So Many Wines, So Little Time


Photo by Faith Willinger

Oh no, not another wine tasting. But I told you I was a closet wine nerd, and besides, it was right outside my front door. The Florence Wine Event is held in the Oltrarno, the "other" side of the river. This year it was bigger and better, in six piazzas, with three days of concerts, tastings, even an organic market on Sunday.

Glass points, in the three biggest piazzas, sold tickets--10 euros for a glass, a card good for 10 tastes, and a most useful guide to the event, with a map of the piazzas, listings of wineries, restaurants (each with special menus and wine pairings), and neighborhood artisans and boutiques. I strolled to Piazza Demidoff, in the San Niccolo' neighborhood.

Two local bars, Zoe and Negroni, joined forces for the summer with an outdoor wine bar, Il Giardino del Buon Vino, its counter created with wooden wine crates--a more inviting scene than the white-tented stands. But I was there for the tasting, and began at Renaissance des Appellations (an association of biodynamic wineries) and enjoyed the wines of Cosimo Maria Masini (Tuscany) and Fattoria Mondo Antico (Lombardia's Oltrepo' Pavese).

There were too many wines to taste so I decided to focus on Chianti, preferring those without international varietals like Merlot and Cabernet.

There were too many wines to taste so I decided to focus on Chianti, preferring those without international varietals like Merlot and Cabernet (allowed in a small percentage by the DOCG regulations). I walked along the Arno to Santa Maria Soprano (which I'd never really thought of as a piazza) where I adored Villa Calcinaia's Chianti Classico--and was recognized by owner Sebastiano Capponi as "la mamma di Max" (he played basketball with my son).

On to piazza Pitti, the largest venue, with more than 50 stands, wineries from all over Italy and a shop selling wine and accessories. I tasted Chianti Classico from Castello di Cacchiano, Isole e Olena, and Castello di Volpaia, but was distracted by Duca di Salaparuta's Nero d'Avola, a favorite Sicilian varietal, and Specogna's wines from Friuli, always worth tasting.

There was even a stand for one of my favorite Tuscan waters, San Felice. Next, piazza della Passera, where I tasted Chianti Classico from San Felice (no relation to the water) and checked out the restaurant Osteria Il Magazzino Tripperia, which had the most interesting menu and wine pairings in the guidebook. It looked promising, better than on my last visit--I'll be back.

I decided to skip piazza Santa Felicita--grappa tasting association stand. I finished in piazza Santo Spirito, pretty much tasted out, but was tempted by Podere Il Masseto's Pilloro, a Tuscan Sangiovese-Cannaiolo blend, a simple, everyday kind of wine. The Chianti Classico consorzio stand was wine-less, with T-shirts, aprons, pens, pencils, baseball hats, refrigerator magnets, and cycling outfits, all emblazoned with the official logo. I spoke to a group of young American women doing a semester abroad--they'd learned about the event at school, which offered a wine marketing course and a wine appreciation class in addition to the standard curriculum. They all knew how to hold a glass and were having a good time. Me too.

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Faith Willinger is a chef, author, and born-again Italian. She moved to Italy in 1973 and has spent over 30 years searching for the best food from the Alps to Sicily. More

Faith Heller Willinger is a born-again Italian. She moved to Italy in 1973 and was seduced by Italian regional cooking. Faith has spent more than 30 years searching for the best food and wine, as well as the world beyond the table from the Alps to Sicily. She has no regrets about mileage or calories. Faith was awarded the prestigious San Pellegrino award for outstanding work as an ambassador of Italian cooking. She lives full-time in Florence with her Tuscan husband, Massimo. Her son Max lives in Milan. She's the author of the bestselling (9th printing) guidebook Eating in Italy, the cookbook Red, White & Greens, and the narrative recipe book Adventures of an Italian Food Lover. Faith teaches in her kitchen in Florence on Wednesdays, supplied with freshly picked produce from her favorite farmers. Check out her web site at

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