Thursday, November 13, 2014

Panzano in Chianti Wine Festival

Posted by Sean Caulfield on 14 November 2014

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Italy isn’t short on wine festivals. The Tuscany region certainly has its fair share and Vino al Vino (Wine to Wine) held in Panzano in Chianti is one of the stand out examples. It focuses on local producers, with a more intimate feel compared to many of its competitors, making this the perfect choice for real wine-lovers with the drink itself very much the star of the show.

Vino al Vino is organised by a group of 20 local wineries and has been going strong for years. It has managed to stay relatively small, however, offering a great alternative to the bigger wine festivals (which, don’t get me wrong, are fantastic in their own way).  Located between the larger towns of Greve and Castellina, Panzano is a classic small Tuscan village that makes a lovely setting, in no small part thanks to the beautiful surrounding scenery. Located on the breast of a hill, Panzano in Chianti has amazing views to the surrounding countryside, which is made up of a patchwork of vineyards and olive groves. This is quintessential rural Italy.

The festival takes places in the main piazza at the heart of Panzano, where the wineries set up in wooden stalls around the central square. To one side of the square is the welcome point where you buy a glass for 15 Euros and then taste as much wine as you like at no extra cost! The 15 Euro for the glass is your contribution to the cost of the festival, which makes it a fantastic deal if you turn up on the Thursday or Friday as you can keep going in every day tasting the wine in exchange for that one-off payment. Even if you can only make it for a few hours though, the number of different wines you can taste and the experience you get means it’s still a great deal. And, of course, you get the glass to keep as a souvenir!

Right by the entrance to the square is a small bar where the various wines for tasting are served. The ideal way to enjoy the festival is to grab a glassful of something that takes your fancy, then head over to the stall of the winery that produced it so you can find out all about what went into the wine you’re sampling. Every vineyard from the surrounding area has their own section displaying their produce so it’s a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the wine-making process and each producer’s own particular philosophy and methods of production. Whether you’re a seasoned wine aficionado or a more casual drinker, Vino al Vino is your chance to try a wide range of different styles of wine and work out which one suits you best. 

Once you’ve found that perfect tipple, you’ll no doubt want a bottle or maybe even a case or two to take away and drink at your leisure. Fortunately the festival organisers have thought of that and there’s a helpful buying and ordering station right beside the welcome point. This is staffed by a really helpful lady who speaks multiple languages and who has wines from all the different vineyards stacked up behind her. You can either buy a bottle right then and there, or place a larger order and have it delivered, giving you something to remember the festival by for a long time to come!

A firmly as the festival is focused on wine, it wouldn’t be a real Italian event if there wasn’t some great food on offer too. Panzano in Chianti just happens to be the home of Dario Cecchini, a world-famous butcher and chef. He runs Antica Macelleria Cecchini (Cecchini’s Old Butcher’s Shop) a family business that has been going for over 250 years. A really colourful character, Dario has three restaurants in Panzano, each serving a different range of meat based dishes (and a few non-meat treats for vegetarians). The village also boasts an excellent baker, proving that wine isn’t the only local produce worth shouting about.

The local restaurants really contribute to the festival buzz, bursting out from their usual premises to line the streets with their tables. Waiters cross back and forth serving people on both sides of the road as they sit eating great food, soaking up the sun and basking in the wonderful atmosphere. So, if nothing else, Panzano is a great place to go for lunch on the festival weekend, even if you’re not a wine drinker! There’s also live jazz music in the early evening on Saturday and Sunday and loads of local artists there displaying their work, making for a well-rounded Italian experience.

Of course, for those there for the wine, the restaurants and baker (who offers a range of snacks over the weekend) are really handy as you do need something to eat when you’re trying all those different wines. Otherwise you’d just end up falling over, or forgetting which wine it was you liked so much!

The Panzano in Chianti Wine Festival is a really great little festival for those who want a true taste of Tuscan culture in a fantastic location. It’s the perfect opportunity to develop your wine knowledge with loads to learn and absorb. We often hear back from people who visit once and then end up searching out wines from the Panzano region all over the world. Fortunately this is relatively easy as wines from the region are available in the UK, USA and throughout Europe, making a taste for Panzano wines one worth acquiring.

Vino al Vino takes place each year on the 3rd week of September, just before the harvest begins. It runs for four days from Thursday through to Sunday, meaning you can pop down for just one day or make a long weekend of it. And, if nothing else, the beautiful calm atmosphere in the middle of the Chianti on a sunny day is something to behold!

To find out more about Panzano, take a look at our guide to the local area and if you need somewhere to stay while you visit the festival, take a look at our villas in nearby Florence, Panzano in Chianti and the surrounding area. For more information and advice, please feel free to send us an email or call us on 0121 286 7782.

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