Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Vino Strada

Tuscany in spring is every bit as beautiful as it is said to be.

The autostrada is the major highway system in Italy.  It is a toll road that runs the length of the country and can be quite expensive to use - about a Euro for every ten minutes on the road.  Well, we've discovered that the free Vino Strada can be just as costly but for another reason.

The Vino Strada in the Tuscany and Umbria regions of Italy is a route that meanders about the countryside from village to village highlighting the areas where beautiful vineyards and wineries can be found.  Now you understand why the Vino Strata turns out to be a much more expensive route than the Autostrata!  

Brunello di Montalcino, one of Italy's most prized and expensive wines, and the famous Vino Nobile di Montepulciano are both produced in this area under strict quality and vineyard location requirements.  For instance, Brunello di Montalcino must be in the barrel for four years and spend another year in the bottle before it can be released for sale. The extra cellar time makes the wine as smooth and rich as butter and almost as expensive as foie gras!

Both wines derive their names from the hill towns of their origin. Spectacular Montalcino and Montepulciano sit high upon steep hills with commanding views of the vineyards and valleys surrounding them.  We felt like we were earning our little tastes of wine as we walked up and down those hills and flights of stairs leading to ancient cellars.  Our thighs may have been burning but our taste buds were enjoying a little bit of heaven on earth.

Montalcino's streets may be very steep but the views are worth the climb.

Montepulciano's underground wine cellars contain
the largest wooden barrels we've ever seen.

An old wine press and underground well made us think about
the labor involved in making wine before modern day
machinery and plumbing became available.

A street fair was in progress when we arrived in Montepulciano.

Wine tasting may be the draw but these little villages
are postcard perfect and well worth spending time exploring.

The Medici family crest is an ever present reminder of their
role in Italy's past.  Here it is in Montepulciano...

and here it is in Montalcino's Piazza del Popolo.

Cafes, restaurants and enotecas (wine bars) make up most of Montalcino's old town.

Montalcino's enotecas provide wine tastings, which lead to
sales, which lead to ordering wine, which lead to shipping wine...

In the valleys surrounding Montalcino and Montepulciano
the vineyard vines are just beginning to leaf.  

The wine isn't the only thing that's heavenly.

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