Florence Airport Will Soon Have a Rooftop Vineyard

Tuscany, one of the premier wine regions in the world, is known for its prestigious wines like Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Chianti, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, and Super Tuscans. Tuscany is also a perennially popular destination for the region’s culinary excellence.

Amerigo Vespucci Airport in Florence has recently announced an overhaul of its international terminal, complete with a new design, a re-oriented runway and, best of all, a rooftop vineyard.

US design studio Rafael Viñoly Architects unveiled the plans last week.

“A leading vintner from the region will cultivate the vineyard and the wine will be crafted and aged in specialised cellars beneath the terminal’s roof,” a spokesperson for Rafael Viñoly Architects explains.

The 19-acre vineyard will gently slope upwards, evoking the rolling Tuscan hills in the distance. There will be 38 vines in total, each measuring 2.8 metres wide and ranging from 455 to 570 metres lengthways. Between each vine, a 1.2 metre-wide skylight will allow shafts of light to flood the terminal below.

Grapes will be harvested by leading vintners in the region, produced and aged in cellars on-site. the airport will be able to hold more than 5.9 million international passengers. The airport is expected to open its first phase in 2026, and the second in 2035.

Benvenuto Brunello 2023, Presenting the Iconic Elixir of Tuscany – Filippo Magnani

On November 28th wine enthusiasts and professionals in nine key cities worldwide gathered to celebrate Brunello Day. London, New York, Dallas, Miami, Toronto, Vancouver, Zurich, Shanghai, and Tokyo all raised their glasses in honor of Brunello di Montalcino, the iconic elixir of Tuscany. This celebration is in fact the culmination of a 10-day event called Benvenuto Brunello, organized by the Brunello di Montalcino Consortium. Although Brunello Day is just a couple years old, this was Benvenuto Brunello’s 32nd edition and marked the release of the 2018 and 2019 vintages represented by 118 producers and 310 labels. These wines were evaluated by 90 Italian and international journalists and trade professionals, several of which were hand-picked by the Vinitaly International Academy, now supported by the Brunello Consortium.

During the inaugural weekend the 2023 vintage was presented and the 32nd Leccio d’Oro prize was awarded to five restaurants and wine retailers with an exceptional list of Montalcino wines: Ristorante Veranda at the Hotel Villa d’Este in Cernobbio, The Sistina restaurant in New York, The Il Quadrifoglio in Asti, The Berry Bros. & Rudd in London and the Osteria Il Bargello in Siena which also owns the Salotto del Vino, a wine bar and shop with nearly 100 Montalcino wines served by the glass.

A Story of Visionaries – The Rise of Brunello

After almost 50 years since its DOCG status, Brunello di Montalcino wines continue to grow in popularity and gain market share worldwide. To truly understand why, one must delve into its intriguing history. Montalcino was a very important stop of the Via Francigena, a road that ran from England to Rome and, therefore, it welcomed and hosted important men of power, nobles, politicians and popes. The great wines of Montalcino were crafted to satisfy the illustrious visitors who were traveling to reach the Eternal City, and that’s why the hamlet has displayed absolute quality winemaking for centuries.

The modern success of Brunello di Montalcino started in the late 19th century and is intertwined with the vision and passion of a few key figures who recognized the potential of the Sangiovese grape in a unique terroir. One such visionary was Ferruccio Biondi-Santi, a winemaker from the Montalcino region who experimented with the Sangiovese grape, selecting superior clones and implementing innovative winemaking techniques. He was one of the first to introduce the practice of aging Brunello di Montalcino in large oak casks for an extended period.

This patient aging process proved to be the key to unlocking the full potential of the Sangiovese grape. Over time, the wine developed a deep, complex character with earthy aromas, intense dark fruit flavors, and an impressive ability to age gracefully. Biondi-Santi’s wines gained recognition and set the standard for what Brunello di Montalcino would become.

As the reputation of Biondi-Santi’s Brunello spread, other winemakers in the Montalcino region started to adopt similar winemaking practices. In 1966, Brunello di Montalcino was first recognized as a Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) and in 1980 it was granted the highest classification in Italian wine, Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG). This prestigious recognition solidified Brunello di Montalcino’s status as one of Italy’s most exceptional and iconic wines.

