Holly's Tuscan Adventure
A two-day Tuscan adventure...
It's always a treat to meet with our producers and see their winemaking in action, so I was delighted to visit Cantina Crociani and the Donatella Colmbini estates in early October.
We landed in a slightly grey Florence, but even so, filled with anticipation, our spirits were high, and the drive was picturesque! We were met by Susanna Crociani in Piazza Grande in the historic town centre of Montepulciano. Susanna’s cellars are right in the square so after a much-needed ice cream break, we wandered down the charming Tuscan streets and arrived at Cantina Crociani, greeted by some lovely ‘meows’ too. Our tour started with Susanna showing us around her cellars, which date back to the fourteenth century, due to their level of protection, years back a part of the wall had to be knocked down to get barrels in and out, luckily that’s no longer the method!
For the tasting, Susanna prepared the most delicious Pecorino Toscano, cold cuts, Pane Toscano (bread with no salt, the traditional Tuscan way) and Crociani's own olive oil, alongside her range of wines. We tried three reds, one white and one rosé; the winner for me was the 'Il Segreto di Giorgio' ('The Secret of Giorgio' - named after Susanna’s late brother Giorgio), a blend of 80% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo and 10% Mammolo.
Next, we made a quick pit stop at Susanna’s vineyards, located in Caggole, in the heart of Vino Nobile country. The vineyards consist of chalk and clay soils, which are ideal for growing the Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Mammolo varieties, all key components of Vino Nobile and Rosso di Montepulciano wines. After a short drive we arrived at Il Cantastorie, a traditional Tuscan farmhouse, where we were wined and dined for the evening. Susanna’s husband, Massimo cooked us the most fabulous and authentic Italian dinner, including mini pizzas, tomato Pici, more Pecorino Toscano, and some juicy pork. However, it was the dessert that won us all over, a vegan chocolate cake, followed by Vin Santo with cantuccini biscuits and whipped honey ricotta – yum!!
“Learning the history of both winerys was fantastic – especially with how they are both female led! I loved walking around Montepulciano and learning about all the traditions!”
The next morning, the sun was peeking through, so a quick refreshing dip in the pool, before enjoying a homemade breakfast (including the best pastries) and we were ready for day two of our Tuscan adventures – time to visit the team at Donatella Cinelli Colombini.
On route, Susanna recommended we had a stroll around Pienza, a beautiful hilltop town in the Val d'Orcia, and the views did not disappoint! Here we had a lovely lunch (yes, more food!) before making our way to Casato Prime Donne in Montalcino, where the vineyards producing Brunello and the cellar is based. Here we were welcomed by Violante (Donatella’s daughter and Head of Commercial/Sales) and Serena, who gave us a background of the company and showed us the beautiful vineyards.
The Colombini operation is solely run by women, and they really champion that, in fact, Donatella Cinelli Colombini was the first Italian winery to be entirely run by women. Antonella walked us through the cellars and explained the history of the wars between Siena and Florence, as well as the family journey. The little red hearts you may spot on the barrels (see image above) is a bit of an internal competition; each vintage, staff members will place a heart on their chosen barrel, hoping for it to be the ‘best’ - let’s see who wins this year!
We then tasted six wines from their range, comparing vintages as well as the first organic vintage (2018) of 'Brunello di Montalcino DOCG'. The favourite for me was their 'Cenerentola DOC Orcia 2018', known as Cinderella in English - only 10,000 bottles are produced during the best vintages, so it was a real treat to enjoy a few glasses!
We then went to Fattoria del Colle in Trequanda, arriving to a beautiful sunset and lovely views of the Tuscan countryside. Here, we were lucky enough to be wined and dined again, treated to a delicious four-course dinner, the handmade ravioli was a favourite, but my sweet tooth always takes over, so the semifreddo with Vin Santo and more cantuccini was my personal winner! It was such a pleasure to have Donatella join us for the evening too, Donatella is a major force in the world of quality Italian wine and has encouraged important advances in ecotourism such as the conception of Cantine Aperte, a nationwide day for winemakers to welcome visitors and her Prime Donne Project initiated not only a female-run winery, but also the first Italian red wine suitable for ageing, selected by only female tasters.
It was my first-time visiting Tuscany, and I genuinely can’t wait to go back. The countryside was stunning, the food delicious, the wine outstanding, the people are friendly and our hosts Susanna and Massimo at Crociani and the whole team at Donatella Cinelli Colombini couldn’t have made us feel more welcome – Grazie mille!