Tippling in Tuscany? If only!

I have a friend – the wife of a couple with whom my beau and I dine and drink – who’s amazing at finding travel deals. Check this: Tuscany for $399 and that includes air fare. Could I make this up? (I could, but that’s beside the point).

The point is that, despite this obscenely cheap deal, we can’t get the guy of the other couple to go, which ruins everything. “Everything” meaning waking up to a week of decadent dining and drinking in Tuscany, Italy, for crissakes.

Could there be anything more divine?

Toscana wine, as Tuscany vino is called, comes from the area along Italy’s Tyrrhenian coast and is home to some of the world’s best known wine regions: Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Though the area produces a variety of grapes, the Sangiovese grape is used for most Toscana wines, including the well known Chianti.

Let’s just get the Chianti talk out of the way: myth buster — though most think of the Chianti red wine as the one in the squat, straw-wrapped bottle, the fact is that most Chianti is now bottled in traditional wine bottles. And Chianti is a blend: It comes from 70 percent Sangiovese, 15 percent Canaiolo and 15 percent Malvasia bianca. Something to also know about Chianti is that Chianti villages and regions have been amended over the last 75 or so years, so wines labeled Chianti Classico indicate the wine comes from the original Chianti area.

But the Toscana wine really worth knowing about is the Brunello di Montalcino, what is often coined “The King of Toscana wine.” One of Italy’s best-known and most expensive wines, Brunello di Montalcino (broo NEL lo dee mon tal CHEE no) is red wine produced in vineyards about 70 miles southwest of Florence. Brunello means “nice dark one,” and is a Sangiovese clone.

So guess what the big secret is about going to Tuscany and drinking a little Brunello di Montalcino? Go in the winter. There are no tourists, the countryside is brilliant with color, and a recent New York Times article devoted to Tuscany in winter, says, “On any given winter day, you might sit next to the man who made the vintage on your table.”

It takes more than a few hundred words to write about Toscana wines, though many a poet has tried to capture the rapturous experience of sipping on a wine from Tuscany’s vineyards. Franceso Redi, Tuscany’s famous physicist and poet wrote “Bacchus in Tuscany,” for example, a famous poem which describes the virtues of wine and the benefits of moderate drinking. He extols in particular the finest wines of Tuscany and the poem concludes with the assertion that of all the Montepulciano wine is king.

Be that as it may, the friend’s husband who wouldn’t say yes to a $399 Tuscany trip has already cost us money. When we other three decided to go without him and got online to book the trip, the priced had jumped to $899.

Still. The New York Times article spent three entire pages arguing about how much better Tuscany is in winter than in the tourist-riddled summertime, and you’ll get no argument here. Unfortunately, we remaining three continued to wait, so now it’s almost spring and the price has tripled. Plan B: get some Chianti Classico and, if the budget allows, a bottle or two of Brunello di Montalcino and pretend. The next best step to being there.


Word o’ the Week

Super Tuscan – The phrase refers to any Toscana wine that does not subscribe to the traditional blending laws of the region. Chianti Classico, as an example, is made from a blend of grapes with Sangiovese being the dominant one. Super Tuscans use other grapes, making them ineligible for DOCG classification.

One Winning Wine Tasting

I Paint, Therefore I Am – Art Show & Wine Tasting

On Friday, March 19, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., eventgallery 910 Arts will host “I Paint, Therefore I Am,” an art exhibition and wine tasting that benefits the Autism Society of Colorado. The event features paintings by regional artists, including Matt Hardwick, an artist with Asperger’s Syndrome. There will be music by “The Edge of the World,” local wines and wine tasting provided by Water 2 Wine, and a silent auction that includes passes to the Senior PGA Golf Tournament. Call Amanda Erwin at 720.214.0794, ext. 19 for further information.

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