Getting invited to participate in a grape harvest in Tuscany was something I couldn’t refuse. For several years I have expressed my desire to be part of vendemmia and when I received the invitation from Cecchi, a winery which history dates back to 1893, I was beyond excited.
Along with a few other fabulous bloggers and instagrammers, we got the opportunity to experience the grape harvest (vendemmia) at Val delle Rose, a vineyard owned by the Cecchi family situated in beautiful area of Maremma, Tuscany.
If you have never been part of a vendemmia, add it to your bucket list. It is an incredible experience, and I am still raving about it to this day. A huge thank you goes out to the amazing team at Cecchi Winery for their kind hospitality, and for a phenomenal day. Truly unforgettable.
Here is a look at how the day unfolded.
Beautiful estate of Val delle Rose, a stunning vineyard in Tuscany
The beautiful picturesque and idyllic setting was a welcome sight especially after a traumatizing experience on the train (that story is for another day). Val delle Rose, in the small town of Poggio la Mozza, is in the heart of the production area of Morellino di Scansano and covers over 100 hectares.
Briefing before the vendemmia
After the warm welcome, introductions and some light refreshments, the lovely Chiara, gave us a quick briefing before putting us to work. We were given our gear: shears, gloves, hat, an apron (all of which we got to keep!) and of course, our bucket for the harvest.
Eager to get started
Making our way to the vines, Piero instructed us on how to select the ideal bunch of grapes. Instead of paying attention, I was mesmerized by the beautiful bunches of Sangiovese grapes hanging precariously on the vines, and only refocused in time to catch Piero showing us how to cut the grapes from the vines.
While we were all eager to get started, I had this nagging feeling of angst about not picking the right grapes and therefore, ruining their wine – the pressure on our shoulders!
As I got into the rhythm and started filling the bucket, all those concerns washed away and I even took time to taste a few grapes – yes, we got permission to eat them – and they were incredibly sweet and flavorful. Absolutely divine and I wished I had stuffed myself more!
Destemming and crushing the grapes…not quite like in Lucy!
In a short span of time, we found ourselves with a pretty bountiful harvest. We loaded the buckets on to the pickup truck and brought them over to the new state-of-the-art facility where the grapes would be destemmed and crushed.
As red wines derive their color from skins, the grapes are crushed with the skins and fermented together. Yes, I was secretly hoping that we’d be stomping on the grapes with our barefeet but knew that chances were slim to none.
We then made our way down a flight of stairs to the level below and it felt like we had stepped into a different dimension. I had caught a glimpse of the “sci-fi” like scene while walking through a short passageway and I astounded by the enormity of the place that housed the stainless steel tanks.
The vinification area was impressive and as we cautiously made our way to one of the tanks, we could smell the fermentation process that was taking place inside them.
Piero opened one of them up. We saw that the skins were hovering on the top as carbon dioxide produced during the process pushed the skins upwards. To ensure that the skins are in contact with liquid as much as possible, the wine is pushed down three times a day until the primary fermentation is completed. Here’s Erica showing us how it’s done.
Heading down to the cellar
We took another flight of steps and unbeknownst to us, we were led us to the cellar where the wines were aged. What an extraordinary sight! Rows and rows of French oak barrels (barrique) laid in this cellar in a controlled environment of around 16C and humidity of 75%.
The ambiance, the dim lights and cooler temperatures added to the mystic of the place. We were told that when the aging is complete, the wine is transported to another Cecchi property, Castellina in Chianti, where they are bottled.
Driving tour of this vast and splendid vineyard
Originally a vineyard covering 25 hectares, the Cecchi family enlarged Val delle Rose to its current 100 hectares. Impossible to cover it all on foot, we got a tour of the estate with Piero in the pickup truck and were treated to spectacular quintessential Tuscan views. Check out the video below on Val delle Rose.
Time for lunch!
After a laborious morning – not really but there was some effort involved – we made our way to the Maremma seaside for a relaxing lunch by the beach. While feasting on the array of seafood dishes, we enjoyed sips of the refreshing Litorale white wine from the Vermentino grape and later, indulged in the full-bodied Morellino di Scansano.
Town of Castiglione della Pescaia, Tuscany
The potent combination of an early morning, the excitement of harvest, and the gluttonous lunch finally took its toll on me. And a walk, as suggested by Chiara and Giulia, through charming town of Castiglione della Pescaia was the perfect antidote.
A popular summer town in Tuscany, we trekked up a steep slope to the medieval part of the town and once on top, we were treated to a fabulous view.
At present, Val delle Rose isn’t open to the public but they are planning to make arrangements for this in the near future and I’ll certainly keep you informed.
Thanks again to the entire Cecchi team, and a special mention goes out to Chiara, Giulia, Piero and Tiana for making my first vendemmia one that goes far beyond what I could have ever imagined. Simply fabulous!