Category Archives: Italian Varieties & Appellations

Interview with Sicilian wine maker: Francesca Planeta


At Le Baccanti Tours, we tour top rated wineries all over Italy. Sicily has a special place on our wine map.  Every year, we take our clients on a wine tour of the wineries around Mount Etna. Etna is one of the world’s most active volcanoes, being in more or less constant eruption. At currently about 3,330 meters, or about 10,940 feet (the height varies with eruptions), it is about twice the height of Vesuvius and the highest mountain in Italy south of the Alps. The terrain all around it is immensely fertile and supports a thriving agriculture of orchards and vineyards as far as the eye can see.

One of our favorite wineries in Sicily is Planeta. They have many wine producing facilities all over the country and we are very familiar with their site in Etna. Planeta is not just one winery, but many.  The exhilarating journey begins at Sambuca di Sicilia, on an estate the Planeta family has  owned since the 1600s. In the  mid-1980s, three enthusiastic  young Sicilians – Alessio, Francesca and Santi Planeta – began their winemaking venture. The trio spent subsequent years matching the extraordinarily diverse Sicilian soils with both indigenous and international grape varieties. The result? A family of critically-acclaimed wines that demonstrate how brilliance can be attained through the thoughtful marriage between grape variety and terroir.

Curious about Planeta Winery in Sicily and the story behind the wine makers? Check out the interview made by Star Chefs to understand why this Sicilian wine company is one of our favorite wine cellar destinations when we go on wine tours of Etna in Sicily:

Interview with Francesca Planeta, Winemaker at Planeta Wines, Sicily, Italy

Interested in a wine tour of Etna in Sicily? Read up on our luxury, private wine tours in Sicily and beyond on Le Baccanti’s website!


Umbria wins Best Wine Travel Destination 2014


The Wine Enthusiast recently released an article stating Umbria as the one of the Best Wine Travel Destinations in 2014. According to the article which can be found in its entirety online:

View of Montefalco (wikipedia)

“For wine lovers, no trip to Umbria would be complete without visiting Montefalco.”

Umbria is lesser sought out Italian tourist destination but it has much to offer. In the summer, it is a beautiful region to visit for its unspoiled nature, green lush countryside, boat tours on Lake Trasimeno, summer festivals like Umbria Jazz, an annual chocolate festival in Perugia and of course wine touring. The main areas of interest for wine touring are Montefalco and Orvieto. Montefalco is home to the famous Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG wine. Among other wine zones in Umbria, this area has been cultivated for centuries with the native Sagrantino grape varietal and the hard working wine makers of the area have been creating wine fit for popes and kings ever since.

About Sagrantino di Montefalco

Sagrantino grapes (wikipedia)

Wine Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG wines are named after the Sagrantino grape from which they are made. Although considered a native varietal, there are many stories surrounding the arrival of the grape to the Umbrian region including that it was brought from Spain, or imported by Franciscan friars or that it arrived with the Saracens. The production zone covers the entire territory of the Communes of Montefalco, Bevagna, Gualdo Cattaneo, Castel Ritaldi and Giano dell’Umbria, within the province of Perugia. There are two types of Sagrantino, secco and passito. While both must be aged before consumption, passito is special because the grapes are dried for at least two months before the vinification process begins. Sagrantino passito is a sweet wine that goes well with dessert, while Sagrantino secco is great with meats and hard cheeses. Le Baccanti offers and organizes private, luxury wine tours from Perugia or Spoleto for Sagrantino Tasting Wine Tours.

Orvieto DOC wine (wikipedia)

Orvieto is another noteworthy wine zone of Umbria to consider visiting. Orvieto has a long tradition of wine making, dating back to ancient times. Towns and villages such as Orvieto, Amelia, Lugnano and Narni fall within the Orvieto DOC wine region. DOC wines include both white and red. A few of these are: Rosso Orvietano , Lago di Corbara and Colli Amerini. The province of Terni has several I.G.T. (Italian table wines of certified quality)  including: Umbria, Allerona and Narni. Although not as well known as Chianti Classico or other Tuscan wines, there are some very progressive Umbrian wine makers who are pushing the envelope and the results are positively delicious! Le Baccanti also organizes wine tours of the Orvieto wine region which can be booked for people staying in Rome, Perugia or Spoleto. Custom wine tours are available upon request if you would like to visit more and add additional activities like boat tours on Lake Trasimeno and if you are staying in a small town beyond Perugia or Rome and would like to discover  the wine country of Umbria. Contact us today for a quote for your customized wine tour in Umbria!


Choice of Wine Touring Regions in Tuscany


Tuscany is without a doubt Italy’s most known wine region all over the world. For many years, it’s reputation was compromised by mass produced cheap Chianti in the straw flask bottles that unfortunately created a deep branding in the minds of American wine shoppers. Over the years, the consortium that protects the Chianti wine region has given its name a huge make-over with many strides in the direction of  tradition and quality over quantity namesake.

Before you take a wine tour in Tuscany, it is crucial that you know a few basics:

IGT, DOC and DOCG wine regions. What? Okay 1st you should know what these acronyms stand for.

IGT: Indicazione geografica tipica. Protected Geographical territory for wine, this indicates a wine is guaranteed from the territory in which it comes from and usually applies to table wines and strangely to some Super Tuscan-styled wines, albeit being one of the highest quality of wines in the whole country.

