I did a day tour to the chianti region to taste wine, with a group of 8 girls and one male Italian tour leader who thought girls were hard work. Chianti district is pretty close to Siena, and the countryside is quintessentially tuscan, rolling hills with stone villas on top, surrounded by grapes. The wineries are not as we know them, no grand tasting rooms or public cellar doors. They are all small and private so the tour seemed the best way to meet the winemakers.
First stop was monteriggioni, a fortified castle shaped like a crown between Siena and Firenze, and still home to 60 families. I was able to climb the fortified walls and was rewarded with a great view. The tour then took us to a small organic winery, one man's hobby turned business. In addition to some very nice wine he made balsamic vinegar and Rosemary and lavendar oils. The wine tasting also included nibbles to highlight the other products including icecream and balsamic vinegar.
The next winery had won some serious awards for their super chianti Sangiovese wines, but also had a herd of cinti pigs that produce outstanding cured pork products and we were shown how all of this was produced. The wine tasting here also included food samples. Final stop was at the town of castellina, where I saw the young people strutting their stuff, the nonnas checking everyone out by sticking their head out the window, and the guys all seated watching the parade. It was a gorgeous village and the most local and lively we have seen.
Dinner was at our local restaurant, €13 bought me water, wine, involtini stuffed with egg and cheese, and apricot crostada. Luckily we could walk it off by walking back to our villa, just before it got pitch dark. We caught up with our fellow villa neighbours, wouldn't you know it fellow airline staff from Brisbane.