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Tuscany wine holidays_Villa Italy

Tuscany Wine Guide: Brunello di Montalcino

Tuscany wine holidays_Villa Italy

From Chianti Classico to one of the world’s finest red wines, the Brunello di Montalcino. Awarded Italy’s highest DOCG classification, it’s produced from 100% Sangiovese grapes and cellared for at least 5 years before released for consumption.

The berries have extra thick skins which gives the wine its bold fruit flavour and high tannin and acidity content.

Produced in a small corner of the Tuscan countryside, there are several recommended vineyards that produce Brunello di Montalcino. Let’s take a tour of of some of our favourites.

Biondi Santi

The Biondi Santi family are one of a handful of Tuscan wineries that have been producing Brunello di Montalcino since the beginning. In fact the first Brunello ever recorded was in 1869 and produced by Clemente Santi.

Biondi Santi came into its own in the late 1960s when Italy’s president, Giuseppe Saragat served Biondi Santi to Queen Elizabeth at the Italian Embassy in London. The Queen was smitten and Biondi Santi went from a small production predominantly consumed in Italy, to receiving much interest on an international level and world-wide acclaim.

Visit the vineyard: Private guided tours and tasting at the Biondi Santi estate are booked via their website.

Tuscany Vineyard_Villa Italy

Lisini

Lisini is produced by another Montalcino first generation winery: the Clementi family at their Casanova estate. Set in the heart of the Sienese countryside outside the village of Sant’Angelo in Colle, the Clementi winery has been producing exclusively Sangiovese wines since the 1870s. And their history in the region goes way further back to the 1600s.

The estates covers 150 hectares and although the majority of the vineyards produce Brunello, there are seven hectares that are set dedicated to growing the Rosso di Montalcino, as well as olive groves from which they produce a delicious olive oil.

Visit the vineyard: There is no information on the Lisini website about specific wine tours and tastings. Contact them directly, or ask us when you book your stay at Dimora Bellosguardo, for more information.

Val di Suga

Val di Suga is three vineyards in one. The estate covers an area with varying exposures and soil types, which allows it to produce not only the perfectly balanced Val di Suga Brunello, but also since 2014, the winery produces three distinct wines: Vigna del Lago (from grapes grown on the northern side of the estate); Poggio al Granchio (from the vineyards to the southeast), and Vigna Spuntali (from grapes grown in the southwest).

Val di Suga is quintessential Montalcino. A classic wine, offering a palate of dark cherry, chinotto orange and violet, which leads to complex flavours of blueberry, vanilla, tobacco and chocolate, and finally an almost menthol aftertaste.

A tour of the estate with wine tasting session is highly recommended for guests with a passion for wine.

Visit the vineyard: A warm welcome is extended when you visit the Val di Suga winery, where you can visit the vineyards and learn about the history of the estate and taste the wines.

Casanova di Neri

Casanova di Neri_Villa Italy

The Casanova di Neri estate produces traditional Brunello wines using innovative techniques. The result is an exciting evolution of the taste and aroma experience. The award winning winery located in the northwestern region of Montalcino, close to Torrenieri, produces wines which have consistently been featured in Best Italian Wine lists and awards. Its intense ruby and garnet hues and aroma of red fruits, spice and a slight hit of smokiness. The palate is rich, elegant and warming.

Visit the vineyard: Visits to the winery with guided tours and tastings can be booked directly via the Casanova di Neri website.

There are many more wineries situated in the Montalcino region, which you can visit during your stay at Dimora Bellosguardo. However, special mention must also be made to both the Talenti and Tenuta II Poggione wineries, which both produce outstanding Brunellos. 

 

Articles in the Tuscany Wine Guide series

The Chianti Classico
Brunello di Montalcino

Zibibbo Vineyard_Pantelleria_Villa Italy

Discovering the wines of Pantelleria

Discerning travellers the world over are seduced by the sheer pleasure of Italian food and wine. Italian food culture is deeply rooted in locally produced ingredients and traditional cooking. The slow food movement was founded right here in Italy, and for culinary lovers Italy is a destination hard to resist.