DOC: Denominazione di origine controllata. Controlled designation of origin. This means this area produces wine from a specified region with specific production methods traditional to the wine’s recipe and history. For instance, a DOC wine simply guarantees the recipe and where it comes from. A Bolgheri DOC has to follow a formula, method and come from the Bolgheri region in order to be given DOC status. Italian wines have a huge placed importance on terroir, place of origin. The place is sometimes more valued than the grape itself.

DOCG:Denominazione di origine controllata e garantita. Controlled and guaranteed designation of origin. DOCG wines are considered to be the highest quality wines on the Italian market. Not only are they controlled for the recipe and location, they are controlled for quality and go through rigorous screening by government officials before being given DOCG status. The land is surveyed, the vineyards are checked even for how many bunches grow on each vine according to the original production method of the wine in question and most importantly the wines have to have consistent olfactory and gustatory characteristics that the wine is traditionally characterized by. If a wine maker submits their wine to these officials and it does not taste or smell like a chianti classico according to the set standards, it will be refused a DOCG stamp. This serves to protect the wine’s reputation, history, territory and well- quality. The most popular DOCG wine regions of Tuscany are Chianti Classico and Montalcino.

Now that you have an idea of the Italian quality designation system, now you can be more confident about choosing which wine regions to tour in Tuscany. Here are some of the wine regions to consider in your research:

Super Tuscan wines from Bolgheri (IGT)- Bolgheri has some of the world’s best, most exclusive, and most expensive wines. The coastal location, away from the tourist centers of Florence and the rest of inland Tuscany, offer you a chance to explore an unspoilt area most tourists will never see. Bolgheri was first praised by its native son and Nobel Laureate poet, Giosuè Carducci (1835-1907). Nowadays it is primarily known as the home of Super Tuscan wines, most notably Sassicaia and Ornellaia. Thanks to inventive and experimental local wine makers, Bolgheri now ranks among the most prestigious wine regions in the entire world, and has a reputation for taking the lead in new wine making techniques to produce outstanding, cutting edge wines.

Vernaccia from San Gimignano (DOCG): Set half-way between Florence and Siena, this is a popular white wine considered the ambassador of Tuscan whites. The name of the grape variety, Vernaccia, almost certainly derives from the Latin vernaculus meaning of the house, home, place, or town, suggesting that the grape is indeed indigenous to the area. In 1966, Vernaccia di San Gimignano was the first wine in Italy to be granted the prestigious DOC recognition. In 1990 it gained further importance by being assigned the DOCG recognition. In recent years the area has also shown an interesting potential for great red wines as well.

Montepulciano (Red Wine)- (DOCG)    As a region on the UNESCO World Heritage List, Vino Nobile from Montepulciano is made from a Sangiovese clone that is locally known as Prugnolo Gentile. As early as the seventeenth century it was crowned by many as as “the king of Tuscan wines”, and because the nobility eagerly sought it out, it became known as ‘noble’ and ‘aristocratic’ wine, hence the name. The walled town of Montepulciano is perched atop one of Tuscany’s high peaks, at 605 metres, or 1,950 feet, above sea level. It contains many incredible art treasures, as well as Etruscan and Roman wine cellars, some dating back to the time before Christ.

Brunello wines from Montalcino– (DOCG) Brunello was developed by Ferruccio Biondi Santi a little more than a century ago, and almost immediately drew the attention of connoisseurs for its excellence. Brunello is produced exclusively within the Montalcino territory, and only from Sangioveto Grosso grapes, a Sangiovese clone perfectly suited to local conditions. Before release, Brunello must be aged for four years, at least two of which must be in wooden casks. It is the most prized wine region in Tuscany as it takes so long to make and refine. For red wine lovers and those with a wine cellar, this is a region not to be missed.

Chianti Classico Wine Region – (DOCG) Chianti Classico is truly the heart of Tuscany and its primary wine zone. The region’s fame was confirmed in 1716 when Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici issued an ordinance to regulate the wine trade after some unscrupulous merchants labeled as “Chianti” a consignment of wines from dubious sources. Thus Tuscany became the first European state to safeguard an appellation of origin (label to distinguish wines). Today the Chianti Classico is one of Tuscany’s most prestigious DOCG areas. The symbol of the Chianti Classico consortium is the gallo nero or black rooster, which you will see adorning road signs and wine bottles throughout the region.

Please contact us if you would like additional resources or assistance in choosing a wine tour in the wonderful eno-gastronomic region of Tuscany.


Antinori Wine Touring in Tuscany


The new Antinori winery set in the rolling hills of Chianti Classico that has been 7 years in the making is finally opening its doors to the wine drinking public tomorrow, March 20th!

Be one of the first to experience the fantastic Antinori wines, visit the Antinori museum complete with hundreds of years of winemaking and family history with roots that run deep in the Tuscan countryside. The new winery is an architectural jewel, with natural products used in its construction and green technology that keep impact and energy usage to a very minimum without sacrificing style.

Be one of the first to visit the underground cellars and taste the top rated Antinori wines and dine in the newly opened restaurant. Why not join us for a Antinori Wine Tour while you are in Florence or Siena, both are just over 30 minutes away.