What a cliched title, for such a beautiful space. But you know why I use the cliche, is because once again, a cliche has proven to me that it is so because it is. All the things you have ever heard or imagined about Tuscany are so true! I’ve been there twice now and both times were very different but both equally magical and the truth of it all is I could picture myself living there for a time in my life.
As you move further away from Florence and your car starts rolling along the roads that are split between valleys of greenery, tall Cypress trees, Olive groves and vineyards, your heart starts beating a little faster and the “Under the Tuscan Sun” cliche starts taking over you. You are here, in the place where artists, poets and viticulturists have all found their deepest inspiration. The need to turn the music down, stick your head out the window and take it all in becomes quite strong.
The first time I came, it was with my mum and sister, in winter. We had spent a good amount of time driving around Italy and we were determined to experience as much of Chianti as we could. We stayed in Castellani de Chianti in a beautiful Airbnb, nestled right in the middle of a valley. the cobblestone walls of our house fitted in perfectly to the snow touched ground, vineyards and trees. It was freezing. This made it more romantic. We snuggled up and enjoyed the beautiful Chianti Reds that the region had to offer. What was so amazing, was not sharing the area with too many people, we almost had the region entirely to ourselves. When knocking on the doors of wine farms, they were almost surprised to see us. Did we know it was winter?
This prompted some beautiful conversations with passionate wine makers. With passionate restaurant owners and lovely locals. We got to ride on horseback through the vineyards, sit next to crackling fires on the tops of hills eating cheese and tasting a variety of wines.
But my all time favourite experience was finding the Mozart Wine Farm- Paradiso di Frassina. I had heard all about this place, where the wine maker,Giancarlo Cignozzi, a lawyer originally from Milan, was passionate about wine and passionate about music. He decided to move his family and follow these two passions in the heart of Montalcino, Chianti. Luckily my grandfather has installed in me an absolute love for classical music (& possibly wine). I can sit and listen to the instrumental sounds for hours, taking me to a place of pure joy. And here, at this wine farm, this wine maker was exploring the link between playing the vines classical music and the effect on their growth. This was an experiment that they got Bose and The University of Florence interested and now they are heavily involved in the research to.
Arriving at this farm is like stepping into another world – as you drive up the driveway, you arrive into 4 hectares of Sangiovese standing tall on the hills with the booming sounds of Mozart echoing all around you. It is hard to stop the smile from growing all over your face. And it is then that you realise that the effect on the plants must be true. There has to be a connection between this energy that enlivens you as you step out your car and the energy that the music must give the vines. It truly is magnificent- I couldn’t help doing a little pirouette in between the vines. The wines taste DELICIOUS too!
We spent the rest of our time driving to different spots and even spent some time exploring Sienna, which was also lovely. Taking in the spaces where the famous Paleo race is conducted. Which I had known nothing about before. But actually for me, the magic in Tuscany was listening to these passionate wine lovers speak about their wines and the methods they use, the love they have for wine and the sparkle that comes into their eyes as they chat.
I had another great version of that happen at a beautiful wine farm further West called Lupinari. The most beautiful wine farm, towered over by a very traditionally Tuscan Castle. As you drive up to the farm, you can’t help but have your breath taken away by the grounds and the expanse of the greenery around you. The views were also pretty sensational and the accommodation on offer would be pretty magic to stay in. As we drove up to the gates, I called the number I had been given and arranged for the wine maker to quickly pop up and come and chat to us. After wondering around the property on our own for a bit, this beautiful brunette lady with a contagious smile pulled up and in a typically gregarious Italian way invited us in to her home.
Here she told us the tale of how she was transforming the brand of the farm into something rather unconventional. Taking wine making and putting her own twist on it, which you can also see with the label above. I could have sat and chatted to her all day. She had been to South Africa and loved our wines and our country and so the mutual appreciation of both of our homes was strong.
Being in Tuscany in summer was also a great experience. Although it was the back end of summer, seeing the light hit the rolling green valleys in the morning, running through the vineyards with the warm sun on my face and seeing the vines more alive than they had been the last time I was there was very special.
I have a feeling my time in Tuscnay is not yet over. I will be back. Time and time again.