Last week I was lucky enough to be invited by Buckingham Schenk to Tuscany to visit a couple of their vineyards and experience some good old Italian hospitality.
We flew into Pisa and travelled straight down to Castello di Querceto close to Greve in Chianti. Querceto’s vineyards extend over 190 hectares including olive, oak and chestnut trees. As we approached the castle is the centre piece of the vineyard having been rebuilt in the 16th Century. No time was wasted; we had lunch consisting of all local products, cured meats, cheese, tomato on bruschetta and their very own olive oil on toasted homemade bruschetta.
We then commenced on the vineyard tour learning all about the history of Chianti and how the Francois families’ soul and philosophy oozes from the vines. Alessandro Francois bases his philosophy on matching the potential of different grape varieties with specific characteristics of different vineyard sites. He studied the various microclimates in each and every single one of the vineyards and realised that the only way to make wines with great personality was to focus on producing single vineyard “crus”.
We were able to experience the range of their wines at the wine tasting, which was followed by a banquette fit for a King. Hosts Alessandro and Maria Antonietta pulled out all the stops. They opened their 1991 Castello Di Querceto Il Querciolaia and put on a spread of traditional Tuscan dishes. Grappa infused risotto with parmesan, baked stuffed eggplant, turnip leaves and pork and a selection of local cheese to finish. Soon enough they brought out their Grappa made from Chianti skins and their very own Brandy to finish the night.
Waking up the next day with a red wine dazed head, we had breakfast and set off on the 1 and a half hour journey down to Azienda Lunadoro in Valiano, near Montepulciano. This vineyard is spread over 40 hectares with Sangiovese being the dominant grape grown. After being shown around the vineyard and winery by winemaker Maurizio Saettini, we sat down to yet another great array of food and wine. Tasting wines like their Gewurztraminer and their Brut Prosecco, to their signature Rosso Montepulciano and Menzione Aglianico. These wines accompanied our antipasti and homemade pasta bolognaise. This filled us up nicely for our next 2 and a half hour leg of the journey to Pisa.
Arriving around 6pm, we stopped off at the hotel and went straight for an Aperol Spritz overlooking the leaning tower of Pisa. You cannot get anymore picturesque then that I tell you. Moving onto the restaurant with the chiefs of the Lunadoro winery we indulged in more of their wines and a beautiful selection of fish dishes. I say fish dishes because all they said was choose fish or meat and the 4 courses would consist of that option. I was presented with olive oil drizzled 3 styles of fish, clams and pasta, squid in a delicious sauce and greens, finished with a chocolate brownie and pistachio ice cream.
Safe to say I finished the trip full of rich fresh Tuscan food and 60% of my body having turned into red wine. I cannot thank Buckingham Schenk enough for giving me the opportunity to explore this beautiful part of Italy.