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Tuscany in the Autumn

Stories and highlights from a team wine-tasting trip to Castello di Fonteurtoli, in the heart of Chianti

We know of no one who hasn’t succumbed to the ancient charms of Tuscany, and our team, who recently visited, were no exception. During their stay at the historic wine estate of Castello di Fonteurtoli, they explored the estate, tasted the iconic wines of the Mazzei family and concluded with a glorious dinner of bistecca and local red wine.

Joining for this 48-hour odyssey were Lorenzo, our Group Executive Chef, Danilo, Head Bartender at La Goccia, Levante, Group Head Sommelier, Marco, Manager at the Wine Bar & Deli, Manuel, Head Sommelier in Richmond and Alfie, our Somm-in-training. And acting as the local host was Managing Director, Lara Boglione.

Upon landing at Firenze-Peretola Airport, the team jumped into a taxi and headed South to the estate, winding through the countryside and up into the hills of Chianti. Then, with a gentile turn onto a dubiously narrow uphill road, the structures of light mediaeval stone hoisted themselves above the trees before the taxi pulled in and the team embarked.

But it was only until the next morning that the true beauty of the place revealed itself, as they had arrived in the evening. Once they’d broken their fast in the proper Italian way, no time was wasted before being taken on an expansive and in-depth tour of the grounds starting with the vines. The estate has been owned by the Mazzei family since 1435, famed for its unique soil, where the dissolution of Alberese and sandstone rock leaves a mineral, complex core.

Also producing one of the finest olive oils in the region, Chianti Classico DOP Castello di Fonterutoli Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the team were shown the pressing process.

A stunning view from the Mazzei vineyard, taken by La Goccia’s Danilo.

The views from the vineyard were Arcadian, with lines of Cypress trees leading to fabulous rolling slopes of some of the finest wines in the world, all washed in the bright Autumn sunlight.

The team were then taken underground to the beautifully designed modern cellars combining the best of centuries-old historical techniques with innovative design. The vast cellar, which holds more than 3000 oak barrels, is miraculously humidity-controlled by natural water streams flowing down the exposed rock walls.

Following this, the team entered the caves where the bottles were stored and where the first tasting took place of the iconic Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Ipsus 2019, introduced by Giovanni Mazzei, owner of the estate. Danilo, La Goccia Bar Manager, recalls the great depth and surprising maturity of the wine.

Tasting Ipsus 2019 in the cellar, taken by Danilo.

Then it was time for the greatest of the Continental traditions, lunch. That wonderful time between breakfast and dinner is so often overlooked on these damp isles but, much like in France, Italian lunchtime- pranzo -is a tradition. Squares, church courtyards and offices empty as the Trattorias and Osterias bustle with locals looking for a proper meal (where fine, local ingredients are expected and appreciated), along with a glass of something fortifying.

Our team made their way to the neighbouring town of Castellina in Chianti for bistecca from the well-known local butcher, Stacchini. They feasted on the glorious steak that the region is known for alongside magnums of Mazzei’s Tenuta Beguardo, a wonderfully elegant Tuscan blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

After the feast, they made their way back to the Estate and to the upstairs tasting room for a more formal run-through of the estate’s wines. This included:

Siepi – A cornerstone of the estate, elegant and polished but also powerful and smooth. 

Concerto di Fonterutoli – Predominantly Sangiovese, this wine was a forerunner of the now we-established “Super Tuscan” style.

Vicoregio 36 – A classic Chinati, complex, rich and smooth.

Castello Fonterutoli – Another iconic wine of the estate. Elegant, spicy, intense but very smooth.

Poggio Badiola – This modern style of Chianti includes Petit Verdot grapes, adding a note of spicy freshness.

Fonterutoli Chianti Classico – Little brother to Castello Fonterutoli, this Sangovese-fronted wine is spicy and rounded with an impressively long finish.

Ser Lapo – Using grapes sourced from vines 15-30 years of age, it is structured but fresh with cellaring potential of over a decade.

As evening drew nearer they headed to local restaurant L’albergaccio, for more fabulous refined fare of pasta and truffle dishes and cheese and more glasses of local Chianti. Taxis were called and they made their way back to their lodgings. 

The next morning, the understandably bleary-eyed team of intrepid tasters left the estate and headed to the airport, before a well-deserved rest on the flight home.

At Petersham Nurseries, we take the care and education of our staff incredibly seriously and find the best way to learn is to experience. Throughout the year we host a wide range of workshops with suppliers that staff can attend to gain that extra edge when serving customers in our restaurants and bars. Previous in-house workshops have included chocolate and tea tastings with Original Bean and Canton, respectively. We continue to organise interesting educational workshops and trips to further both the professional and personal development of our wonderful teams.

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The Petersham Family