Happy Tuesday, friends! Last week we started sharing our European vacation with you and we’re not done yet! If you missed it, you can catch up here. We still can’t believe this trip actually happened and we still have A LOT to share!
Next up on our European vacation recap, we have Montalcino. There was so much to do we visited twice! Montalcino is situated on a hill covered with olive groves and famous Brunello vineyards and was named after a variety of oak tree that once covered the area. It’s position on the hilltop offers amazing views of nearby Asso, Ombrone and Arbia valleys. And one of the best places to experience these views is from the top of the Fortress of Montalcino. which is located on the highest point in the town. The fortress was designed by architects from Siena and built in 1361 as a part of the ancient walls. You better believe we climbed all the way to the top!
On our first day in Montalcino, we went on a wine tour of sorts (because in Montalcino, it’s all about the wine). We started by visiting the Bruno Dalmaszo Enoteca (in Italian, Enoteca literally means “wine repository” but is used to describe a special type of wine shop that originated in Italy). We were greeted by the staff and seated for a tasting of Brunello di Montalcino. The tasting also came with a basket of delicious, crispy breadsticks which, we’re not going to lie, may have been better than the wine. Next, we headed into the heart of Montalcino. The weather was against us again so we walked along the cobblestone streets taking breaks from the storm in a few of the many Enotecas (when in
Finally, there was a break in the clouds and we were able to visit the fortress. The view did not disappoint! For the price of 4 euros we walked up the rickety “staircases” (if you could even call them that) to the very top where you had a 360º view of the valleys. On one side, beautiful blue skies with large white puffy clouds. The other; a dull gray sky that faded into dark storm clouds off in the distance. It looked like the clouds were touching the hills.
Like we said earlier, Montalcino is famous for it’s Brunello wine, so naturally on our second visit we had to take a tour of an honest to goodness Montalcino winery and vineyard– Altesino!
Brunello di Montalcino makes up a large portion of what is produced at Altesino. Brunello di Montalcino is an Italian red wine that is produced with 100% Sangiovese grapes — it is actually a written law! In 1980, Brunello di Montalcino was awarded the first Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) designation (which if you didn’t know is kind of a big deal). What this means is that there are strict methods that need to be followed in the wine’s production (aging time especially), it must be produced in a specified region and it needs to satisfy a defined standard of quality. Wines that are DOCG certified are even analyzed and TASTED by government-licensed personnel before being bottled and sealed with a special governmental seal across the cap or cork. We had no idea so much went into wine making!! Another fascinating thing we learned while at Altesino is that at the end of each row of grapes there is a different colored rose bush. Why? Because insects will attack the rose bush first before they move on to the grapes. It’s like their own little pretty security system!
We toured each room in the wine making process from the large metal barrels the grapes are kept in to ferment, to the small oak barrels, to the production line where all the wine is boxed [by hand]. And no winery tour would be complete without a wine tasting! We snacked on a variety of Italian hams (well, Troy did), cheese and bread with olive oil that was made onsite. To say it was delicious would be an understatement.
To end the day we strolled the site streets once again (in much better weather this time), stopped at the Duomo (cathedral) and relaxed over a nice cup of coffee. Until next time Montalcino!
Need to catch up on our European adventure? See more here!