice how the flavor has changed because you have incorporated all of your tastebuds into the experience. According to our guide the French would then spit out the wine but here in Italy they are all about drinking their wine!
Once we got the full lesson on how to taste the wine we walked through 5-6 wines (I lost count) tasting everything from a Chianti to a Toscana to a Brunello di Montalcino. We were also able to taste their olive oil and balsamic vinegar, both delicious. All of this newfound wine tasting knowledge prepared our group for the visit to our second winery.
We traveled about 15 minutes to a smaller, boutique winery to learn more about the process of production followed by….you guessed it! More wine tasting and education on Chianti wines! Needless to say our group was a little more chatty after all of the wine tasting! From this winery we head to the small town of San Gimignano to finish off the tour.
San Gimignano is a small, walled medieval hill town known for the preservation of it’s towers. The town has managed to preserve 14 of its towers from the medieval times while many other neighboring towns have lost theirs during wars and catastrophes over the years. While it was nice to check out the architecture, San Gimignano is also a really great spot for gelato!
Gelateria Gondoli is the most popular shop in the city, winning numerous awards. Unfortunately it was closed during the holiday/winter while we were there. Instead we walked across the square to Gelateria dell’Olmo for equally delicious gelato. I would probably say it is some of the best since I have been in Italy.
Everyone hopped back in the van and headed back home to Florence. I’d give the Grape Escape Winery tour with Italy on a Budget two enthusiastic thumbs up! They did a great job of making the day fun and educational at the same time and our guide was absolutely amazing. Be sure to check out their other amazing tours if you’re in Italy because they do more than just tours around Florence!