Italy is one of the largest producers of wines. Its climate, soil and very old traditions make Italy a natural wine growing nation. The wines are as personal as a name, as different as the colors of the rainbow and as much a part of Italian life as almost 3,000 years of tradition can make them. The Etruscans of North-Central Italy, who created one of the peninsula's earliest civilizations, left evidence of how to make wine. The Greeks who soon after established themselves in the South gave Italy the name Enotria (the land of wine). Tuscany (Toscana) is known mainly for Chianti, while Tuscany's wine of greatest stature is Brunello di Montalcino.
The fame of the excellent wines that began as Italian home-grown versions of Bordeaux has spread throughout the world of wine connoisseurs, but until recently the region itself was ignored by most visitors to Tuscany. Now though, more and more oenophiles are diverting to come to the pretty hills by the Mediterranean to discover the Maremma's secrets for themselves.
The whole of Southern Tuscany is crisscrossed with wine routes. You can visit the various cellars sampling the dark, rich wine produced by the region's grapes, but furthermore the routes take you through some of the most outstanding areas of southern Tuscany.
House and garden
One of the best places to slow travel in Tuscany is the Maremma, with its exquisite nature, small hillside villages, its epic countryside, cuisine and excellent wines. Podere Santa Pia is located in a strategic position, only a short distance from a large number of sites of historical and cultural interest.
Going wine tasting in Tuscany is practically an obligation in this region of rolling vineyards and hidden, historic wine-properties. Podere Santa Pia offers a panoramic tour of the valleys that surround the farmhouse, so that the trip becomes a unique experience, discovering such prestigious or promising designations as Brunello di Montalcino, DOC Montecucco, Morellino di Scansano, Sant' Antimo and Monteregio di Massa Marittima.
Podere Santa Pia is situated in one of the most unspoiled areas of the Maremma Toscana: nestled between Montalcino and Scansano, Podere Santa Pia is surrounded by the "DOC Montecucco" vineyards, olive groves, woodland and green hills. Silence is broken only by the sounds of nature.
Podere Santa Pia, a formal cloister in the Tuscan Maremma is situated on the outskirts of Castiglioncello Bandini.
Celebrare il dolce far niente
The first bee hive in the garden
What should you do if you see a swarm?
Podere Santa Pia boasts a beautiful garden, with plenty of secluded corners for writers or readers
Podere Santa Pia was named after Pia de' Tolomei, a woman with an intriguing story. According to some legends, the beautiful Pia di Tolomei, Nello d'Inghiramo de Pannocchieschi's sorrowful wife, crossed the Ponte della Pia to go into exile in Maremma, at Castello della Pietra. There her husband ordered the execution of his innocent wife Pia, in order that he could marry his mistress Margherita Aldobrandeschi, Contessa of Sovana and Pitigliano.
Dante Alighieri wrote about this legend (Divine Comedy, Purgatorio, Canto V).
“Deh, quando tu sarai tornato al mondo,
e riposato della lunga via,”
seguitò il terzo spirito al secondo,
“ricorditi di me, che son la Pia;
Siena mi fe’, disfecemi Maremma:
salsi colui che innanellata, pria
disposando, m’avea con la sua gemma.”
“O pray, when you return to the world,
and are rested from your long journey,”
followed the third spirit after the second,
“remember me, who am La Pia.
Siena made me, Maremma unmade me:
this is known to him who after due engagement
wedded me with his ring.”
Montecucco D.O.C., one of the most promising designations in Italy
The Maremma is extremely different than Northern Tuscany. While the north boasts such spectacular cities as Florence, Siena and Lucca, the region also received hoards of tourists and can be uncomfortably crowded in high season, indeed even in low season. Wine regions in Northern Tuscany, such as Chianti Classico, have extremely well developed wine tourism and most cellars open to the general public. The Maremma, on the other hand, is far more exclusive. Few cellars open to the "general public" and the region is noticeably less touristy. This is why the Maremma, for serious wine lovers is such an attractive region to visit. Towns like Castiglione della Pescaia (with its charming fishing port and castle), Pitigliano (an amazing village completely carved out of the rocky outcrop below, an ancient Jewish village) and Massa Maritima (with its quaint cobblestoned, Medieval streets) are all fabulous little gems- they are virtually free of the crowds.Maremma is an extremely interesting sub region of Tuscany for food and wine lovers to visit. Although for centuries it was considered unfit for vineyards, in the past few decades this coastal area has become one of the most ultra exclusive wine producing regions of Italy. Therefore DOC Montecucco is one of the most promissing designation in Italy. (DOC : Denominazione di Origine Controllata – Trade name guaranteeing quality of wine. It was established in 1998 as an instrument of valorization and control which guarantees the consumer with the highest standards which characterizes Montecucco wines.
