Tuscany Day 2: Montalcino and Montepulciano

Jet lag woke me up absurdly early this morning and I figured I’d make the most of it and fit in a workout and some writing. Luckily I was rewarded with this gorgeous sunrise.

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Here are my top 5 from Day 2:

1. Brunello di Montalcino
Our first stop today was Poggio Antico, a vineyard and restaurant in Montalcino. About 60km south of our hotel, Montalcino is home to the famous Brunello di Montalcino, one of Italy’s most revered wines. Montalcino has one of the warmest and driest climates in Tuscany and, at 450m above sea level, Poggio (literally “knoll”) is one of the highest altitude producers. Over the course of an hour, we learned how the unique soil conditions (volcanic, rocky) and location (high altitude, flanked by the coast on the East and Amiata Mountains on the West) give Poggio wines their particular character.

In order to be called a “Brunello”, wine from the Montalcino region must meet a laundry list of requirements as stipulated by the DOC and DOCG including being made from 100% Sangiovese grapes, containing 12.5% alcohol and a minimum of 2 years ageing in wood and 4 months in bottle. I’m a huge fan of Brunello (as is most of the US apparently — 1 in 3 bottles are sold in America) and it’s always reminded me of French Pinot Noirs. Both are smooth and easy drinking but Brunellos are heavier and have those characteristic tannins. After the tour and tasting, we had lunch at Poggio, all of which I’d highly recommend. You need to book ahead for the tour and they’ll only take groups of up to eight at a time.


2. Tuscan Cypress
Originally from Syria, this evergreen tree was once believed to have supernatural powers, leading the Etruscans to plant it around their burial grounds. Today, it’s hard to think of Tuscany without it — it flanks driveways, demarcates roads and cuts a clean line against the sky on hills and mountains. Tall, elegant and vertical, Cypress trees also impart a distinctive fragrance to the Tuscan air, I can’t get enough of them!

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3. Sunflower Fields
The first time we spotted one of these, we had to stop the car and get out for a mandatory frolic. Seeing hundreds of these tall, golden flowers with their heads tilted towards the sun makes for a spectacular sight. They’re past their peak but they’re still gorgeous, and they’re everywhere.


4. Summer Rain
Remember how I was complaining about the heat? Well it rained today. A lot. Fortunately, it’s not the torrential sort of rain we get in Sydney (or New York for that matter); it’s more of a British drip: docile yet persistent. The storm clouds started forming this afternoon and by 3pm it was coming down hard. It’s a welcome respite though; just today someone told us how the week before we arrived, temperatures were in the early 40s!


5. Montepulciano
After lunch we headed 45 minutes East to Montepulciano to sample some delicious Vino Nobile. Montepulciano is another hilltop renaissance town boasting gorgeous views of red-roofed houses, rolling hills, olive groves and of course vineyards. We climbed to the top of Palazzo Communale for some even better views.

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