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Visiting a winery without pre-booking ?

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Leicester, United...
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Visiting a winery without pre-booking ?

Dear all,

I am hoping to visit a local winery during my 3 days stay in Montepulciano but do not want to commit myself to any fixed day or with any tour group. I'd like to visit a small winery/cellar in the Montepulciano region with the vineyard nearby to stroll around. I had a good look at TA reviews and the Strada Del Vino Nobile website and there are so many to choose from that it's a bit overwhelming.

I suspect the cellars/Cantinas within the wall like Gattavecchi won't have a vineyard nearby. Not keen on big wineries like Avignonesi as somehow I find that too corporate.

Also I have read in some reviews that the staff treat the individual travellers less favourably than group tourists. Is that true ?

Being vegetarians and also with 2 kids in tow we are not that interested in having a full lunch with a visit.

Is it possible just to turn up at one of the smaller wineries and have a decent experience of tasting, visiting the cellar and having a quick stroll through the vineyard ? Which time of the day should we choose to do so ?

I can also try some in the Montalcino area as I'd be definitely visiting the Val D'Orchia region at least once, perhaps more. I'm seriously interested in buying a few bottles of Nobile and/or Rosa as well.

Planning to travel between 31/08 -04/09. I realise that's a busy time.

Or do you think I should book one tour through Strada delle Vino Nobile portal to have an enjoyable experience?

Any comment/suggestion greatly appreciated.

Cheers

Montepulciano, Italy
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1. Re: Visiting a winery without pre-booking ?

"Is it possible just to turn up at one of the smaller wineries and have a decent experience of tasting, visiting the cellar and having a quick stroll through the vineyard ? Which time of the day should we choose to do so?"

Ah, that's so difficult to say. If you're driving around and you see a sign at the end of the drive saying "vendita diretta" this indicates that the vineyard is open for direct sales. You see it repeatedly in the Chianti, a great deal around Montalcino, less so around Montepulciano. Even with a sign, it's often not worth trying before 10 am, and rarely between 1 to 3 (or maybe 4) when many will be closed for lunch. Some vineyards are only open for casual visitors on weekdays, others only on weekends / holidays or particular days of the week. It's not easy. You have to remember that the larger / more commercial the estate, the more people they employ to assist with the wine tasting / private sales side of the business. At the smaller vineyards, you quite often have to hang around in the yard shouting as to whether there's anyone there and then waiting until the person with the key to the cantina shows up. I can understand you not wanting to pre-book / pre-commit but you can see it from the estate's point of view that they need to be prepared for visitors and not all can handle drop ins. Many are still family run and short of staff. I think your best bet for doing this in southern Tuscany is around Montalcino. You'll find several estates on the roads up to the town that will certainly be open for independent travellers mid-morning on weekends. Driving up from Torrenieri there are several as you approach the town. There are even more on the Buonconvento - Montalcino road and then again as you head out towards Grosseto on the other side of town. You may or may not get a cellar tour as a drop-in, it's very unlikely that you'll be given a formal estate tour / long talk on the production process but you should be able to taste (sometimes even for free) and if you express enough interest owners don't usually mind showing you a line of vines or two. My personal experience is that you are better treated having pre-booked as private visitors than as part of a group but I should stress owners usually rightly sense that we're potential buyers, which may make bit of a difference.

Leicester, United...
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2. Re: Visiting a winery without pre-booking ?

Hi Lastraniera,

Once again thanks very much for explaining the complexity and I totally understand that it would be unfair to expect an all-encompassing experience from a small winery when arriving unannounced.

I'm still not keen to go with tours as I have done it before and found the experience underwhelming. May be due to the fact my group was infested with wine snobs who were keen to show off their knowledge. As you know empty vessel sounds much.

As you suggest I'll try to book as private visitor or just follow your advice and try my luck in the Montalcino area. I'm seriously interested in buying a bottle or two of the the Nobile or Rosa so hopefully the staff would get the right vibes from me.

Best wishes.

Montepulciano, Italy
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3. Re: Visiting a winery without pre-booking ?

consorziobrunellodimontalcino.it/index.php…

I don't blame you not wanting to do the vineyard tours, we sometimes feel the same way and much prefer to visit privately. That said, in all the tours I have done in Tuscany, I haven't (so far) come across one with too many wine snobs. On the contrary, most people arrive pretty clueless but keen to learn. Check out the link above as this will take you to Montalcino's excellent website for the vineyards. There's a further link that will take you to a map of all the estates. I have a hard copy of this (available from the tourist office in the centre of the village), that I keep in the car and find invaluable. In Montalcino though the wine produced is primarily Brunello, together with what is known as Rosso di Montalcino. Vino Nobile is produced exclusively in Montepulciano.

Leicester, United...
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4. Re: Visiting a winery without pre-booking ?

Hi,

Excellent links full of very useful info. I can't ask for any more details.

Brunello is a very good wine and I'd be very happy to taste and acquire some from Montalcino region to save for some special event.

As you appear to be so knowledgeable if you don't mind may I ask how much would one expect to pay for a bottle of decent Brunello direct from a winery ? In UK it'd retail between 25-30 pounds i.e. about 35 Euros a bottle.

Many thanks.

Montepulciano, Italy
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5. Re: Visiting a winery without pre-booking ?

It varies hugely from estate to estate and, of course, depends upon the year / vintage as some harvests were considerably better than others. I feel the price has come down in recent years - 5 / 6 years back you'd rarely find a bottle anywhere under Euros 30. But now some Brunellos retail for as little as Euros 18 / 20. I'm not sure whether it's due to the massive downturn in the local economy that prices have dropped so as to tempt more buyers or whether it's due to increased production - new vineyards pop up constantly - but the wine does appear to be more affordable now than it was before the financial collapse here. It's also continuing to prop up the economy and is one of the few bright spots for exports. There was an interesting piece on the BBC recently: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21777695

Edited: 10 April 2013, 17:52
Leicester, United...
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6. Re: Visiting a winery without pre-booking ?

Very interesting article indeed. Despite the overproduction it's still not at all a common wine for sale in UK. Whereas various forms of Chianti are easily available. Hope the Brunello overproduction continues and I manage to find a winery with cut price sale and perhaps buy a barrel rather than the original plan of buying a bottle or two :-)

Thanks

7. Re: Visiting a winery without pre-booking ?

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