Thirsting for a wine-inspired holiday? There’s one magical place in Italy where wine lovers can quench their craving.
Twenty minutes from Florence lies Castello di Gabbiano – a historic winery in the Chianti region of Tuscany, fabled for its stone villages, sprawling hills, vineyards and olive groves, and above all, Chianti wine. Here, you can not only get an intimate appreciation of premium Castello di Gabbiano wines, but also sojourn in an enchanting 12th-century castle set amongst the grapevines. Except 900 years later, there’s no sleeping on hay beds or shivering in drafty stone hallways.
“It’s a fantastic castle from 1124,” says Federico Cerelli, head winemaker of Castello di Gabbiano. “There’s even a private restaurant whose chef was featured on the cover of Wine Spectator Magazine.” Fortunately, the castle has been updated since medieval times: each of the eleven rooms are lovingly restored with the utmost opulence and overlook a breathtaking estate. In between wine tastings or swimming in the outdoor pool, guests can luxuriate on the idyllic grounds, surrounded by lush greenery, vineyards, and the Tuscan hills. The estate also offers apartment-style lodging inside a historic 16th-century farmhouse, which accommodates up to five people. It’s like vacationing in a fairy tale. Dreamy digs aside, there’s more hidden treasure on this property. Nestled between olive groves and grapevines, the acclaimed Il Cavaliere Restaurant is set inside a charming farmhouse that overlooks the castle. Inside, Executive Chef Francesco Berardinelli prepares a nightly rustic feast, using ingredients freshly plucked from the castle’s vegetable gardens or sourced from local Tuscan purveyors.
In the warmer months, many patrons sup on the covered patio under the moonlight and starry sky. Above all, there’s wine. The castle hotel offers rare opportunities to delve deeper inside the world of wine and gastronomy with their exclusive cooking classes and wine and food pairing workshops. Cooking lessons frequently start in the local marketplace, picking out farm-fresh ingredients and products, and end on the restaurant’s terrace, indulging in a series of sumptuous dishes and desserts with a bottle of Castello di Gabbiano.
“It’s an opportunity to showcase the reality of what we’re doing with wine here,” says Cerelli. For those who can’t sleep over, it’s an easy day trip from Florence to Castello di Gabbiano. The tasting tours start in the castle’s ancient wine cellar, where guests savour four wines, followed by a guided tour of the vineyards to learn about the wine-making techniques. Remarkably, Castello di Gabbiano is a certified sustainable winery, and even harvests grapes by hands.
“The character of the Sangiovese grapes makes an elegant wine,” says Cerelli. “We care more about the drinkability and elegance of the wine, not the power.” Of course, you don’t have to travel across the pond to sip on the estate’s famed wines. Castello di Gabbiano wines are sold in liquor stores across Canada and the United States, including the LCBO.
“I love to come to Canada because people here really like to know about wine,” says Cerelli. “Everyone asks me for specifics about the wine.”
At a wine-maker’s lunch in Toronto, Cerelli pours four glasses, each filled with a different but delicious variety. If you can’t go to Castello di Gabbiano, why not bring the vineyard into your home with these four incredible bottles?
Aged for just three months, Cerelli calls the Chianti 2015, the “scooter of wine.” “You do it fast!” says Cerelli. “Wine must be something easy to drink.” Notes of citrus, floral, and tropical fruits float on the surface of your tongue, with a hint of liquorice, spice and red cherries at the end. It’s perfect for pairing with white meats, roast lamb, half-mature cheese, and pastas with mushroom sauce.
Fruit and peppery, the aroma of violet and red berries dominate this blend. The Chianti Classico is aged for 10 months in French oak casks, which adds eclectic zests to the wine; but the natural elements also play a part.
“The difference is in the soil,” says Cerelli. “The grapevines for the Chianti Classico grow at a hillier and higher altitude, giving it a fruitier flavour.”
The Chianti Classico 2014 is best enjoyed with Italian cheeses, such as pecorino with truffles, provolone and parmesan, or a pasta with tomato sauce. It also works beautifully with grilled steak, mushroom risotto, or Tuscan-style roasted pork with garlic, herbs, and fennel seeds.
Only the finest grapes from the estate’s vineyards are used to make Chianti Classico Riserva D.O.C.G 2013. Smacking of cherry, strawberries, cedar, and tobacco, pair this bottle with “something earthy.”
“It tastes of more ripe fruit and plum than savoury,” says Cerelli.
Best with roasted red meats, game meats braised in rich sauces, and aged cheeses, Cerelli recommends enjoying a glass (or two!) of this variety alongside a juicy steak or a wild boar pasta.
Chianti Classico Gran Selezione D.O.C.G. 2012
For ratings, this blend is top of the pops. The Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013 is a “must try” from the vineyard and very popular in Ontario, likened to the “Ferrari of wines.” It’s no wonder – Cerelli says the grapes come from “the best block of the estate.”
“The wine is fermented and aged in French oak barrels for 14 months,” says Cerelli. “Then, we leave it in the bottle for 30 months before selling. For us, it’s important that it’s the right time to drink it.”
This velvety and full-bodied wine has a complex flavour – rich with citrusy and berry notes balanced with spicy vanilla and silky tannins. You’ll want to savour each drop of the bottle in your glass.