The Sangiovese Grape – A Match Made in Montalcino

The secret behind the exceptional character of Brunello di Montalcino lies in its main grape variety – Sangiovese. This indigenous grape has been cultivated in Tuscany for centuries, and although it is Italy’s most widely planted black grape variety, many would agree that it finds its ultimate expression in the hilly vineyards of Montalcino.

The name “Sangiovese” is derived from the Latin words “sanguis Jovis” meaning “blood of Jove,” reflecting the grape’s deep red color. It is known by other names too such as Brunello and Sangiovese Grosso. The grape has a remarkable ability to express itself in a range of styles, from light and fruity to full-bodied and complex. Sangiovese is known for its distinctive aromas, lively acidity and tannic backbone. Closely associated with Sangiovese are fragrances of cherries – both fresh and dried – as well as ripe strawberries and plums that often intertwine with appealing herbal nuances like thyme, oregano, and sweet tobacco. This flavor profile captures beautifully the essence of the Tuscan terroir. Its vibrant and refreshing acidity preserves the wine’s balance, enhances its food pairing versatility and contributes to the wine’s aging potential, enabling it to develop complexity and maintain freshness over time.

Sangiovese wines often exhibit a pronounced tannic structure, delivering a firm and grippy texture that can be attributed to both the grape variety and the extended skin contact during fermentation. These tannins not only contribute to the wine’s structure but also bestow it with excellent aging potential. With time, the tannins soften, allowing the wine to evolve and develop greater complexity while retaining its inherent elegance. This is why the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG requires a minimum of 4 years aging, including 2 years in barrel and 4 months in bottle. The Riserva takes another year of aging which includes an additional 2 months in bottle.

The Terroir of Montalcino – A Sublime Expression of Complexity

The terroir of Montalcino is a tapestry of diverse microclimates, soils, and altitudes that contribute to the distinctive character of Brunello di Montalcino.
The vineyards of Montalcino are nestled on slopes and plateaus at varying elevations, ranging from 250 to 600 meters above sea level. This diverse topography results in different microclimates within the region, allowing winemakers the opportunity to express different facets of the Sangiovese grape.

The soils in Montalcino are rich and varied, giving Brunello di Montalcino its multifaceted personality. The northern region of Montalcino has soils dominated by limestone and shale, bringing finesse and elegance to the wines. In the central part, clay and marl prevail, imparting structure and depth. In the southern areas, volcanic soils contribute to wines with power and intensity.

The climate of Montalcino plays a crucial role in the ripening of the grapes. Summers are warm and dry, while winters are mild, providing the perfect balance of sun and rainfall. The significant diurnal temperature variation during the growing season helps to retain the grapes’ natural acidity, resulting in wines with vibrant freshness.

These factors, combined with the expertise and dedication of the winemakers, shape the flavor profile of Brunello di Montalcino. The wines are characterized by their remarkable complexity, intense aromas, lively acidity, and structured tannins that contribute to their exceptional aging potential.

Preserving Tradition, Embracing Innovation – The Future of Brunello di Montalcino

While rooted in centuries-old traditions, the producers of Brunello di Montalcino embrace innovation and strive for excellence in their winemaking practices. In recent years, there has been a greater emphasis on sustainable viticulture and organic farming methods. Many wineries in Montalcino have adopted practices that respect the environment, ensuring a healthy balance between vineyard management and the preservation of the unique terroir. Over half of them are now certified organic.

Modern winemaking techniques have also allowed winemakers to refine their craftsmanship further. Advances in technology have made it possible to control temperature during fermentation, ensuring optimal extraction of aromas and flavors from the grapes. Precision in oak aging has also become a focus, allowing winemakers to strike a perfect balance between the fruit purity and the subtle influence of oak.

Experiences Around Montalcino – A Perfect Blend of Culture, Gastronomy, Wine, and History

For visitors and wine enthusiasts, a journey to Montalcino offers much more than just a tasting experience. Here, you can immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage, savor delicious culinary delights, explore the ancient history, and indulge in the stunning beauty of the Tuscan landscape.

For those with a passion for culture and history, a visit to the medieval fortress that overlooks Montalcino is a must. The fortress, known as the Rocca, offers panoramic views of the surrounding vineyards and the charming town below. Inside, the Museo Civico showcases archaeological finds and artifacts that tell the story of Montalcino’s past. The main street and square are lined with boutiques, restaurants and wine shops perfect for a day of shopping, eating and wine tasting.