The principal wine villages in the Maremma are Bolgheri, Castagneto Carducci, Scansano, Cinigiano and Suvereto. Grapes used in Maremma wines include Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Vermentino, Cabernet Franc, Alicante and Aleatico.
DOC Montecucco is located in Southern Tuscany in the Maremma region which is particularly adapted to the elaboration of fine wines. Indeed DOC Montecucco borders such prestigious designation as Brunello di Montalcino, Morellino di Scansano, S. Antimo and Monteregio di Massa Marittima.
DOC Montecucco allows 5 different types of wines:
Montecucco Rosso: based on a minimum of 60% of Sangiovese it allows for a great freedom in terms of assembly with other vines. Rich and harmonious flavors characterize the Montecucco Rosso wine.
Montecucco Sangiovese: as indicated by its name, this wine is largely made from the reputed Tuscan vine Sangiovese, also known as Brunello in Montalcino. The Montecucco Sangiovese should be composed of at least 85% Sangiovese and is often found “in purezza” (100%). Distinctive and imposing this wine may be savoured “young”, but it will be best appreciated after a few years and will reach its full potential after 10 to 20 years.
Both these wine may also be found as Montecucco Riserva provided they have aged for two years of which at least 18 months in Oak barrels.
These three types of red wine along with two white wines, the Montecucco Bianco and the Montecucco Vermentino, make up the whole of the DOC Monteccuco designation.
The acknowledgment of the Designation of Origin to the Montecucco wine dates back to 1998 but the efforts by the producers, who had many years before understood the potentialities of the territory, began long ago. Unfortunately bureaucracy is often slower then the things it protects, so these wines have only recently been acknowledged RDO, even if good quality wines have already been produced for a long time. In facto before 1998 the wine producers, not many but very dedicated, gazed at these perfect hills with attention. The wines already belonging to the old Geographic denomination Montecucco - typologies: red, rose, white were already of good quality and did not make a poor impression next to the other Tuscan RDOs.
The road to the achievement of the Registered Designation of Origin has been hard but necessary to censure the oenological dignity already acquired by the producers.
The typologies expected by the regulations faithfully portray the situation existing before the acknowledgment, with the Sangiovese wine in a prominent position concerning the red and other improving vineyards to follow, while as regards the whites next to the traditional Trebbiano there is the promising Vermentino, vinified in almost complete purity.
The DOC regulations are in exact accordance with the situation pre-existent to the DOC recognition.
* BIANCO (white wine) Grape variety: Trebbiano (minimum 60%) and others
* VERMENTINO (white wine) Grape variety: Vermentino (min. 85%)
* ROSSO (red wine) Grape variety: Sangiovese (min. 60%) and others; bottle ageing min. 6 months; min. alc. level 12%
* ROSSO RISERVA bottle ageing min. 24 months; min. alc.level 12,5%
* SANGIOVESE (red wine) Grape variety: Sangiovese (min. 85%); bottle ageing min. 6 months; min. alc. level 12%
* SANGIOVESE RISERVA bottle ageing min. 24 months; min. alc. level 12,5%
Roses in the Vineyard
Castello Colle Massari, view from Podere Santa Pia
In the Montecucco area, you'll frequently see roses planted along the edge of vineyards. Traditionally they've served as an early warning system to protect the grapevines — the equivalent of a miner's canary.
Roses also warn of other diseases and growing problems before they affect the grapevines, and they serve as a habitat for some beneficial insects that eat other undesirable insects.
