Tuscan gourmet venture

Tuscany’s finest food and drink was enjoyed on The Farmers Club tour to Italy 


Tuscany Visit 2015 

For a superb selection of images from the Tuscany tour and other Club events visit our picture gallery here

Brilliant blue skies and a biting north easterly wind – most of us were prepared for the former on our wine tour in Tuscany, but not the latter. Hence a scramble round the shops for scarves, with the odd leather handbag purchased en passant. One lady, who shall remain nameless, was reduced to purloining her husband's socks! 

The 17 of us, plus Club event organiser Lisbeth Rune, travelled uneventfully to Florence via London City Airport, where we were joined by Caroline, our wine guide. The next three days, for many of us, passed in a bit of an alcoholic haze, although some were strong willed enough to use the spittoons so thoughtfully provided. 

We learnt all about the superiority of Sangiovese and Brunello; the difference the addition of small amounts of foreign varieties makes; the soil composition, aptly described by one producer as "moody soil", though in fact she meant "muddy soil"; the effect of the weather, and all sorts of other technicalities. 

We visited family estates – one producing wine over 26 generations, since 1385, and one where the head oenologist was always the eldest son – woe betide a wife who did not produce a boy! 

We also visited a one-woman bio-dynamic vineyard. She specifically denied being a witch, though some of her methods almost gave the lie to this, with jobs dependant on phases of the moon and talking to her vines to encourage their growth. Her family credentials for entering the wine business: "My mother is a big drinker". 

Our final winery was an organic estate, with exceptionally modern cellars, built 18 metres underground. A phenomenal amount of money had been spent, but we could not get to the bottom of where it came from! 

That was in stark contrast to another organic farm we visited, which perhaps reflected some of our preconceptions. Not only was wine produced, but there were over 100 hand milked sheep used for pecorino cheese production, a few beehives, peacocks to frighten away the snakes, half a dozen pigs, which were regularly seduced by the local wild boars, and wolves roaming the hillside for good measure. 

We visited one other cheese producer, much more professional, a Sardinian family which had brought their native sheep breed with them. We all dutifully sat down at 9.30am to a huge plate of assorted pecorino and ricotta cheese – accompanied, needless to say, by a glass of the local red wine. 

Our base for the tour was Montalcino, a walled hill town necessitating a police escort so our coach could enter and leave the pedestrianised area around the hotel. We overlooked Valle d'Orcia, a UNESCO heritage site.

Fantastic wine, fantastic food, wonderful company, and I would be lynched if I didn't mention everyone's heartthrob, Francesco! A brilliant time was had by all.

 Jo Turnbull 

For a superb selection of images from the Tuscany tour and other Club events visit our picture gallery here