Gastronomy connoisseurs will find themselves in heaven as they explore the local cuisine. The traditional dishes of Montalcino are a perfect pairing for Brunello di Montalcino, from hearty wild boar ragù to Pecorino cheese made from the milk of sheep that graze among the vines.
Many wineries in the area welcome visitors, offering guided tours of their vineyards and cellars. The winemakers take great pride in sharing their knowledge and passion, allowing visitors to gain a deeper understanding of the winemaking process and the philosophy behind their wines. And of course, the tastings of Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino are an absolute highlight, immersing visitors in the flavors, aromas, and history of these exceptional wines.

For those who are captivated by the natural beauty of the region, a drive through the rolling hills of Montalcino is an enchanting experience. The vine-laden landscapes, dotted with rustic farmhouses and charming villages, create an idyllic setting that begs to be explored. Hiking and biking are great ways to fully appreciate the picturesque scenery and immerse yourself in the soul of this incredible region. In fact there are two famous events that take place every year here: the Brunello Crossing for walkers and hikers and L’Eroica for cyclists. Among other scenic landscapes, both will take you through Val d’Orcia, a UNESCO World Heritage site that embodies the best of the Tuscan countryside.

In Conclusion

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG is not just a wine; it is an embodiment of the passion, dedication, and the magic of the Montalcino terroir. The Sangiovese grape nurtured in this exceptional climate and soil produces wines of unrivaled elegance, complexity, and longevity. A visit to Montalcino is an opportunity to experience the rich heritage, indulge in the gastronomic delights, immerse yourself in the mesmerizing landscapes, and uncover the secrets of Brunello di Montalcino. With every sip, you will taste the rich history, feel the love and respect for the land, and be transported to the heart of Tuscany’s winemaking excellence. Cheers to a truly unforgettable wine experience!

Alto Adige: An Alpine Paradise for Wine Lovers and Outdoor Enthusiasts – Filippo Magnani

In September I participated in the 4th edition of the Alto Adige Wine Summit. This rather new event is the largest of its kind that focuses on Alto Adige wines and has already drawn significant international attention. Organized by the Alto Adige Wine Consortium, the event hosted 97 producers, 80 wine and media professionals including Masters of Wine from 12 different countries. The goal was to highlight to the world the complex nature and contrasting qualities that define Alto Adige’s authenticity.

Situated in the picturesque region of South Tyrol in northern Italy, Alto Adige DOC is the country’s smallest wine region and arguably its most complex. Over 98% of the region has the DOC certification. One of the Alto Adige Wine Consortium’s objectives have been to create a more detailed zonation and soil mapping to reflect its complexity. The region is divided into seven distinct growing sub-regions each linked to wine grape varieties, add to that breathtaking alpine scenery, a rich cultural heritage with diverse grape varieties. It’s no surprise the region has gained a reputation for being a must-visit destination among wine enthusiasts.

A Winemaking Crossroads of Culture

Alto Adige, also known as Südtirol, has a fascinating history that has shaped its winemaking traditions. Nestled between the towering peaks of the Dolomites and the Adige River, the region has been influenced by both Italian and Germanic cultures resulting in a fusion of traditions and winemaking techniques. The artisan skill, precision, and reliability from the North has married the charm, art of living and wine tradition from the South.

The region’s winemaking history dates back to ancient times with 2500 years of winemaking tradition, making it the oldest wine region in the German-speaking world. It was the Romans who first recognized the unique potential of Alto Adige’s vineyards. They introduced vines to the region, and over the centuries, grape cultivation flourished.

Climate and Terroir

Alto Adige’s unique climate and terroir play a significant role in shaping the character of its wines. The region benefits from a mix of Mediterranean and Alpine influences creating a cooler climate which helps retain the grapes’ natural acidity. Vineyards are situated on steep slopes, at varying elevations (200m – 1000+m) that provide excellent sun exposure. The high mountains in the north shield vineyards from the coldest northerly winds, but the combination of warm days and cool nights allows the grapes to ripen slowly, resulting in wines with vibrant fruit flavors and good acidity.

