If you’re heading to the land of the Black Rooster aka Chianti, you’ll want to make sure you have time for some wine-tasting! With over 300 wineries that grow and bottle wine, it's hard to choose but to help you, here is my pick of 7 must-see wineries in the Chianti Classico region.
Villa Calcinaia – Conti Capponi
Villa Calcinaia was purchased by the Capponi family, a family of silk traders, later bankers from Florence, in 1524. Count Sebastiano Capponi now runs his families’ historic estate just outside Greve in Chianti in the North of Chianti Classico.
Besides making the traditional wines of the area (his Vin Santo is spectacular and he produces three Chianti Classico Gran Selezione wines from his top vineyards), Sebastiano indulges his curiosity in Chenin Blanc, a couple of traditional method sparkling wines and is one of only two producers to cultivate native variety Occhio Rosso.
Great for…. Going back in time. The driveway from the main road is lined by century-old cypress trees, the villa backs onto a traditional garden filled with herbs, and if you’re there in autumn, you'll get to see the Trebbiano and Sangiovese grapes hanging from the wooden rafters of the drying loft. It feels like a place where time stood still.
Wine tasting and tours can be booked here
Foreigners have become an important part of the local economy whether by tourism or investment in local businesses and Riecine is part of that story. Originally part of iconic winery Badia a Coltibuono, this house with 1.5ha of vineyards was sold in 1971 to a couple originally from Naples and the UK who fell in love with the area when holidaying here.
Following the death of the original owners in the 90’s, the property continued to remain in foreign hands and is today belongs to a Russian family who are actively involved in the running of the business.
Riecine, which means place where two rivers cross, sits on the higher forest-covered slopes overlooking the village of Gaiole in Chianti. Visit in the morning and you'll get chance to see the fog hanging over the higher slopes. The silence is broken only by the chiming of the Gaiole in Chianti church bells a couple of kilometres away.
Great for… art. In 2013 the owners invested in creating new cellars and enrolled the services of local artist Z2 to depict a battle between red and white cheeky grapes over the walls of the cellars. The winery is a perfect mix of modern, friendly and cosy.
The Fronti family had been in the wine-industry for many years owning a vineyard-construction company but it was only in the early 1980s that Bruno Fonti, father of wine-maker Angela, bought his first vineyard. Angela then graduated in viticulture, gained hands-on experience, and persuaded him to stop selling his grapes for bulk wines and instead bottle their own wines. Their first vintage was 2009 when they produced 3000 bottles.
Continuing to add to their estate with plots around the village of Radda in Chianti, Angela now oversees the production of 120,000 bottles a year. An astonishing growth and testament to the quality of her wines.
Great for… tasting terroir
Angela takes grapes from 3 different plots and vinifies and bottles them separately to produce three Annata wines that express the nuances between the area. They’re all so good that the 2018 vintages have received top accolades for each label.
Istine's charm is it's vineyards and extremely passionate wine-maker. You get chance to walk in the vineyards, and really see the stones that leave their marks on the wines. Wine tastings are hosted in their tasting room at Istine between April and October. Book yours here.
Castello di Monsanto
Castello di Monsanto came into the Bianchi family in the 1960s and is one of the most prestigious wineries in the region. Monsanto (which has nothing to do with the agrochemical company) became known as a pioneer when Fabrizio Bianchi first created a single vineyard wine in the early 1960s. Today you can stand on the platform in that vineyard, il Poggio and enjoy the 360 view over the vineyards and his hometown of San Gimignano.
The winery's main attraction is a 300m arched cellar that links the new cellars to the old which was completed in 1740. It took 3 men 6 years to build them using stones they collected from the surrounding vineyards. It is said that they tapped each stone and asked “will this last a thousand years?”, only the ones with the right sound were chosen.
Great for…. old vintages. In a time when white grapes were blended with Sangiovese, Castello di Monsanto believed in creating wines from purely red grapes which would, like their tunnels, stand the test of time. They hold an extensive reserve of older vintages which are a fantastic way to understand the aging potential of Chianti Classico wines.
Fontodi has been in the Mannetti family, a family producing fine terracotta, since 1968. Their certified organic vineyards are located on 90 hectares of the "Conca d’Oro", the natural amphitheatre that stretches out below the village of Panzano in the heart of Chianti Classico. The south-facing slopes are open towards the sea exposing the vines to amazing sun exposure and ensuring wines from here are robust.
Fontodi applies biodynamic principles to its property which covers not only vines but crops too. Their herd of 65 cows help create manure which is added to vine cuttings and other organic waste to fertilise the soils. Being a neighbour to Dario Cecchini, there's no surprise that they later end up in his butcher's shop.
Great for… nature
President of the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico, Giovanni Mannetti likes to lead by example. After converting to organic viticulture, he also follows biodynamic principles believing that the only way to protect nature is by allowing it to find its own balance with minimum intervention. He also makes 100pt wines that are some of the best in the region.
Castello di Volpaia
Another winery purchased in the 1960s, Castello di Volpaia is housed in a hamlet which in the 1400s was once a castle. Nowadays the only residents work in the winery which is housed in a labyrinth of stone buildings. Fermentation tanks were dropped into one of the buildings after the roof was removed, and the large barrels in the underground store were reassembled in there as they were too large to get through the doors.
The 45 hectares of vineyards stretch out in front of the hamlet over a triangle-shaped area. Besides vines, the property also has some 12 hectares of olive groves to make extra virgin olive oil. You’ll also found gelato made in the village.
Great for…. quaint streets and amazing sunsets. There’s something quintessentially Tuscan about this place. Open doors will reveal tanks and wine-making equipment, cobbled streets and cute places to eat and drink. The owners Federica and “Jo” both come from backgrounds outside wine and are some of the most charming hosts we met.
If you're travelling down to the South of the area, towards Siena, be sure to stop at Fèlsina just outside Castelnuovo Berardenga on the southernmost border of the Chianti Classico region.
The estate started with 7 hectares and now covers 75 hectares of vineyards. These are divided across a property that covers 11 farms. Besides grapes, the estate also produces olive oil in the same principles of viticulture : matching the variety to the grove in which it is grown to extract the maximum expression of the terroir.
In the converted stable cellars, you'll hear the story of how the mother yeast was protected by a local during the war, hiding it behind a fake wall. It was later presented to the winery owner and is still used to make the 20,000 bottles of Vin Santo each year. Besides Chianti Classico wines and an amazing variety of olive oils, you'll also find some excellent sparkling wines from Sangiovese and Pinot Noir.
Great for... Local stories..
Fèlsina is the most important winery in this part of the region and hospitality manager Chiara who is local from Siena has worked there for 20 years. She gets involved in the cellars and wine-making and is full of anecdotes and stories of local culture and tradition. Oh, and the view down to Monte Amiata as the sunsets is just breath-taking.
Bookings for tastings must be made in advance but the shop is open every day from 10am to 6pm. For more information, contact them here
Have you visited any of the wineries mentioned? If so, leave a comment and tell us about it. Or perhaps you have another winery to recommend a visit?
Opinions are my own. In full disclosure, I participated in a trip for Sommeliers in September 2021, costs were covered by Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico.