Last Friday, we visited the La Buccianera Winery in the hills of Tuscany. We toured the cellar, one of their vineyards, and then participated in a wine tasting.
In the cellar, we learned about the method used by this winery to create their wine. The two most important parts of this winery that were emphasized were the use of stainless steel drums to ferment the wine (easy to clean so no wine residue adds unwanted flavors to the next batch) and that the winery used a specially blended yeast additive, rather than rely solely on the yeast living in the grape skin and the yeast in the cellar. Some wineries take pride in the yeast in their cellar, arguing that it lends their wine a taste unique to that winery, where others (like La Buccianera) think that this is too uncontrolled and breeds a lack of consistency. This emphasis on consistency at La Buccanera is emphasized by the use of temperature-controlled drums in their cellar.
After learning the specifics of their process from their vintner, we moved outside to see one of their vineyards. We had seen some beautiful sights as we climbed the mountain, but the view as we walked into the field was one that I’ll never forget. While outside, we learned about the method of growing and picking that La Buccianera uses.
After the outdoor tour, we moved inside to do a tasting. When we arrived, we learned that there would be a white wine, two red wines, and then a dessert wine. The white came first, and the owner used it to teach us how we should go about tasting the wines.
First, we were to swirl it and look for the “legs” or streaking as the wine fell off the side of the wine glass and back into the wine. The slower the legs fall, the higher the alcohol content of the wine. The structure of the streaks also speaks to the wine’s quality, but I was more unclear on that.
Second, a visual appraisal of the wine is necessary. The white we were tasting had a bright yellow-gold coloring, which we were told would dull to a muted gold over time.
Third, an olfactory appraisal of the wine. This white smelled predominantly of peach to me, but others noticed a strong apple scent.
Fourth, we washed our mouth with the wine. This initial taste was very sharp and pungent, and not very appealing at all.
Fifth, we took a full sip of the wine and worked it around our mouth. The difference between the first sip and the first actual tasting was like night and day. The second sip was much more pleasant and soft, with the fruit notes ringing through very clearly.
Next, we were set free to try the wine with the different foods supplied to us. My favorite pairing for the white was a hard cheese they had placed out, but the light prosciutto was also delicious.
After we had finished the white wine, we moved onto the first of the reds, and followed the same procedure. The first red (a Syrah) was very spicy, with heavy notes of pepper, and paired well with the more savory, darker foods. The next red (a Chianti) had more fruit notes. Not sweeter fruits of the white wine, but fruits nonetheless. It paired best with a very salty liver-on-bread arrangement.
The dessert wine deserves special attention. A Vin Santo, it is made from the finest grapes of each harvest. These prime grapes are set out to dry for months before being pressed, giving the resulting must a high concentration of natural sugars. A yeast culture known as madre (containing a part of the last batch of Vin Santo, jump-starting the next batch and increasing the complexity) is then added, and the wine is left to ferment. It ferments until the yeast cultures die out due to a high level of alcohol concentration, around 16%. It ages in its barrels for years before being bottled. They gave us biscotti to eat with it, and it was delicious. The wine tasted like rasins and honey, and the higher alcohol content (compared to the other wines we tasted) combined with the higher residual sugar content lent the wine a lovely warmth. The tour concluded with a beautiful view of the underlaying valley.