WINE TRAILS OF ITALY: VAL D’ORCIA AND MONTALCINO
Italian road trip to Val d’Orcia and Montalcino to visit the wineries and sample the gastronomy that express this unique part of Tuscany
It’s hard not to fall for the seductive charms of Tuscany. Rolling vineyards and evergreen oak forests, shimmering olive groves, stretching cypresses in the setting sun, echoes of the Renaissance, abundant fresh produce and hearty cuisine, endless espressos, sprezzatura, aperitivo, Negroni. Then there are the wines, the many prized vintages that are unique to this delightful part of Italy. But where should your wine adventure begin?
Since the sheer volume of excellent wining and dining Tuscan style can be a touch overwhelming, we’re concentrating on the micro region of Val d’Orcia, where the enchanting hills of medieval Montalcino produce the celebrated Brunello and Super Tuscan.
We have gathered a list of some of the finest vineyards and restaurants, recommending areas to explore and places to stay which combined will make an ideal base for you to design your own personal wine trail.
WINERIES TO VISIT
One of Italy’s star wine regions, Val d’Orcia produces the prized 100 percent Sangiovese red wines — the oak-aged Brunello di Montalcino DOCG and younger Rosso di Montalcino DOC. The pleasant, warm climate in this part of central Italy, shielded from the harsh elements by Monte Amiata, and with just enough breeze from the nearby sea, is ideal for cultivating the grape.
One of the oldest estates in the region, and set in beautiful grounds surrounding the Renaissance-style Villa Bell’Aria, the Montalcino winery is certified organic thanks to the innovative soil-mapping project initiated by the new owner. The vineyard’s 2016 Brunello di Montalcino Vigna del Suolo was named “Red Wine of the Year” for 2022.
With a story that spans some 700 years and with 30 generations of passionate winemakers, Frescobaldi is one of the oldest and most celebrated winemaking dynasties in Italy, pioneering modern wine production in Tuscany, and introducing new grape varieties, Chardonnay, Cabernet and Merlot, to the region.
The boutique Montalcino winery is run by the Salvioni family where they produce wines through artisan methods to include the Salvioni Brunello di Montalcino. The estate’s small volumes enjoy a great reputation around the world.
A relatively young winery, the estate was founded by 1970 when Siro Pacenti purchased a property north of Montalcino in the area of Pelagrilli and proceeded to plant vines. Today the estate is run by Giancarlo Pacenti producing a revered Brunello di Montalcino and Riserva.
Set in some of the highest vineyards around Montalcino, Le Ragnaie winery and agriturismo was established in 2003 when the Campinoti family bought the property from a family who made rustic wines. Now run by Riccardo Campinoti, the estate produces some of the most prized Brunello di Montalcino wines in the region.
PLACES TO STAY
From elegant villas to vineyard hotels, and rustic farmhouses, the traveler will be spoiled for choice in the region of Val d’Orcia and surrounding Tuscany.
Set in the winery surrounding Villa Bell’Aria, guest accommodation is in the original complex of country houses, replete with a dedicated chef whose seasonal menu is based on fresh, local ingredients. Naturally, the estate’s wines are served at tableside.
Castiglion del Bosco
The luxurious resort and village is entirely dedicated to wine. Owned by the Ferragamo fashion family, it has its own winery, hotel and luxury suites, villas, multiple restaurants, gardens, spas and all the trimmings.
La Bandita Townhouse / Countryhouse
TCreated by the former music mogul John Voigtmann, the exceptionally stylish La Bandita Townhouse and rural Countryhouse boutique hotels offer an experience akin to Soho House of Tuscany.
Relais Mastrojanni is nestled in the hills of southern Tuscany. Under the Illy Group, the place has undergone architectural renovations, the ancient walls of the farmhouse housing the Relais have carefully been restored with elegant simplicity with all rooms enjoying splendid views of the Val d’Orcia and of the Mastrojanni vineyards.
The restored 18th century farmhouse is architecturally designed and perfect for those seeking a private accommodation.
The relaxed rustic farmhouse also comes with a forward-thinking winery.
