By Peter Scherer

Most of you will have visited Tuscany. I had not, until this summer. Sylvia and I spend a good month in Florence and the countryside. Staying a week at the Batzella winery, at the invitation of our friends, wasa highlight. Aside from getting some first hand lessons on the art of making wine, we used the winery as a hub to visit what is outstanding in Tuscany — much there is.

This proposition of visiting three wineries with 15 tastings, not to forget the grappas and olives, in 5 hours is nothing short of absurd. If you really want to immerse in Tuscan wines, you may want to consider attending  the annual special Tuscan Coast (from Pisa area down to the Maremma DOC of Morellinodi Scanzano) wine tasting event. It is organized by a producer association called Grandi Cru della Costa Toscana,  of which the Batzellas are are member.   You could  taste over 150 wines from some 50 leading Tuscan wine producers. The event takes place early May for 2 full days.

Alternatively you could  go for in depth tastings at the Tenuta dell’Ornellaia and the Batzella wineries. The Guada al Tasso Estate, producer of Sassiciaia, has been closed for visitors. So no tastings there  Tenuta  Ornelliaia is one of the foremost producers in the Bolgheri appellation. Its Ornellaia is one of the original Super Tuscans, made from Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlot. Its owner hails from the illustrious Antinori family of Sassicaia fame. The Batzellawinery does not have a comparable pedigree but it is up and coming. A visit of the winery has been voted  as the No. 1 thing to do in Castagneto, the municipality of Bolgheri.

The Batzella property abuts the Ornellaia estate, which is adjacent to Guada al Tasso’ Sassicaia vineyard. The two are separated by a pintoresque olive tree lined country road. Hence, at the Batzella’s one is in good company. Their terroire is very similar to that of their more famous neighbors.

We had a memorable dinner at the Osteria del Tasso — outside in the garden, five tables only,  with a view at the Tyrrhenian sea. The wines were spectacular.  Maybe it was the ambience, the sun set casting the last rays through the pine trees or the knowledge that a reportedly similar wine from the estate had garnered 100 points from Parker.

Not to forget Bolgheri. This quaint hamlet of 150 inhabitants breathes wine — more displays of wine bottles and cases per square inch than any other place we have seen.  It features a charming square and lovely restaurants, adorned by artistic flower arrangements. We spend hours there, observing the locals in the pursuit of their daily routines with barely another tourist to disturb.