Captain Verrazzano’s Castle Wine Tour

The wine tour is about to begin….we gather ourselves on the front lawn of the old castle

Clouds rolled in on the morning of our wine tour of the Castello di Verrazzano Winery in Chianti. But no matter. After a sumptuous breakfast of fresh-baked coffee cakes, slabs of white cheese, meats, croissants and tasty jams in the castle, everyone gathered into a group on the spacious front lawn. The Castle rose elegantly above us, adorned by lush late-Renaissance gardens and an elegant fountain.

Mateo conducts wine tour
Matteo, our wonderfully expressive tour guide is dwarfed by some Verrazzano ‘big barrels’

We are greeted by Matteo, our wine guide for the tour, personally appointed by ‘Captain Verrazzano.’ (Giovanni da Verrazzano was an early explorer and merchant born in the castle and covered in my previous post, Tuscany’s Castle Winery Leaves a Dashing Legacy). Matteo instantly won our attention and affection by his approachable, enthusiastic and humorous personality. Brimming full of pertinent information about the Verrazzano Estate, as well as the intriguing history surrounding the family, he kept us greatly entertained.

We walked down ancient mysterious corridors
We walked down mysterious corridors…..

The castle cellar was dungeon-like with small rooms off the passageway. I saw boar’s legs of prosciutto hanging from the ceiling as I looked through the bars of a door. In another were huge terracotta amphorae full of Verrazzano extra-virgin olive oil from olives grown on the estate.

Procuitto hanging in small cell

Another product of the castle, miele (honey), is produced from beehives placed on the estate, gathered and sold in jars. Vinegar, also, is made from the natural acetic fermentation of Verrazzano wines, then aged in oak barrels for three months.

The barrell room where the exquisite Verrazzano wines age to perfection
The barrel room where the exquisite Verrazzano wines age to perfection. 

Ahhh...Vinsanto , the Holy Wine. Aged in small barrels, this wine is made from the Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes, gently mashed after a long drying.

Verrazzano Balsamic Vinegar is aged in these tiny barrels for up to twelve years. It is made by slow fermentation and acidification of the Trebbiano grape, cooked over a fire without any other substance added. We have a sampling and it is wonderful. It is thick and syrupy, yet elegantly flavored and not piercing like some I have bought in the stores back home. The texture is velvety and it is aromatically infused from the several kinds of wood from the barrels.

Musty wine storage-some of the fine aging wines of Verrazzano

Castello di Verrazzano makes several wines from the grapes grown on their estate. Vin Santo, the ‘Holy Wine,’ is made from the Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes, gently mashed after a long drying. Here at the estate, the strands of white grapes are hung up to dry. As they dehydrate, the sugar becomes more concentrated and perfect for the dessert wine.

Donna Clara is another white wine, made from Trebbiano, Toscano, and Gewurztraminer grapes. This aromatic, balanced and medium-bodied wine is pale yellow.

Bottiglia Particolare, Sassello and of course, Chianti Riserva are the Verrazzano Estates famous red wines made of Sangiovese blends.

Grappa di Verrazzano is produced by distillation of steam with the discontinuous method of fresh grapes of the Chianti Classico vineyards of the Castle.

Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes hanging to dry for Vin Santo wine.
Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes hanging to dry for Vin Santo wine.
Tasting of the wine in the depths of the Castle cellar
We all 'belly up to the bar' as Mateo pours wine and humours us

Afterward, we wind our way back outside of the castle and over to the big spacious tasting room which is held in a part of their restaurant.

The wine tasting afterward when we all emerge above ground.
Some of the people sitting at my table examine wine just poured as Matteo describes the varietal. Plates of bread lavishly spread with Castello di Verrazzano olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt arrived as an accompaniment. It disappeared in no time, as did the wine!
Some of the tasty Verrazzano wines!

We wound up our tour and raised a glass to each other’s most excellent health for the coming year. Castello di Verrazzano has left a memory of historical intrigue, medieval wonder, the beauty of vineyards and rolling hills with castle tops, and some delicious wine primed to perfection over the centuries. Salute!

Castello Da Verrazzano in Chianti
Castello Di Verrazzano in Chianti

*Via Castello di Verrazzano, 1, 50022 Greve in Chianti FI, Italy

Have you had the pleasure of touring a castle winery? What is your favorite memory about a winery tour? I’d love to hear your thoughts so please feel free to leave a comment below.

The Night that Wishes Come True

wine glasses

San Lorenzo’s Night of the Falling Stars is almost upon us. Every year on August 10th friends and lovers stroll the warm summer nights hoping to catch a shooting star and express a desire that is promised to come true. But another activity, tasting the bounty of local wines, is the real highlight of the evening.

If you find yourself in Tuscany during the month of August, this is one event you won’t want to miss. What better way to meet the wine producers of Tuscany and sample their prestigious wines…. all under the twinkling night sky.

Also known as Calici di Stelle or Calici Sotto le Stelle (glasses below the stars), this Tuscan Wine Festival runs from August 5th through the 11th in many of the charming medieval hill towns, surrounded by picturesque and world-renown wineries. During the event, the piazza’s fill with local wine producers who offer glasses of wine to the public. Wine cellars open, accompanied by jazz music and theater performances on the piazza to entertain the wine tasting.

Vineyards outside Montepulciano
Vineyards outside Montepulciano

Montepulciano is most noted for its Vino Nobile, made of 60-80% Sangiovese grapes and aged a minimum of 2 years in a barrel. Rosso di Montepulciano is a lighter and fruitier version that is very popular. Vin Santo, a dessert wine made of dried white grapes, is also produced in the area. Sangiovese-based Chianti Classico and Brunellodi Montalcino are a Tuscan wine but not specific to Montepulciano.

Montepulciano grapes are not grown in Tuscany because they ripen late. This is confusing, but the grape is actually grown east of Rome and in the southern region where the weather is warmer.

This year wine quality and sustainability will be the emphasis of the Calici di Stelle in Montepulciano (famed renaissance and medieval hill town), known for it’s sumptuous Vino Nobile. On the night of the 10th, beginning at 5pm, within the Piazza Grande there will be 50 red wines to taste from the many Montepulciano cellars. There will also be tastings of local traditional gastronomic dishes. Art and Antique markets will line the streets, sold directly from the producers. Flag throwers and drummers will entertain in the piazza, followed by live concerts to enhance the evening as you stroll about with wine in hand.

Afterwards, find a grassy spot to spread a blanket out, lean back with glasses of sparkling wine and watch the stars as they criss-cross the sky. Grab one and your dreams will come true!

Recommended Local Winery Tours:

*Villa Cafaggio Winery in Chianti

*San Fabiano Calcinala Winery