Xtreme Tuscany

A gourmet wine tour spotlighting Brunello di Montalcino & Bolgheri’s Super Tuscans

Tour Overview:

  • Enjoy private, sit-down tastings at Tenuta San Guido (Sassicaia), Ornellaia, Biondi Santi, Casanova di Neri and more
  • Visit the medieval towns of Montalcino, Bolgheri, and Castagneto Carducci
  • Explore food and wine pairings during nightly wine dinners
  • If you’re really, really passionate about Italian wine and want an educational focus to your vacation, this Tuscan wine tour is for you. XTREME TUSCANY was designed as a parallel to XTREME PIEDMONT, which came about when the Society of Wine Educators asked us to organize a tour in Piedmont. “Something that really focused on the wine,” they said, skipping incidentals like cooking lessons, truffle hunts, and food fairs. Something for people who wanted to learn as much as possible about the region’s most important wines. We liked XTREME PIEDMONT so much that we’ve kept it on our calendar ever since and started XTREME TUSCANY the very next year. Both XTREME tours include an extra tasting or more per day, and both include some hard-to-get-into estates that we visit only on these tours.

    XTREME TUSCANY starts in an area of Tuscany that most Americans never see: the Etruscan coast, also called the Maremma. For centuries, this was swamp land, and malaria kept settlers away or high up in the Apennine mountains, which skirt the coast. It wasn’t until Mussolini drained the swamps that it opened up to farmland. Gradually, the fields of strawberries and horse farms were supplanted by vineyards. And very good vineyards at that, which gave rise to the Super Tuscan juggernaut.

    The story begins with the Marquis Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, whose wife inherited Tenuta San Guido and a tract of land called Sassicaia, named after the rocks, or sassi, pulled from the soil. He wanted to make an Italian cabernet, using French grapes under a Tuscan sun. The gravely soil on the Marquis’s properties reminded him of Grave, Bordeaux, another alluvial region close to the sea. In creating Sassicaia—an Italian wine using French varietals, nurtured in barrique, and intended for long aging—he created a revolution, not only in sleepy Bolgheri, but across the peninsula.

    Although Super Tuscans are now widespread, Bolgheri is where these wines truly excel. We’ll visit pioneers like Sassicaia, Ornellaia, Grattamacco, and Michele Satta, as well as newcomers like Petra, whose stunning architecture alone is worth a visit (by Swiss architecture Mario Botta).

    The tour’s second part moves inland to a much older region: Montalcino, noted since the time of Charlemagne for its excellent reds. On our Brunello tour, too, we’ll visit pioneers and iconoclasts. We’ll do a barrel tasting at a boutique producer who will discuss the evolution of Brunello in botte. We’ll stop at Banfi, an American-owned estate whose clonal research in the 1980s and ’90s helped Brunello leap to the next level. We’ll visit Biondi Santi, where Brunello began in the 1880s; Casanova di Neri, whose Brunello cru have attained cult status; and Castello di Romitorio, populated with wonderful artwork by owner Sandro Chia, a leading figure in the international Neoexpressionist movement of the 1980s.

    Join us in some of Tuscany’s most beautiful settings, and find out why Brunello reins supreme and what makes Super Tuscans so super.


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