The Ultimate Guide to Exploring Tuscan Wine in Florence

June 22, 2018

The Ultimate Guide to Exploring Tuscan Wine in Florence

Is there any city in Europe with a history quite as grand as Florence? From its origins as an important Roman city, through a prosperous Middle Ages as a centre of trade and then, of course, as the birth-place of the Italian Renaissance, Florence has seen it all. Known as Firenze in Italian, Florence is also the capital of Tuscany, the beating heart of the Italian wine industry and home to a plethora of high quality regions, producers and the undoubted cradle of the noble Sangiovese grape. Millions of people pass through Florence every year and so few really discover its links to the surrounding countryside, filled with rolling hills covered in vines and olive groves. From the famed Chianti Classico to the almost mythical Brunello di Montalcino, top quality vineyards are well within striking distance of the famous city, and should you want to spend a little more time within its walls, there's a great selection of wine bars and restaurants to choose from as well.

First, though, a little bit about Florence and Tuscan wine. Wine has been a staple product of the region since the first commercial vineyards were planted by the Romans over 2,000 years ago. Then throughout Florence's proud history of trade and mercantile strength, it became absolutely key, to the point where over 8 million gallons of wine were entering the city every year throughout the 14th century! Chianti lays claim to being the oldest defined wine region in the world, with its borders drawn up and decided upon in 1716, whilst the Italian Renaissance likely received more than its fair share of vinous lubrication. Needless to say, wine beats in the veins of the people here and particularly over the last 30 years, quality has risen to levels never seen before. From the creation of Super-Tuscans to the rediscovery of the original, 'classico' regions, Tuscany is alive with the sound of wine.

Are you visiting Florence and want to discover more? Then this guide is for you. We're going to detail three very different wine trips to vineyards, some of the best bars and restaurants to discover in the city as well as some help with the wine terminology here. Read on the discover how to make the best use of your time in this truly magical city!

Red wine vineyard Tuscany

Wine Expeditions from Florence

You may already know that we're big believers in getting out to the vineyards and discovering new wines first-hand, and with Florence's location in the very heart of Tuscany, there are few better chances to hop outside the city and begin your own wine adventure. Most are a very short drive outside of the city and as always, make sure to call ahead so they know you're intending to visit!

The Region – Chianti

One of Italy's most historical and famous wine regions, Chianti has existed as a quality area for wine since 1716 when Cosimo III, the Grand Duke of Tuscany at the time, drew boundaries in order to help promote authenticity and quality. Today, these gently rolling hills, dotted with quaint villas, woods, vineyards and olive groves look exactly as they were described in Roman literature and poems. Sangiovese is king here, producing lively, tangy red wines that speak with a thoroughly Tuscan accent. Despite 6 sub-regions, the best wines tend to hail from the 'Classico' region, which was the original zone of production before its expansion in the 20th century. On these steep, sunny hillsides you'll find one of our absolute favourite wineries, a visit to which will reward any winelover who makes the journey!

The Winery – Castello Monterinaldi

Castello Monterinaldi is located in the historic centre of Chianti, with original documentation showing records of quality viticulture here in the 10th century! The history of the estate is quite a bit more recent, 1961 to be precise, but no less impressive for it. Over 38 small, interesting plots of land make up their kaleidoscope of terroir, each farmed organically and planted with the grape variety that best suits it. The focus, is as you might expect, very much on Sangiovese as the principal grape variety supported by indigenous and international grape varieties alike. A trip to the cellar of Castello Monterinaldi confirms the traditional approach taken by the winery, with a collection of large, old oak barrels and cement tanks used for the majority of a wines elevage. There's even estate olive oil to be had here, bottled and stored in gorgeous, clay amphorae. However, is there's a single wine you have to try, it has to be....

