Holiday Highlight - Wine Tasting At Casanuova di Ama
Posted by Kiri (13/05/2016)
One of my favourite things we did on our recent trip to Tuscany was wine tasting. It was a fantastic experience I will never forget, and I want to share it with you. If you are planning on going to Tuscany this year, don’t miss out on the chance to go wine tasting in a region that produces world renowned wines.
We were staying at this beautiful villa in Lecchi in Chianti. The wine tasting venue, Casanuova di Ama was thankfully within walking distance. I definitely wouldn’t advise driving afterwards, particularly as the ‘tastings’ that you get are far more generous than your average wine tasting amounts.
Casanuova di Ama is a small farm where generations of family live and work. It’s an authentic Tuscan farm covering 15 hectares, 5 of which are used as a vineyard. They also have over 2000 olive trees, and it seems the olive oil they produce here is just as important to them as the wine. Daniela was the perfect host, she did everything she could to make us happy and answered all my questions with enthusiasm.
Daniela said that the soil here is dry, hard, stony and lighter, which makes it ideal for wine and olive oil production, but not much else. The soil is different near Siena, the ground is much softer and brown in colour.
She also mentioned that it is harder in this area (Chianti) to find a very good olive oil, and she is very proud of the oil they produce. They use granite stone to press it, so rather than being filtered, it’s pressed through granite stone instead. The olives are also hand picked rather than shaken, because this preserves the taste and it’s an ancient tradition here.
We expected a few light bites during the wine tasting, but Daniela literally prepared a feast for us. During the tasting she served up all sorts of delicious treats that were carefully selected to go perfectly with the wines.
We had Pecorino cheese, Tuscan ham, a cheese and ham tart, bruschetta, mozzarella from Southern Italy, a vegetable hummus type dip, warm chicken liver and veal spleen pate, bread, olives, cheese on toast with honey and balsamic vinegar, and finally, to finish, Cantuccini biscuits. As you can imagine, we were completely stuffed by the end of it.
We tasted one white wine, five reds, a dessert wine and also a liqueur.
1. White wine
This was a simple table white wine made from two local grapes. She said they only produce a few bottles of white compared to the red wines they produce (20% of their grapes are Chardonnay). I’m definitely more of a red wine fan, I rarely drink white wine. However, I really liked this fresh, crisp white, and it was perfect with the appetiser she served.
2. Comena (2012) - red
In Brolio a rich gentleman first made what we know of as the Chianti Classico with four grapes, two red and two white. Up until 2006 since, when the regulations changed, the wine was made with both red and white grapes.
The recipe was changed in 2006 to only red grapes. After producing wine on the farm using both red and white grapes, Daniela’s family wondered why such a popular wine had to be changed. It took them a while to come around, but now they understand, the wine made from only red grapes has more body, texture and colour and is of a higher quality.
After a few years of resistance, the mentality changed and people conserved wine for longer because the longer it is conserved, the better the taste. Daniela explained all this to us before we tasted the first two wines.
The first one was the old style wine called Comena (which she said means ‘as it was’), which contains two white and two red grapes. This wine is much lighter than the newer style, and you can definitely taste the white grapes a little. Daniela mentioned that this wine is still her favourite. Personally, I preferred the newer version (below) made from only red grapes.
2. Chianti Classico Casanuova di Ama (2014) - red
This is the newer version, which as mentioned above has a stronger flavour and more body, texture and colour. It’s made entirely of red grapes. Daniela said that although this wine is excellent quality, she had even better wines in store for us that have been matured for longer.
She said that the Sangiovese grape that’s used to make these wines is quite a hard tasting to begin with, it’s only after a long time that you can achieve a softer taste. With Merlot for example, it’s possible to get the softer taste sooner, but this is not the case with the Sangiovese.
3. Chianti Classico (2012) - red
This was my personal favourite of all the wines she served (although the Riserva came a close second). Daniela served each wine in a bigger glass, and said that the bigger the glass, the better the wine. Older wines require a bigger glass so that they can air and get more oxygen. This was similar to the 2014, but it had a more distinctive taste.
4. Chianti Classico Riserva - red
For the Riserva, they are very selective with the grapes, as it is a higher quality wine. This is why it is a little more expensive than some of the other red wines in this region. They change the flavour using a smaller 500 litre barrel and preserving the wine for at least 18 months (the longer the better). In comparison, normal non Riserva Chianti Classico is only kept for around 9-12 months.
5. Merlot (2010) - red
Back in the UK, my current favourite wine is Merlot, although I definitely need to branch out. I like Merlot because it is soft and smooth, and to me it tastes less tangy and acidic than most other reds. It’s basically a safe bet.
The Merlot at Casanova di Ama is made with 50% Sangiovese grapes and 50% Merlot grapes. It has a totally different perfume, texture and colour. It’s more of a deep purply red colour. They don’t make much Merlot compared to Chianti Classico wine on their vineyard. 60% of the vineyard is dedicated to the Sangiovese grape, and the rest is made up of Merlot, Cabernet and Chardonnay.
Turns out her husband and brother in law were against producing Merlot, but her son managed to convince the family to give it a go. It’s quite a good wine to have during the tasting, as it really contrasts with the Chianti wines. I’m a Merlot lover, but I have been converted, I much prefered the Chianti Classico. Although the Merlot was still very enjoyable, I noticed how much less flavour it had.
6. Vin Santo dessert wine
We also had the pleasure of being treated to the dessert wine, which despite being very sweet, contains no added sugar. Two white grapes and a very small amount of red are used to make this wine. They pick the grapes then hang them for a long time (3 months) as they want the wine to be very dry.
It takes a large quantity of grapes to make a small quantity of Vin Santo wine. For example, for normal wine they use 100 kilograms for 750 litres of wine, and for Vin Santo, they use 100 kilograms for 250 litres of wine. This dessert wine is ideal with cake and ice cream and as an after dinner drink. Daniela served this wine with sweet biscuits and a little chocolate pastry.
7. Grappa - liqueur
Finally, despite feeling very tipsy by this point, we couldn’t resist trying some Grappa. It’s a strong liqueur (40%) that’s served after coffee.
If you are interested in going wine tasting whilst in Tuscany, click here.