And they're beautiful.
Biological or organic wine in southern Tuscany | Our neighbours
More and more wineries believe in maintaining the delicate chain of a balanced biological ecosystem and use organic or sustainable approaches to winemaking.
Proponents of organically grown wine believe that chemical farming destroys the uniqueness of the land, and the unique flavor that this 'terroir' imparts to the wine.
The Montecucco Wine Trail runs through a vast area situated on the slopes of Mount Amiata, which has its centre at Cinigiano, lying between the Maremma region and Amiata. The vineyards are situated on the southwest hillsides of the Amiata Mountain, directly opposite the Brunello slopes; the two enjoy the same microclimate.
The seven Comuni which produce the Montecucco DOC wine are all to be found in the Province of Grosseto, in South Tuscany, and are, besides Cinigiano: Civitella Paganico, Campagnatico, Castel del Piano, Arcidosso, Seggiano and Roccalbegna.
The Montecucco wine trail (La Strada del Vino Montecucco) consists of a main roadway with five turn-offs. It can also be found on the official site of Strada del Vino Montecucco - Montecucco Wine Trail.
This little-known area strikes the visitor as a kind of enchanted garden, with endless discoveries to be made - a different Tuscany, the real one, in which tradition and innovation are combined. It is an unspoilt landscape whose natural dignity and resources have been respected, especially in more recent wine-growing. Apart from Montecucco DOC and Maremma Toscana IGT wines, the area also produces olive oil (IGP Toscano - Seggiano is particularly worth a mention), chestnuts, which are shortly to receive IGP recognition Mount Amiata Chestnut), mushrooms, notably the ceps and ovolo species, and excellent honey. The Trail is arranged in one main itinerary and five mini-itineraries which wind through the most beautiful and interesting parts of the area from the viticultural, historic, cultural and environmental point of view. The following towns are touched upon: Paganico, Sasso d'Ombrone, Poggi del,Sasso, Montecucco, Cinigiano, Porrona, Montenero, Montegiovi, Montelaterone, Castel del Piano and Seggiano.
Paganico - Sasso d'Ombrone - Poggi del Sasso - Montecucco - Cinigiano - Porrona - Montenero - Montegiovi - Montelaterone - Castel del Piano - Seggiano.
The itinerary passes through the most important Montecucco DOC wine-growing zones. Setting off from Paganico, a lively, modern town with an interesting four-gated wall dating from the fourth century, we reach the Monteverdi farm and then on to Sasso d'Ombrone, with its imposing bridge and medieval gate. We then climb up to Poggi del Sasso, a little rural town and centre of Montecucco wine production. This area is abundant in vineyards, cellars and wineries, but is also noteworthy for the beautiful castles at Vicarello and Colle Massari. A few kilometers from Poggi del Sasso is the Montecucco Farm which has lent its name to the eponymous DOC wine. This area, in front of Mount Amiata, is the heart of wine-growing activities. Numerous holiday farmhouses, traditional trattorie, and extensive wildlife make this area very rewarding from the hunting and culinary point of view. Nearby is the Porrona Castle, a stunning village whose image has been borrowed to promote DOC Montecucco wine. Montenero is the other DOC Montecucco "capital",and it houses the Museum of Wine and Vine. There are many cellars where wine, oil and other local products may be savoured.
During the summer in a park in Montenero an open-air wine bar is set up for the tasting of Montecucco wine. Also here one may visit the seventeenth century well and the town wall gate. Leaving Monyenero and proceeding towards Mount Amiata we arrive in the Montegiovi area - a veritable museum of viticulture, with its little groves of mixed olives and patches of vines. In fact a real vine museum is planned for the conservation of germoplasm and particularly autochthonous species of grapevine. Also to be admired is the centre of Montegiovi, where on the last Sunday of September a country fair, devoted to Bruschetta, is held. Montelaterone is the last village before Castel del Piano - the incredibly well-preserved centre is worth a visit
Then Castel del Piano itself: it is one of the most important towns of Mount Amiata, and the visitor should seek out Palazzo Nericci, which is soon to be a museum dedicated to peasant culture, the Castiglionese Gate, Corso Nasini, the Monaci, Cantucci, Bruni, Alluigi and Cerboni Palaces, the Teatrino and the Loggia della Mercanzia. The trail finishes up in Seggiano, or rather a little further on - another area given over to vine and olive-growing. Here the Logge del Mercato and the historically important centre, with its cellars carved out of rocks, are worth seeing, as are the charming Potentino Castle and Daniel Spoerri's unusual "Garden of Art". One should also visit the Olivastra Seggianese olive-pressing works where the only single-variety Tuscan oil, denominated "Seggiano", is produced from the locally cultivated Amiata olive. The annual Oil Festival is held on the first Sunday of December.