The Wine – Castello Monterinaldi Chianti Classico

Castello Monterinaldi's Chianti Classico is actually one of their most affordable and accessible wines, yet we feel it's one of their very best! Produced mainly from Sangiovese with a touch of Caniaolo and Colorino for depth of colour and extra verve, this is one of the more engaging Chianti Classico wines on the market. Sour cherries, dried herbs, tobacco and that wonderful, vibrant acidity that keeps the very best Sangiovese refreshing over the years. Delicious in youth but drink your bottles over 5-8 years and watch it unfurl into something truly special; elegant, complex and utterly delicious!

For more information, or to book a visit with Castello Monterinaldi, contact them via their website. The winery also sells our 12-bottle wine luggage if you're looking to fly back with some great Tuscan wine.

Tuscan landscape

The Region – Brunello di Montalcino

Brunello is a word that, all by itself, tends to engage the attention of wine-lovers the world over. Historically it was created by Biondi-Santi, who first bottled it and coined its now very famous name, all the way back in 1865. It was initially seen as an almost mystical wine, with only 4 vintages released in almost 57 years! Today there's quite a bit more wine being released, fortunately, but with a minimum of 2 years required in barrel, it can still be a wait for the wine to be ready. Still, a day spent walking around the picturesque town of Montalcino and sampling some of these gorgeous, structured wines is never one wasted!

The Winery - Biondi Santi

Visiting Biondi Santi is like visiting a little piece of living history, where the very first Brunello di Montalcino was grown, produced and bottled. The family business is now ran by Jacopo Biondi Santi, the 5th generation to take the helm at this illustrious winery, and as focused on quality as his forefathers. The grapes here are grown at altitude, high in the hills of Montalcino on Tuscan galestro; a sort of rocky clay that the Brunello clone of Sangiovese is so well adapted to. Clearly, there's no discussion about which wine you have to ensure you try..

The Wine – Biondi Santi Brunello di Montalcino

Whilst the Rosso di Montalcino is a lot more approachable whilst young, a glass of Brunello is a must after you've visited Biondi Santi. These wines are structured and dense, rewarding well over a decade of patient cellaring, slowly unfurling to become a broad, powerful expression of Sangiovese. Whilst the standard tasting includes a current release of Brunello, it's worth asking if there are any older bottles they wouldn't mind opening (there often are!) and you'll see what we mean....

For more information, or to book a visit with Biondi Santi, you'll find their contact details through their website

Vino Nobile Montepulciano

The Region – Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Much the furthest away of the regions to visit is Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, so much so that you may even want to consider turning it into a 2 day trip! Still, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is one of Tuscany's great vinous treasures, falling stylistically somewhere between Chianti Classico and Brunello di Montalcino, combining the elegance of the first with the firm structure of the latter. Better still, they're still quite poorly known outside of Italy itself, so something of a hidden gem to discover and share with your fellow wine-lovers!

The Winery – Salcheto

Salcheto is a remarkable project in Montepulciano, as famous for its innovation as for its wines. Salcheto became the first completely self-sufficient winery in Europe in 2011, using a variety of ingenious designs to be as energy efficient as possible. Fully organic and with arguably the most beautiful views of the region, this is a remarkable estate! Yet for all the talk of their commendable business drives, it's the wines that you've made the long drive to taste and you won't be disappointed here. Why not enjoy a lunch of cold cuts, fresh bread and soft cheese whilst finishing off a bottle of...

The Wine – Salcheto Salco 2089

A remarkable wine, not least because it's the blend of two vintages; 2008 and 2009. Whilst completely normal in Champagne, this isn't a typical practice elsewhere and very rarely indeed with red wine! Made in tiny quantities from their very best plots of land, this 100% Sangiovese wine is quite special, and aged for long periods of time before release so that it's mature and ready to drink. Sweet spices, menthol, dried cherries and dried violets tumble out of the glass, still firm and fresh but certainly ready to drink. The perfect bottle of wine to drink whilst looking out over the hillsides of Tuscany and down into the town of Montepulciano. Don't worry, if you overindulge there are rooms to stay overnight in the winery, so go for that second bottle should you want to....

