It’s hard to hold a wine glass - the right way that is. Not by the bowl or by the top - but delicately by the stem. We learned this and many other small lessons about wine on our fourth day in Florence when we crossed the Arno river to begin our morning at the Tuscan Wine School.
If you don’t enjoy wine (or if you’re not old enough) - then this post might not be for you. But for all of you out there that love finding a new wine or enjoying old favorites, then I think you’ll enjoy what we learned and experienced while on the wine tour in Tuscany.
We began in a classroom seated at barstools as our sommelier, Caterina, began by pouring us each a small glass of Chianti Classico. But we didn’t drink it at first. Instead she taught us how to properly hold the glass, how to swirl the wine, and how to swish it in our mouths. Caterina assured us that if it we sounded obnoxious while swishing our wine, we were probably doing it right.
She told us that as a general rule, a newly opened bottle of wine should be allowed to sit open for one hour for every year since the wine was bottled. For example, a wine with 2013 on the label has been bottled for 3 years, and so should be left to sit open for 3 hours after uncorking. A 2010 has been in the bottle for 6 years, that one needs to sit for 6 hours after opening. But if you don’t have time, you can swirl the glass for 2-3 minutes (your wrist will get a little tired) to aerate it more quickly.
All of the wines we enjoyed on this tour were at least 2014 and earlier. And if anyone is going to Italy in a year or two, look for the 2015 Chianti Classico! The climate in 2015 was apparently great, but it will take another year or two before the wine is ready.
What is Chianti Classico?
Chris is the one who likes red wine and yet he didn’t know what it was. He enjoys wine, and we generally like having a glass with a good meal. And while he had heard of Chianti before, and we usually get a bottle for Christmas, Chianti Classico was one we had never heard of.
Chianti Classico is made from San Giovese grapes, but it is not only the grapes that make this wine different. If you head over to your local wine shop and look for a good bottle - how will it be organized? Most likely by either region or more commonly by what type of grape: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, etc.
Geography is primarily what defines a Chianti Classico: Chianti can be made (almost) anywhere, but Chianti Classico must come from San Giovese grapes grown only in a very specific region of Tuscany. And as she explained what is required to make Chianti Classico - the right grapes, a narrowly defined region, optimal weather - she also mentioned the traditions, a set of techniques, skills, and knowledge passed down over hundreds of years. If you’re ever looking for a Chianti Classico, make sure it has a little black rooster and the DOCG label on it! Those are the signs that it has been certified as truly Chianti Classico by the wine governing bodies in Italy.
We learned a lot about wine, from holding the glass to swirling it, but our favorite part of the tour was connecting with strangers over wine and a meal, thousands of miles from home. We bonded over learning new things together, sharing bread and olive oil, and discovering which wines we liked the best. And in a land that wasn’t our own it was exciting and familiar to spend time with Americans who were also in Italy for the first time.