When I think of Italy, the first thing that comes to mind is wine. Therefore, it seemed fitting that we should start our trip to Tuscany with a vineyard tour and tasting.
After some research we decided to tour Carmignani, a nearby farm that has been worked by the same family since the 1300s. Elena, who runs the place now, has been managing the farm for the last 25 years. She stands out among other local winemakers because she’s the only woman in a traditionally male-dominated field (no pun intended).
Our driver picked us up from Lucca, where we’re staying, at 11:00 and we arrived promptly at 11:30. We all shook hands and headed out for a tour of the grounds. Her farm is 14 hectares. Ten are used to grow olive oil and the other four are for her stunningly beautiful grapes.
She showed us her grapes first. Since her family has been in the business so long, they prescribe to a traditional way of doing things. For example, they grow both red and green grapes intermingled together. They also do a lot of the labor by hand. She told us that she doesn’t like to use machines to harvest the grapes or olives because they shake the plants in a way that is unhealthy, and also because they don’t discriminate between the “nice” grapes and the others that may be a little rotted out.
She plucked various grapes from the vines and allowed us to taste them each. The smaller wine grapes were less sweet, but much juicier than the grapes I’m used to snacking on at home.
After walking us through the vineyard, she took us to the olive trees. She told us that Italians make four different kinds of olive oil – one is best with fish, one with vegetables, one with meat, et cetera. In order to make an olive oil that tastes good with everything, they blend the four varieties together- however they never mix with olives from other regions.
It was very inspiring to hear Elena speak about her work, and to see her passion for wine. In addition to being a winemaker, she’s also a sommelier. At the end of the tour, she took us to a high point and proudly proclaimed, “this is my farm. Very nice, no?” It was impossible to disagree when the view was this one:
Once we’d seen the grounds, she briefly showed us the wine production areas and then he ushered us into a small open building that served as her tasting room.
We had the room to ourselves, and she brought out wine after wine with a food pairing for each one. True to form, I enjoyed all of them except the Chardonnay.
Along with the wine, I had two favorite food pairings. The first was the bruschetta, which was made with some of the most flavorful, delicious tomatoes I’ve ever had. I haven’t retouched the photo above at all- they were that rich in color (and equally rich in flavor). My other favorite was a pork sausage and buffalo burrata crostini. It’s nice to have something to nibble on when tasting wine – I think it really helps accentuate the flavor of the wine but also provides a little something in your stomach so your day doesn’t end early (and unfortunately!)
It was a wonderful experience and I’d highly recommend it to anyone visiting the area. We purchased several bottles to enjoy for the remainder of our trip, and left glowing with delight.