Castel Porrona, a charming medieval village dating back to the 11th century, between Cinigiano and Castiglioncello Bandini and Podere Santa Pia
Monte Antico - Casenovole - Casal di Pari - Bagno di Petriolo
This trail is particularly rich in history, as the Castles of Monte Antico and Casenovole testify. We wind along a route not far from the River Ombrone, in an area once famous for wine-growing and which is today regaining it old splendor and vocation. The little towns of Pari and Casal di Pari, veritable rural gems, are a must, as is the charming spa of Petriolo, set in the Nature Reserve of Basso Merse.
Campagnatico - Cinigiano
Campagnatico is the starting point for this trail - this important Maremma town was even mentioned by Dante. The Civic Theatre, the Aldobrandesca Rock and the Pretorio Palace should all be seen. Views of olive groves and vineyards are splendid along this route, against the delightful backdrop of the Maremma plain. The unusual Palio dei Ciuchi (donkey race) is held every September.
Castiglioncello Baldini - Stribugliano - Cana
Castello di Casenovole in between Civitella Paganico, Pari and Monte Antico
This delightful trail is centred on Castiglioncello Baldini, which is dominated by a splendid castle - the castle's cellars, currently undergoing restoration, are worth a visit. The trail touches on the Poggio all'Olmo and Monte Labbro Nature Reserves. Then we reach the town of Stribugliano, which is part of the Comune of Arcidosso, and which gives the impression of a huge terrace with its breathtaking view. Cana, a village of Etruscan origin in the Comune of Roccalbegna is a DOC Montecucco zone. On the third Sunday of every October is held a festival dedicated to the Chestnut. The seventeenth century Medici Cistern should be seen.
Sasso d'Ombrone - Cingiano - Monticello d'Amiata
This route through the Cinigiano area follows the old mountain road linking the plain with Mount Amiata, and thus linking corn with chestnuts. However, also the grape is ubiquitous here. Sasso d'Ombrone, originally Sasso di Maremma, is a little village on the River Ombrone, in which an unusual festival is held on the third Sunday of every September - the Festival of the Eel ! Ponticello Amiata is a well-preserved, historically interesting town with a delightful ethnographic "house-museum". Here the chestnut is king, and a festival is held in its honour onthe second sunday of every October.
Colle Massari, owned by sister and brother, Maria Iris Bertarelli and Claudio Tipa, comprises two estates in Tuscany: Castello ColleMassari, bought in 1999 and Grattamacco, taken over in 2002. ColleMassari was established in 1998 and is part of the Montecucco DOC in Alta Maremma, among the Docg Brunello di Montalcino DOCG and Morellino di Scansano DOC; conditions are ideal for growing sangiovese. The year 2000 saw the first vintage.
Grattamacco, established in the late 1970s and part of the Bolgheri DOC, promptly caught the interest of the market for this new cradle of Cabernet Sauvignon in Italy. The first vintage was produced in 1978 from a cut of Cabernet Sauvignon with Sangiovese and Merlot.
The main wines produced are ColleMassari and Rigoleto in the Montecucco DOC and Grattamacco and Bolgheri in the Bolgheri DOC; all very prestigious wines.
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Tuscany is the epitome of perfect wine country, and hosts some of Italy's most famous appellations: Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Classico, Nobile di Montepulciano, Vernaccia di san Gimignano, Carmignano and Super Tuscans with names such as Ornellaia, Sassicaia, Tignanello and Masseto.