Wine aficionados are spoilt for choice in Europe, with some of the oldest and finest wine regions nestled in the landscapes of France, Spain, and of course right here in Italy. Italian wines have a reputation for being stylish and sophisticated to the palate, and swathes of unspoilt landscapes and innovative wineries promise great Italian wine adventures.

For those wine lovers who are already skilled in distinguishing between a Barolo and an Amarone, or a Gavi and Cortese, your next wine pilgrimage should be to the island of Pantelleria.

Pantelleria is on the cusp of becoming the next top trending destination for wine experts and lovers of la dolce vita. The wine website, Decanter, reported in 2014 of the UNESCO Heritage Status awarded to the wines of Pantelleria. Thirty growers cultivate ‘vite ad alberello’ meaning head trained bush vines; a technique developed by the Phoenicians who arrived here 2500 years ago.

If you aim to discover the wines of Pantelleria, you will also stumble across this rather delicious and unexplored island. So pull up and chair, charge your glass, as we take you on a trip around the vineyards of Pantelleria.

Introducing the island of Pantelleria

The largest volcanic satellite island of Italy, with views to Tunisia on a clear day, Pantelleria sits prettily on the westernmost tip of Sicily, and is commonly known as “The Black Pearl of the Mediterranean.”  Only thirty miles across the glistening sea is Africa, and Arabic influences are quite evident in the style of traditional homes, known as Dammusi. Traditionally one storey high, with a domed roof and lava walls, a Dammuso stays cool in summer and warm in winter, suiting visitors keen on sustainable and eco-friendly holiday retreats.

Dammusi_Pantelleria_Corte

Ancient lore to modern luxury

In ancient mythology, Apollo was seduced by the goddess Tanit, who succeeded by serving Muscat wine from the island of Pantelleria. A romantic stay at very own Corte Pantesca, Pantelleria for a modern-day love story in a traditional and unusual lava-rock house, can only be enhanced by discovering the ancient wines pressed from the Muscat of Alexandria grape, which flourishes in this heavenly paradise.

The wines

Arabic influence also dominates when it comes to the choice of grape used to produce the wines of Pantelleria. They first introduced the Zibibbo grape, from which Muscat  – Moscato  and Passito wines are derived. Passito di Pantelleria is a unique and richly indulgent discovery, one which will hook you from the very first sip. This dessert wine is almost a pudding in itself. The ‘passito’ method involves partial sun-drying of the grapes on straw mats, prior to the fermentation process, in order to concentrate their sugars. A rich and indulgent wine is the end result, that combines aromas of honey and cake flavours, with the intensely rich flavour of  marmalade and toffee. Enjoy with apple tart, or ripe, creamy cheese, such as Asiago Pressato from the Po valley near Treviso.

Some of the most popular labels to look out for are:

  • Donnafugata Ben Rye Passito di Pantelleria
  • Cantine Pellegrino Passito di Pantelleria
  • Carole Bouquet Sangue d’Oro Passito di Pantelleria
  • Marco De Bartoli Bukkuram Padre della Vigna Passito di Pantelleria
  • Terre di Zagara Passito Liquoroso di Pantelleria

A well-kept secret

You’ll be indulging in something rather special when you taste the wine of the Pantelleria region. They were a closely guarded secret enjoyed only by locals, until they finally started to export them in the 1880s – and that was just within Italy to begin with!  Pantelleria wine finally gained a formal and deserved place in the modern Italian wine system, when both Passito and Moscato di Pantelleria wines were granted DOC status in August, 1971. Pantelleria wine was the third Sicilian wine style to gain a DOC title, after Etna (August 1968) and Marsala (April 1969).

Pantelleria vineyards

A day out visiting the vineyards is a superb way to soak up Pantelleria’s enchanting countryside and to sample the fine wines of the region. Take a tour to see the wine in production, and indulge in a little tasting session at the end, with the option to stock up your own wine collection. Ultra modern wine estates and traditional methods make Pantelleria the next great discovery on your wine tour bucket list.