For more information, or to book a visit with Salcheto, you'll find their contact details through their website

All of the above wineries require transport to reach. If you'd prefer to have the logistics taken out of your hands, consider booking a tour with Italy Unfiltered, a high quality outfit committed to showing you Tuscany in a way you've never seen it before! They also carry Lazenne's 12 and 15 bottle wine suitcases so you can fly back with your Tuscan wine selection!

Florence Wine Shops

Wine Bars and Shops in Florence

After a long day walking around the beautiful city of Florence, taking in the sights, the architecture and indulging your cultural side, we think it's only right to leave room for a glass of wine or two! Fortunately, Florence has you covered here as well with a variety of small bars, restaurants and some charming wine shops should you want to transport a few bottles home with you, as a memory of your time here. Here's a small selection of the very best:

Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina
Piazza de' Pitti, 16

If you love Tuscan wine, you're going to love Pitti Gola e Cantina. This is a small, charming wine-shop and bar in front of the Pitti Palace, focusing on high quality Tuscan wine. Wine is served by the glass and, of course, available to purchase by the bottle but our recommendation is to get in touch with them in advance and see if you can join one of their regularly scheduled wine tastings. There's even a Wine Tasting Lunch option for members of their club, which is always worth enquiring about, member or no....

Le Volpi e L'Uva
Plaza dei Rossi, 1

This is a charming, local wine bar with so much to offer! We came here for the wine but the food is absolutely delicious, well priced and authentic. There's a big variety of local wines available by the glass here and if in doubt, our recommendation is to put yourself in the capable hands of the waitstaff who are both knowledgeable and friendly; you're in for a real treat! Close to the Ponte Vecchio, this is our top choice for a lazy afternoon to indulge yourself and watch the world go by!

Enoteca Alessi
Via delle Oche, 27

As far as wine shops go, Enoteca Alessi is right up there with the best. Located in the heart of the old town of Florence and ran by the Alessi family since 1952, this remarkable store has captured the hearts of anyone fortunate enough to stumble across it. Their main focus, as you might expect, is on Italian wine but there's also a broad range of spirits, beers and even some delicious food to order at their little bar, should you get hungry whilst browsing!

Enoteca Marconcini
Piazza del Mercato Centrale

Don't let the busy, market location of this Enoteca dissuade you from visiting, as you'll miss one of the most interesting wine shops in the city. A small but carefully thought out selection of wines greets you here at very fair prices, as well as some aged beauties from some of the big names in Tuscany. It's also a great excuse to explore the market, pick up some cold meats, cheeses, olives, bread.... add that bottle of wine and you're ready for a picnic! Over 60 years of family business and they're still going strong.

Italian Wine Corks

Italian Wine Terminology

Italy is another country with a confusing number of different terms and names you might find on wine labels. There are subtle differences between the types of producers, as well as quite important distinctions that can be the difference between accidentally buying a light, frothy wine when you wanted something heavy and full bodied! Here's a quick break-down of some of the most important terms to be aware of, and their translation into English:

Annata – Vintage Year
Azienda Agricola – Wine Estate
Bianco – White
Cantina – Cellar or Winery
Cantina Sociale – A Co-operative winery
Classico – Original zone of production
Dolce – Sweet
Frizzante – Semi Sparkling
Metodo Classico – Bottle fermented sparkling wine-lover
Riserva – A wine aged for longer than usual, often a special selection
Rosato – Rose wine
Rosso – Red
Secco – Dry
Spumante – Sparkling
Superiore – A riper, usually better version of a classic region
Vigna – Vineyard
Vino – Wine

Florence may be a city with a grand history, but it has a quite remarkable present as well, not to mention its future. A city packed with things to see, things to do and just as importantly, things to eat and drink. Whether you decide to take a short journey outside the city to visit a local winery or explore the myriad shops, bars and restaurants within it, we're confident that you'll have a wonderful time in Florence. Saluti!

It's very likely you'll want to bring some these delicious wines back with you, and we don't blame you! To learn more about how to fly with wine, read our article explaining the simple steps here

For more on our specially designed wine luggage and suitcases and more detailed information on how to travel with alcohol, check out the links below:

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