Salina, in Sicily’s Aeolian Islands, might just be one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to. It took no time at all to slip into island life, relax and unwind following the annual madness of Vinitaly. But, we weren’t here to just relax. Our excuse? We’d come to visit the leading winery on the island, Hauner.
It’s that time of the year again, summer holidays (in Italy). As Italians take their annual August holiday and migrate to the beach/lake/mountain it seems that many Aussies are joining them. Between August holidays and vintage (September to October) we get so many requests to visit wineries that some days our office feels more like a travel agency.
Australians are great wine travellers, encouraged to see and do as much as possible given our distance from other wine producing countries (sorry New Zealand).
Recently, several requests have been like this:
“I’m going to Piedmont in a few days, can you arrange some winery visits for me?”
“I’m going to Tuscany, could I visit X in Montalcino on a Sunday?”
In a few days? On a Sunday? Are you for real? This is coming from those in the hospitality industry that really should know better.
So, if you would like to visit a winery or three, we’ll be happy to help but please don’t be offended if I refer you to this post and some of the RULES.
No appointments on weekends, during Vinitaly (late March), Easter, August, during harvest (could be anywhere from September through to October) or Christmas/New Year.
And then, basic manners require you to:
Please re-confirm your appointments a day or two prior and be on time. Very few of our wineries have a cellar door and, in most cases, it will be the owner/winemaker waiting to meet you. Italians are, by nature, incredibly generous hosts and visiting Aussies are always well treated. All the wines will be opened, perhaps some cheese and salami offered, maybe even an invite to join them for lunch. At one winery it is estimated to cost them upwards of $40,000 annually in offering tasting wines to visitors. I’m sure that’s nothing compared to a medium-sized cellar door in Australia but we are talking about a winery producing just 30,000 bottles. And, there is no $5 charge to taste!
To not arrive on time when the winemaker is waiting for you, or to not show up at all is, apart from obviously being rude, very embarrassing to us. There is nothing worse than receiving an email to say that X didn’t show up.
My tips for winery visits
You need a car, there is no other option and there is never an auto available. Relax, driving in Italy is great. In fact, I prefer it to driving here.
Don’t try and pack in too many appointments. 3 per day is enough to enjoy the day at a good pace and allow time for lunch, you might even be invited to stay!
Moving around might look easy on a map but it very rarely is, especially in Italy. Expect the unexpected delays.
You can’t see it all in one go. Take the time to really explore and get to know a region/zone/village.
Italy’s leading grappa producer, Nonino, is hosting three of the USA’s leading mixologists in a cocktail challenge to be held at the Nonino distillery in Percoto, Friuli.
The trip is being blogged by Italian food and wine historian Jeremy Parzen from Do Bianchi. To follow their adventures, click here. There are some great photos of the distillery and the group have already dined at one of my favourite restaurants, Valter Scarbolo’s excellent Frasca.
Not sure why I didn’t get an invite really. Nobody pours Nonino Amaro over ice like I can (not to mention a blood orange garnish of course) and I even use a set of Nonino tumblers. Next year maybe?
Hopefully we’ll convince Cristina, Antonella or Elisabetta to overcome their fear of flying to visit Australia soon.
And thankfully, no breakages in transit. One of the best things we did on our recent trip was a little detour to Ceramiche Rampini in Radda in Chianti, one of the best places in Italy for ceramics of all shapes and sizes.
Thanks Tiziana for all your assistance, and correctly pointing out that my Tuscan inspired design was, more accurately, Chianti inspired. Most of all, thanks for the impeccable packaging to ship these across the globe in one piece!
Can’t wait to plate the first bistecca.