Pantelleria Wine Guide_Villa Italy

Here are a few of the best vineyards to visit, for a day’s outing with a difference

Donnafugata: Home of the famous Ben Rye Passito wine. Visit the Zibibbo vineyards and then see the winemaking process at first hand, with a degustation of their other labels at the end of the guided tour.

Where is it? Donnafugata, Contrada Khamma.

Marco De Bartoli – Bukkuram: A gentle pre-dinner wine tasting in the cooler late afternoon or early evening is a wonderful way to spend a few hours. The vineyard at Bukkaram allows you to taste their Zibibbo wine production as well as their Passito wine.

Where is it? Via San Michele 64 Contrada Bukkuram

Cantina Basile: The traditional Dammuso of Cantina Basile, located closely to the accommodation at Corte Pancesca was completely restored in 2006. Fabrizio, the owner of Cantina Basile, embarked on this adventure driven by love, passion and enthusiasm for the land. In the cellar they produce three types of niche wines, which are of the finest high quality; and which follow ancient winemaking traditions.

Where is it? Contrada di Bukkuram

Azienda Agricola Emanuela Bonomo: The farm of Emanuela Bonomo is an individual business, and was founded primarily as an agricultural company for the cultivation of Zibibbo grapes, capers, olives, oregano, fruit and vegetables. The ultimate goal is to respect the rural traditions of Pantelleria and its environs, and to offer the end consumer a natural product, so the sustainable traveller will find biological products farmed organically, with the main wines being  Passito di Pantelleria D.O.P, Capperi, but also there are tasty patès and conserves, Zibibbo raisins, oregano, and of course local extra virgin olive oil. In summer it is possible to try the delicacies on the terrace with breathtaking views.

Where is it? Via Ziton di Rekale, 12.

Pantelleria_Travel Guide_Villa Italy

Travel guide to Pantelleria: Five Reasons to Visit

Pantelleria_Travel Guide_Villa Italy

The island of Pantelleria is situated in the Strait of Sicily, between Sicily and Tunisia. While it remains pleasantly undiscovered by international tourists, it has all the trumps for making a great holiday destination. But let’s keep that between ourselves.

The volcanic outcrop can best be described as a melting lava pot of Arab and Italian culture. The petrified landscape is tamed by terraced slopes of vineyards, caper bushes, thermal mud pools and ancient Dammusi.

Here are five reasons why Pantelleria should be the number one destination on your Italian bucket list.

Afro Italian Gastronomy

Caponata_Pantelleria cuisine_Villa Italy

Despite being an Italian island, Pantelleria is fiercely proud of its Arab roots, and there is no great proof than in Pantesco cuisine. On the threshold of Africa: it’s closer to Tunisia than to Italy; the North African influence is evident. Ingredients, such as couscous, honey, spices and dried fruit, play an important role in the island’s dishes. Fused with the staple ingredients of the island: capers (reputed to be the best in Italy, if not in the world), olives, aubergine (eggplant), tomatoes and olive oil, this Afro Italian cuisine is distinctive and delicious.

Contrary to archetypical island custom, Pantelleria doesn’t have a big fishing tradition, so most fish is imported from the mainland. Typically one can expect to find octopus, lobster, sardines, bream, shellfish, tuna and mackerel on a Pantesco menu. Fish is typically served baked with tomatoes and capers, or lightly fried.

Capers with salt_Pantelleria_Villa ItalyOf course pasta is on the menu, and one of the favourite local pasta dishes is Pantesco Pesto. No parmesan is used in this version, instead capers, tomatoes, herbs, olive oil, and almonds are combined together and served with pasta, or on top of Bruschetta. Or try the Ravioli Armari, a pasta stuffed with Tumma (a local cheese) and mint leaves.