PLACES TO EAT
Here you will find the finest Tuscan produce: fresh vegetables, delicious breads, cheeses and meats, delicate local honey and aromatic olive oil. Try the thick Ribollita soup, Pici all’Aglione, Cacio e Pepe with Pecorino di Pienza, and Zuppa di Pane — cucina povera at its simple best.
Trattoria Il Pozzo
Set in the medieval village of Sant’Angelo in Colle, this intimate and welcoming place serves authentic and genuine Tuscan dishes.
A popular destination for locals and tourists, the osteria makes arguably the finest Bistecca alla Fiorentina, the local t-bone steak, in Montepulciano.
Osteria Le Logge
Argiano’s CEO and winemaker Bernardino Sani’s getaway in Siena, the venue offers fine cuisine and a cosmopolitan environment where intellectuals, politicians, artists, food lovers and visitors gather.
A modern interpretation of Tuscan cuisine, the place has a superb wine cellar, and offers exceptional views onto the Val d’Orcia countryside.
Podere Il Casale
Eating with pleasure is pivotal to the experience here, with the produce grown organically at the farm or sourced locally, while guests can learn the recipes at the on-site cooking school.
Specializing in traditional Tuscan cooking, the restaurant is regarded for its homemade Pici pasta and wild boar ragu.
THINGS TO DO, PLACES TO DISCOVER
The Val d’Orcia region may claim to enjoy some of Tuscany’s loveliest landscapes, but it is also a great spot from which to explore this part of central Italy’s historic cities, namely Siena.
The charming medieval walled hill town has panoramic vistas over the Val d’Orcia. Spend time here enjoying the very best enotecas and restaurants serving world-class wines and regional foods.
The Renaissance city will transport you back to the Middle Ages with its incredible art and architecture. Siena shares some of the best produce sourced from southern Tuscany to be enjoyed in local trattorias, osterias and restaurants.
With panoramic views of the Val d’Orcia, the tiny village is coveted for its Pecorino Pienza, so essential for Pici with Cacio e Pepe: a must-try dish. Pienza is also considered one of the best examples of Renaissance town planning.
On the fringe of the Val d’Orcia, a visit is a must for tasting the famous Vino Nobile di Montepulciano enjoyed with delicious Tuscan delicacies, while soaking up the charming atmosphere of this Renaissance town.
This ultimate spa village dates back to Roman times and is built around natural thermal spas.
ARGIANO’S CEO AND WINEMAKER, BERNARDINO SANI, SHARES HIS SECRET VAL D’ORCIA
Where would a visitor experience authentic local food?
Trattoria Il Pozzo in Sant’Angelo in Colle, Val d’Elsa. Also, try our own fabulous restaurant at the Argiano estate where our chef makes seasonal dishes using local produce.
Where do you like to eat?
Le Logge or Taverna del Capitano, both in Siena.
And for a special occasion?
Arnolfo in Colle, Val d’Elsa
Other than Argiano, where would you recommend a wine lover to stay?
Castiglion del Bosco resort, Mastrojanni resort, or Casanova de Neri resort.
Where should someone visit when they come to the region?
The Val d’Orcia is unique in its mix of nature, art and food. Visit Pienza, Montepulciano and Bagno Vignoni Terme and, of course, Siena.
ARGIANO’S POSITIVE TWIST: THE PHILOSOPHY BEHIND THE AWARD-WINNING MONTALCINO WINERY
Listening intently to the land, fastidious soil mapping and a scholarly approach to viticulture, has earned the oldest Montalcino winery’s Brunello, red wine of the year. Nargess Banks visits the Tuscan estate to learn more
WINE TRAILS OF THE VAL D’ORCIA AND MONTALCINO
Commencing our Italian road trip in the Langhe and Roero in Piedmont, where we visit the wineries and sample the cuisines that express this unique place
DISCOVER THE INVENTIVE FOOD AND WINE SCENES IN EUROPE’S SECOND CITIES
European capitals can sometimes steal away from the second cities’ limelight, yet it’s often in these urban settings where the most inventive food and wine culture flourishes, reports William Hersey
KING OF THE CROWN: SEE THE HALO WINES IN THE MAZE ROW COLLECTION
Maze Row has curated a collection of wines from unique producers, each with their own individual expression. Sommelier and Italian wine specialist John Irwin picks out the halos in the company portfolio