By Mason Wenzel
Vino, or wine, is at the forefront of most tourists’ minds when they first come to Italy. On my flight into Rome, it was hard not to think about wine after a flight attendant gave me two full glasses of Merlot when I had only asked for one.
Wine is synonymous with Italy. Vineyards, clinking glasses and endless rows of bottles are some of the images that came to mind when I thought of the country. Once I arrived, I learned just how important wine is. The people here drink it like water. You can order it by the liter instead of just by the glass. It’s acceptable to drink it at any time of the day, even in the morning.
You’re in the heart of the world’s greatest wine region when you come to Arezzo. Certified bottles of Chianti can be purchased for as little as five euros. Beautiful wineries are less than 10 minutes away by car.
Buccia Nera is one of those wineries. Rows of green vineyards overlooked the wheatfields and Italian cypresses of the Tuscan countryside from an elevated hillside. Leafy branches from oak trees hung over tables and chairs used for wine tasting. A small, outdoor bar was attached to a warehouse where the wine was produced and bottled.
My friends and I sat down at a long table, which was shaded from the sun. A woman with long, slender arms and short curly black hair informed us of our different options for wine tastings. The daily special was a quartet of sparkling white, sparkling rosé, orange-infused white and special reserve Chianti, all for 20 euros.
We ordered this option with little debate.
The woman returned soon after with the first bottle, a sparkling white. It was carbonated, she said, because the wine is pulled from the ageing barrel early and finishes fermenting in the bottle. Yeast had collected at the bottom, which made the final pour much cloudier and pulpy than the first. The wine was noticeably more yellow than other whites I had seen, like an all-natural mustard but in the best way possible.
The wine was bubbly, crisp and served cold. It tasted semi-sweet and smelled like lemon peels. A light fizz rang from the glass when I sat it down.
The next wine was a sparkling rosé, made the same way as the white. It was sweeter than the white and had hints of cherry on both the nose and the tongue. The red tint of the wine was soft and clear, at least in my glass. Other glasses that received later pours were lighter in color from the heavier amounts of yeast.
The third wine was an orange-infused white. It was made the same way as a traditional white, but orange peels were added in the barrel. This process resulted in a wine with a golden color and subtle citrus flavor. It was unlike any wine I had tasted before. I enjoyed it, but I don’t think I’d drink it again.
The last wine was my favorite: a three-year aged Chianti. The wine was nearly black with a thin line of opaque red along its edges. The scent was deep and rich, with heavy notes of cherry, oak and liquorice. The smell alone was worth the price of the tasting.
The Chianti’s flavor was bold and complex. It was noticeably stronger than the other wines and quickly overpowered my pallet. The wine also seemed thicker than the others, almost like it coated my tongue with velvet. The wine, despite its strong flavor, went down smooth, making me want to take another sip. The Chianti thoroughly satisfied me. It was great, but I could only have one glass. The wine’s flavor was too rich for a second.
Like many American travelers who come to Italy, I had a romanticized view of what the country looked like. I expected Tuscany to be quiet and peaceful with miles of rolling hills and unspoiled nature, just like it is in many of the movies I’ve seen. Of course, this isn’t the case. People drive like crazy on the roads. Construction is just as loud and unappealing as it is in America. Many areas, especially by highways, are jarringly industrial.
But it’s different at Buccia Nera. There, the sounds are subtle and calm. The views are idealistic and surreal. The air is clear and fresh. The Buccia Nera winery is a classic example of the Tuscan beauty the rest of the world yearns for.
Oh, and the wine is pretty good, too.
Editors: Grace Tipps, Aly O'Shea, Taylor Glissman
Photographer: David Reinhardt, Mason Wenzel, Jessie Klinger, Kaki Glieber