Gelato (ice cream) from Pantelleria has one main ingredient missing: the cream. It’s as cool and light as the wind that sweeps across the island. But if you like your sweets to taste sweet, then we recommend a Kiss Pantesco. No, you don’t have to kiss a local (unless you want to of course!). A Kiss Pantesco is a typical sweet pastry from Pantelleria; two deliciously thick and crispy pancakes sandwich a filling of ricotta, chocolate chips and cinnamon, topped with a dusting of icing sugar. Divino!

Wine from Pantelleria

Pantelleria wine_Villa Italy

Like so many regions of Italy, Pantelleria is famous for its wines. The island is home to some of Europe’s most southerly located vineyards. Legend has it that the Goddess Tanit wanted to attract the attend of Apollo. She turned to Venus, the Goddess of Love, for advice. She advised Tanit to scale Olympus pretending to be a cupbearer, and offer him a cup of golden Ambrosia. Instead she took a cup of the fermented Pantesco wine, and Venus fell in love.

There are over 300 small growers in Pantelleria, which shows the importance of the production, for such a small island. Passito di Pantelleria and Moscato di Pantelleria are two varieties of wine that have been granted the DOCG (Denominazione d’Origine Controllata e Garantita) status, which denotes Italian wines of the highest quality.

The Passito di Pantelleria is produced from wind-dried grapes grown on the island, a variety of wine that was immortalized by the ancient gods, and has since been revered by wine critics around the world. The production itself uses age-old methods; the vines are very low bush, planted on small terraces bordered by dry-built lava stone walls. The resulting wine has a honeyed sweetness, with hints of orange.

Moscato di Pantelleria (Pantesco Moscatel) has been produced on the island since the beginning of records, using the Zibibbo grape variety. The wine is one of Sicily’s principal wines, typically drunk on the feast day of St Martin, April 13th.

The Dammusi (architecture)

Corte Pantesca_Dammusi_Pantelleria_Villa Italy

The island of Pantelleria has been inhabited since prehistoric times. The first inhabitants were extremely adept at construction, their unique methods and architectonic skills were quite diverse and forward thinking for the era, which can be seen amongst the prehistoric ruins that pepper the island.

The Dammusi are traditional Pantesco homes built from the natural stone of the island. They were first constructed during the Arab occupation during the 10th century, they have been architectural icons of the island. A dammuso has a cubic base and is finished with a dome shaped roof, which collects rainwater. The name Dammuso has its origin in the Italian word ‘dammusi’ which means vault.

Corte Pantesca 1 & 2 are traditional Dammusi lovingly restored into exquisite guests retreats. Each sleeping up to four guests.

Benikulà CaveGrotta di Benikula cave_Pantelleria_Villa Italy

Benikulà Cave (the dry bathing) shelters a natural sauna, one of the best known dry-baths in the world. This natural phenomenon derives from the island’s volcanic activity. Fashioned only by mother nature, this is an encounter not to be missed when visiting Pantelleria. Inside the cave visitors sit on large lava stones, whilst the subterranean steam vapours relax mind and body. The deeper you go into the cave, the hotter the vapours.

A trip to Benikulà Cave is best experienced early morning, or at sunset, when the views to the valley are stunning. The Benikulà Cave can be found on the ridge of the Montagna Grande, just a short walk away from the hamlet of Siba.

The Mirror of Venus

Mirror of Venus_Pantelleria_Villa Italy

Specchio di Venere (Mirror of Venus) is a natural rainwater lake formed from an old crater. If it looks familiar it’s because it’s been the location for many a fashion shoot: Madonna herself was even photographed covered in the therapeutic Fango mud. The lake itself is formed from an ancient caldera which produces the thermal springs. To one side of the lakes these springs create a gurgling mud bath. Here the Fango and algae have extremely restorative effects for your skin. Bathers, old and young, can be found revelling in the delicious, warm mud.

These are five perfect reasons to visit Pantelleria, but let me add a sixth: anonymity. This peaceful island hasn’t yet been touched by mainstream tourism, and long may it stay that way. Arriving on Pantelleria you immediately sense that this is the destination where your stresses will be carried off with the wind, and where nobody is going to mess with your happy karma.