You can tell the work on the house is now taking up less of our time. Last Sunday we were off eating fish cooked in a giant frying pan. Yesterday, we headed off to Montecarlo……..no, not the Montecarlo but a small medieval hill village to the east of Lucca where over the weekend, a number of small wineries and vineyards opened to the public for a wine tasting tour.
We went with a couple of friends who had been before so we also had some insider knowledge. For 15 euro per person, we bought a wine tasting kit, comprising a glass, a glass holder, a program event and the use of a 5 mini buses/coaches which drove along 5 different routes. Each one would drive in a continuous loop, dropping you off, allowing you to spend as much time as you wanted at each winery. When you had finished, you just waited for the bus to come back and take you to the next one on the route.
Section of map showing the different lines, all named after grapes of course, and some of the vineyards
From the main square, with the aid of a map detailing the locations of the wineries and the routes, we chose our first bus on the Vermentino line and off we went. This bus was actually a coach. The roads were narrow and windy. M was sitting by the window. All of a sudden he had gone very quiet. ‘What’s up?’ I asked. ‘This bus is too big for the road. I keep thinking we are going to leave it at any minute’. ‘But we are not that high and there is no drop. There is actually nowhere to go’. Nonetheless, when we got back on, M took the aisle seat much to the amusement of our friends!
At the first winery, I started with a prosecco. And then another. And another. Different varieties of course and all very palatable but all going down far too quickly! M was on the red. Our friends did the same, us two girls sticking to the fizzy/white, the men to the reds. I am not good at lunchtime drinking at the best of times (this tour started at midday) and it was hot, perhaps the first real hot day we have had so far. I knew I would have to pace myself.
Our first stop. Montecarlo is on the hill in the background
After this one, I stuck to one tasting at each place. Much more manageable and if we were really lucky, some free offerings of bread drizzled with the local olive oil (or at one vineyard, some pecorino cheese), made it a lot easier!
In our opinion, the best wineries (not necessarily with the best wine) were those that offered a tour around the cellars, explaining the process of winemaking. Some had set up stands in the grounds, others also offered products to try and buy such as jams, chutneys, cheese, sausage, salami, all produced by themselves. Some seemed family run, others were on a much larger scale. All of them had both fantastic buildings and amazing views.
At some point during the afternoon, we all felt the need for food and liquid of the non-alcoholic kind. So, it was off on another bus to a recommended vineyard where we had panini with porchetta, a bottle of water and a sit down in the shade!
At one point, we were back in the main square to catch a bus on another line when I commented on how much cooler it now was. As one of our friends pointed out, it was now actually 6:00pm. No wonder! This bus took us to just the one fattoria but it was worth it. The approach to the building itself was through the vineyards. It was picturesque to say the least. When we got there, the wines didn’t disappoint. The tasting itself was in the cellar with the most ridiculously sized barrels, the biggest we had seen all day. It was the perfect one to end on.
Huge barrels! The cellar was packed with them
At 7:15pm, we called it a day. We were flagging but our experienced friends decided to carry on to the last two vineyards. It was a great day, and one that will definitely be going on the calendar for next year.
A commemorative glass