The diversity of the region’s soils also contributes to the complexity of its wines. From the limestone-rich soils in the south to the porphyry and schist in the north, Alto Adige offers a wide range of terroirs that influence the flavors and aromas of its wines. All geological formations are found here (volcanism, sedimentation, orogeny) and there are in fact 150 different types of rock. The composition of the soil can change drastically within a few meters. Such a rich land requires meticulous attention to detail.

A Medley of Grape Varieties

With such a complex terroir it’s no surprise that Alto Adige is known for its rich variety of grape varieties that thrive throughout the region. Here tradition meets innovation and change has been embraced by producers. The region used to be a land of reds with main native varieties Schiava and Lagrein, but now the production is 64% white wines using grapes such as Pinot Grigio, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Riesling, Sylvaner, Veltliner, Müller Thurgau, and Kerner.

Gewürztraminer has historically been a popular grape grown here, known for its aromatic intensity and floral notes. However, many producers now have started to focus on producing high-end crus of Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay that express more complexity and structure. The region’s cooler climate and higher elevation lend a refreshing acidity resulting in wines that are crisp, elegant, and mineral-driven.

Among the red grape varieties, Lagrein has long been one of Alto Adige’s indigenous specialties. Lagrein wines are full-bodied, yet smooth and velvety, with flavors of dark berries, chocolate, and spices. This variety produces wines that can age gracefully and develop complex aromas over time.

Schiava, another red grape variety, is widely grown in Alto Adige and is known for producing light and fruity red wines with delicate aromas of red berries and floral notes. These wines are easy to drink and excellent when slightly chilled, making them perfect for enjoying on a warm summer day.

Pinot noir also thrives in Alto Adige and is one of the region’s best kept secrets. Many critics argue that these are the best Pinot Noir’s south of the Alps. Pinot Noir in Alto Adige is full of elegance and can exhibit intense fruit aromas, spice, flowers and earthy undertones.

A Strong Winemaking Community

Over the years the region has developed a strong sense of community among winemakers. A total of 5000 producers with only 5600 hectares of vineyards has created a region comprised mostly of smaller family-run estates with longstanding traditions. However, many are too small to make and market wine themselves, which is why a cooperative system was 150 formed 150 years ago. It is one of the pillars of the Alto Adige winemaking business.

Even if the “cantine sociali” used to be linked to massive productions, It is important to underline that these big entities, in the last decades, have aimed for excellence, trying to create the best expression of their land and generally reaching impressive results.

A Traveler’s Paradise

Alto Adige offers a delightful experience for wine enthusiasts and travelers alike. Its beautiful landscape, charming villages, and world-class wineries make it an ideal destination for wine tourism.

Many wineries in the region welcome visitors, offering guided tours of their vineyards and cellars with an opportunity to sample a variety of exceptional wines from aromatic whites to elegant reds and sparkling wines. Accompanied by local delicacies and paired with breathtaking scenery, the wine tourism experience in Alto Adige is truly memorable.

In addition to wine, if you’re an outdoor enthusiast or a culture lover, there is plenty for you to enjoy in this picturesque alpine wonderland. These breathtaking mountains, pristine lakes, and verdant valleys make hiking and mountain biking a popular activity, thanks to its extensive network of trails. From leisurely strolls through picturesque villages to challenging ascents up rugged mountains, there are trails to suit every level of fitness and experience.

The Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage site that rises up to more than 3,000 meters with forests, lakes and gentle green valleys that offer a unique play of light and shadow which is difficult to describe without experiencing them. They provide a stunning backdrop for rock climbing and Via Ferrata adventures. With their towering peaks and dramatic cliffs, climbers can enjoy breathtaking views and exhilarating challenges.

Water sports enthusiasts will find plenty of opportunities to indulge in their favorite activities. Lake Caldaro, the largest lake in the region, offers swimming, sailing, and windsurfing. The nearby Passo Resia and the Soasere Lake are perfect for windsurfing and kitesurfing.

During the winter months, Alto Adige becomes a winter playland for snow lovers. The region boasts numerous ski resorts, including Val Gardena, Alta Badia, and Plan de Corones, offering a wide range of slopes for skiers and snowboarders of all levels.

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are also popular activities, allowing visitors to explore the snow-covered landscapes at a more relaxed pace. The region’s winter hiking trails provide breathtaking views and a chance to experience the tranquility of nature.

