Wine Tasting in Siena

The top thing I wanted to do in Siena was a wine tasting. Not at a winery but with a wine expert who could teach us what to look for when ordering wine at dinner.

We found Tuscan Wine School’s Tuscan Classics class and it was exactly what I wanted. For €60 each, the class explains six types of Tuscan wine, red and white, and how to distinguish good ones from okay ones (because let’s be honest, there’s no bad wine in Tuscany).

The class had an informal classroom feel, with place settings for each “student” and a projector in the front of the room. There were only four of us in the class, so it was relaxed and interactive.

Each place setting had a plate with meats, cheese, and dark chocolate. The place mats were infographics of the region, and specifics about the wine.

We started with learning the difference between the designations of wine. We knew that DOCG wine in Italy was the best, with DOC being second, but we didn’t know why. It was interesting to learn the process for a wine house to become DOCG- they need to use grapes from a very specific region based in the type of wine they are producing, and they need to produce that same wine for many years. The people who deem wine DOCG can stop and test the wine at any time, and take away their designation if it doesn’t meet standards.

Each type of wine has their specific requirements for DOCG. For example, Chianti Classico must be made with at least 80% sangiovese grapes, and cannot be irrigated. Then within those requirements are sub-requirements. A Chianti Classico vintage wine only has to be aged 12 months, but a Chianti Classico Riserva must be aged at least 24 months, with three of the months in the bottle.

My favorite Tuscan wine is the Brunello di Montalcino. It’s 100% sangiovese grapes, no irrigation, and vintage aged at 5 years minimum, two of which must be in the barrel and three months in the bottle, or Riserva, which must be at least 6 years aged. If you see a bottle of Brunello on a wine list and are looking for a high quality, full-bodied, delightful red wine, order it.

I love Super Tuscans, and generally order that in the States, but it seemed to be a bit controversial in Siena. They are relatively new (only about 50 years old) and were the result of a winemaker basically ignoring DOC regulations. He threw a bunch of different types of grapes together and it resulted in the delicious wines that didn’t fit any designation in Italy. Today, there are two DOCs for Super Tuscans, as they have grown significantly in popularity.

We also tasted white wine, which I don’t generally like unless it has bubbles. I was surprised to like the Vernaccia di San Gimignano. It was fresh and cold, and it would be a great wine for a hot summer afternoon. If you don’t love white wine but want something refreshing, I highly recommend this one.

Lastly, we learned about Vin Santo, which is basically table wine. Again, you cannot go wrong with any Tuscan wine, especially when you’re in Siena. A €10 carafe of house wine will still be delicious. It won’t have the designation or prestige of a DOC/DOCG wine, but sometimes, who cares?

As we tasted the six wines, we compared the flavors to a nifty chart the instructor had. It was interesting to see the different flavor profiles, especially the ones with sweaty saddle and Band-aid. Thankfully we didn’t try any with that profile.

These are the six wines we tasted. My favorite was the Brunello. I love a full-bodied, complex red that doesn’t feel too heavy, and that’s exactly what this tasted like.

If you are in Siena and would like to learn about multiple wines, and not just one winery, I highly recommend this class.

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