At least, that’s how it seems if you listen to friends, colleagues and neighbors who have either visited Tuscany recently, are in Tuscany right now, or are planning to travel to Tuscany in the very near future.
Tuscany seems ubiquitous. And if it’s Tuscany, there must be wine.
So, to supplement the article I wrote a few weeks ago about the “Tuscan edition” of how to drive in wine country, it seems like an appropriate moment to dive more deeply into the sensory experience of that particularly compelling area of the global wine landscape that has been attracting travelers (and American travelers especially) for decades, if not centuries.
Certainly, it’s an easy, pleasurable matter to step through each of the senses with a glass of Tuscan wine in your hand, whether Chianti Classico or Brunello di Montalcino or a Super Tuscan from Bolgheri. Sight, then smell, then taste, then touch or texture, each with an overlay of sound supplied by the atmosphere around you.
It’s that atmosphere — the environment and the surrounding “ingredients” of the Tuscan landscape — where I think travelers can deepen their experience, and therefore their enjoyment, even further. A useful framework is choosing one winery (Lamole di Lamole, in this case, in the commune of Greve in the heart of Chianti Classico) and orienting the sensory steps around that destination.
Think of it as a wine lover’s to-do list to enhance your journey.
Here’s how that looks, sensory step by sensory step.
Sight: Detailing the Landscape
En route to Lamole di Lamole, whose vineyards are located in one of the highest parts of the area, you will of course see curve after curve, row after row, and hectare after hectare of vines, many of which are full of ripening Sangiovese bunches at this time of year. But if that’s all you see, or if you let your eye be drawn to only those vines, you’ll have missed the complementary, symbiotic ingredients of the landscape that contribute to the ecosystem that, ultimately, supports the production of the wine.
In particular, see (literally) if you can pick out the olive trees interspersed, and in some cases given right-of-way, in the vineyards. The trees will be the breaks in the patterns of vineyard rows, and you’ll notice that farmers have bent to accommodate them. The trees are a sign, to me, of counter-balance to wine production that’s a healthy “this, too” of agriculture.
Smell: Two Clues of Difference
Two distinct details of the landscape around Lamole di Lamole are, for me, responsible for the unique smell of this very specific piece of earth. One are the terraces of dry stone walls (pictured above), which are built with indigenous stone: terraces are necessary because the site hugs fairly steep slopes and, because the vertical rise of the terraces expose the organic matter of the site, they offer a contrast of smells between soil (or dust, in some cases) and green vegetation.
The second detail of the landscape are the irises, with its powdery smell that can remind me of a sidewalk after a thunderstorm. Historically, the village was renown for its iris production whose scent was prized at the court of Catherine de’ Medici.
Taste: The Wines, of Course
Sangiovese naturally comprises the core of each wine in Lamole di Lamole’s portfolio of red wines, with a very curious “detour” of Canaiolo Nero to supplement the blend in the 2018 Lareale Riserva. My palate, however, responded most enthusiastically to the more diverse and perhaps more casual 2019 Maggiolo, which blends Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with the core of Sangiovese. There is the aroma of iris again and the wine’s name — Maggiolo — is a nod to the month of May when the local irises are in bloom. The wine is open and approachable; after the friendly introduction through the nose, it finishes with notes of balsamic, marjoram and dark berries on the palate.
Touch: Brambles at the Ankles
Lamole di Lamole is an organic estate, and the “crunchy touch” of that farming style is characteristic of this place. Imagine the grassy vegetation brushing your knees between the rows of vines, which is planted cyclically to replace nutrients in the soil. Imagine the rough texture of the limbs and the arched spines of the trunks of the decades-old vines. Imagine the leathery, lance-shaped leaves of the olive tree. Imagine the dry brambles from the trees prickling your ankles as you walk by.
Imagine those textures, the tastes of the wines, and the smells and sights of the landscape, and you’ve deepened your experience of Tuscany whether you’re there in person or not.
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