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Wine tours, the winery, and strange questions

Walter Speller wine writer

Wine tours, the winery, and strange questions

Tour after tour, year after year, the questions asked by visitors have been many, and some, sometimes …quite strange!

Wine tours at Casato Prime Donne, Montalcino

Wine tours at Casato Prime Donne, Montalcino

By Sara MazzeschiFattoria del Colle

One of the fun aspects of my job at Fattoria del Colle is the time I spend with guests visiting the estate. Be it here or at Casato Prime Donne in Montalcino it is really nice to show experts or wine lovers where we produce and age the Chianti, Doc Orcia and Brunello.

I have always thought that telling people what is “behind”  a bottle of wine, the challenges, the decisions and everything else that brings to a quality wine , to be the most important aspect of my job, that is why I am always happy to see the curious expressions of those following me and to hear their questions. It must be said though that there is no limit to what I have been asked,  every time I think that I have heard the best then a young bright lad or a professor lifts his glasses to look at me all the better… and I remain speechless.

Panorama from Fattoria del Colle , Val d'Orcia

Panorama from Fattoria del Colle , Val d’Orcia

The first question that come to mind is usually asked by the cheekiest of a group of tourists from abroad: “Excuse me miss, where are we? “ and I reply  “in Fattoria del Colle, in southern Siena, in Tuscany, ok?” “Ah in Tuscany, right…”  and everyone else repeating happily and with satisfaction and relief: “ Ah in Tuscany , in Tuscany!” It seems impossible but many foreigners come here thinking we are Veneto or even in Umbria, and I think “Here we go again”!!

Sometimes in front of me I have some real know-alls , those who want to appear smart in front of the whole group, and they ask me to take their friends into the vineyard so that they can try their hand at picking….in May! And I, with a great smile remind them that we pick in September, and even so we cannot give scissor to the first tourists who want to have fun, that is the law! At this point they usually change subject and start taking about Italy, mentioning that here in Italy it is not possible to do anything.

Another interesting category are those that have certain certainties: “Brunello is nice only after 10 years, those that drink after 5 are cradle-snatching!” And we explain that great Brunellos are good – but different – after 5, 10, 20 years and more.

A while ago I was in the production cellar together with a large group and at a certain point I notice that one lady is busy checking out every single hidden corner.  She was so taken that she also involved one by one the whole group, so when I asked: “Madam, what are you looking for?”she replies “..the tub where you stomp on the grapes with your feet, where is it?” How to tell her that it has not been done for years, and that in fact the stainless steel temperature controlled vats surrounding us are the new method ?  Or even another tour with another lady but still in the production cellar: “ Do you really use only Sangiovese for the rosato? I have always been told that it is made by mixing white and red wine, are you sure?” and I reply ”Yes I am quite sure….”

Casato Prime Donne Montalcino

Casato Prime Donne Montalcino

Every tasting finishes with questions regarding the preservation of Brunello bottles: “I have a bottle from 1991; my wife keeps it in the lounge in the cabinet, is it ready?” I remember that I waited a few seconds and then replied: “ If the Brunello has a nice label do as I say and leave it there another 25 years for show”.  Unfortunately keeping bottles standing in a cabinet protected from dust is not quite the way to help it last in time, even though it can last. Donatella once told me of an occasion when some people came to the cellar looking for some wine from Montalcino by the litre so as to make Brunello at home and “label it with our own label”.

She never told me though what her reply was.

Or what about that time when we were talking about Riserva, the longer barrel aged Brunello, and after having given all the explanations, or so I thought I hear someone say: “so, if I buy a Brunello today and keep it a year at home it will become Riserva?”  “No this would be too easy, this cannot be if the wine is already in the bottle…and sold, maybe I did not explain well enough!”

And everyone laughs

Another time I found a gentleman spitting out an olive that he had picked off one of our olive trees, as he was convinced that those that he the olives in the packets from the supermarket were picked and sealed immediately, without any type of elaboration. So he was shocked at the yukky taste!

Olives at Fattoria del Colle

Olives at Fattoria del Colle

One of my colleagues was left speechless this summer when some guests, vegetarians, when listing all the things that they did not want to eat from our restaurant menu: chicken, rabbit, veal ….announced that for dinner they wanted: “a nice Chianina Fiorentina!” To which my colleague replied, “but that is beef!!!” and they answered  “Of course we know!” Never clarify!!!


No-one has ever been offended by my replies, at least not until now, we have always joked all together because in truth there are no stupid questions and wine in the long run is just this, fun, learning and then of course one can always have a glass!

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