Alto Adige is also renowned for its culinary delights, combining Italian and Austrian influences to create a unique gastronomic experience. One must-try dish is the South Tyrolean dumplings, known as “knödel” in German. These flavorful dumplings come in various flavors and are often served as a side dish or as the main course accompanied by sauces and local ingredients. Pair them with a glass of Schiava, Pinot Blanc or Pinot Grigio for a truly indulgent experience!

Alto Adige is also rich in history and culture, with influences from both Italian and Austrian traditions. Exploring the region’s towns and villages is like stepping back in time. Bolzano, the region’s capital, is a vibrant city with a mix of Italian and Austrian architecture. Strolling through the charming streets, visitors can explore historic sites like the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, home to the famous Ötzi the Iceman. The city’s Christmas market, one of the most renowned in Italy, is also a must-visit during the holiday season.

Merano, a spa town famous for its thermal baths, offers a blend of art nouveau and medieval architecture. The Kurhaus, with its beautiful gardens and stunning architecture, is a testament to the town’s elegance and grandeur.

Alto Adige is also home to numerous castles and fortresses, which are a testament to the region’s rich history. Castle Tyrol, Castel Roncolo, and Sigmundskron Castle are just a few examples that provide a glimpse into the region’s medieval past.

Wellness and Relaxation

The area is also renowned for its wellness and spa offerings, providing the perfect retreat for relaxation and rejuvenation. The region boasts a wide range of thermal baths and wellness centers where visitors can unwind and enjoy a variety of treatments. The Terme Merano, with its stunning architecture and luxurious facilities, offers a range of spa treatments and thermal baths.

A Territorial Concordance – Pairing Sistina Pecorino Terre di Chieti + Summer Truffle Risotto

For tonight’s wine pairing dinner, I decided to pair Sistina Pecorino Terre di Chieti with Mushroom Risotto. This pairing is “A Taste of Authentic Italy” more specifically, Abruzzo, a territorial concordance: the pecorino grape varietal and summer truffle.

Citra Vini, Abruzzo – Italy’s Inception was in 1973 and since that time, its mission has been represented by some of the most important grape varieties including indigenous varieties, in the province of Chieti.

The Wine: Sistina Pecorino Terre di Chieti
This pecorino is aromatic and bright; soft and elegant at the same time being complex, with an array of nuances – evoking tropical splendour interwoven with delicate floral notes; being full-bodied and a robust structure, it concludes with a long lingering finish.

The Food Paring: Summer Truffle Risotto

Why this pairing works
Firstly, both the wine and truffle are from the Abruzzo region, thus a territorial concordance or harmony. Secondly, the wine is rich in aromas, but without excessive body which will destroy the delicate character of the truffles – great pairing !!

“Barolo Week” with Fontanafredda Wines

Some lunches are just a bit more elevated than others, and this one was one of them! A group of us celebrated “Barolo Week” last week with Roberto Bruno, COO of Fontanafredda Wines at One Restaurant, The Hazelton Hotel, Toronto.  Roberto came from Alba, Italy for the exquisite food and wine pairing lunch, organized by Galleon Wines.

A great selection of Fontanfredda Wines were paired with some exceptional cuisine prepared by Executive Chef Darby Piquette.

Roberto walked us through the history of the wine estate; and the technical notes, vinification, aging, and tasting notes of each wine.

The wine and food pairing included:

  • Amuse bouche, belini with caviar, tuna sashimi bites – Paired with Alta Langa Contessa Rose Brut 2017
  • Beet salad with whipped chevre, granola and baby spinach – Paired with Gavi di Gavi 2020 and Timorrasso 2022
  • Tatlietelle (housemade) with shaved truffle – Paired with Barolo Platinum label 2019
  • Beef tenderloin, garlic pomme puree sauteed spinach, au jus – Paired with Barolo Seralunga d’Alba 2018 and 2019
  • Montebello pasteurized cheese – Paired with Barolo Vigna La Rosa 2013

The best pairing for me was the last one.  First of all tasting notes for the Barolo, include:

Medium garnet in colour; developing nose of dark red fruit, strawberry, black pepper, licorice, some smokiness, and leather; closely woven tannins almost velvety; offers firm structure and elegance; medium length finish.  An excellent Barolo!

Excellent pairing with this mature cheese due to its smokiness and strong flavors.

Website link: https://www.fontanafredda.it/en/