Wine Adventures often take us to winery tasting rooms where we sip a single producer’s latest releases. Sometimes we’ll be offered vertical flights of two, three or four consecutive vintages to illustrate how annual variations in vineyard conditions influence the final product. This is a great way to gather in-depth knowledge of a wine or vineyard, but what if we just want to sample wines from a particular region and don’t have time to visit a dozen or more wineries? I found myself in that situation last month while in Italy. The solution was a horizontal wine tasting at one of the most interesting wine shops I’ve visited in some time, Enoteca di Piazza in the hilltop village of Montalcino in central Tuscany (about a two hour drive south of Florence). Rather than operating tasting rooms, many wineries in the area prefer to let wine shops meet the needs of tourists who want to taste their wines. Montalcino, like many medieval Italian towns that have preserved their rich history, benefits from a steady flow of international visitors.
An enoteca is a wine shop featuring local and regional wines, Enoteca di Piazza simply means wine shop in the square. As the sign (right) says, they offer 100 wines for degustazione (tasting) from the best local producers – though I believe 300 might be more accurate. There are no pre-set flights, you simply answer a few questions from your tasting host (they all speak English) and he or she takes you on an adventure around the shop. Their objective is to match your tastes with the most compatible local wines.
Wines sold in the shop range from about $20 to $300, though there are a few limited release and premium bottles priced higher. If you want to ship wine home, make sure you get quotes for shipping, duties, taxes, etc. A $50 bottle of wine can easily become a $75 bottle with all the extra costs. You may hear that Italians prefer not to export their better wines, which is at least partially true depending on which wines you like. If you taste a wine that a little research says you may not be able to find at home, consider shipping a case. The case I shipped included these:
If you find yourself in Tuscany, I recommend a stroll through Montalcino and horizontal wine tasting at Enoteca di Piazza.
Enoteca di Piazza
Piazza Garibaldi, 2-3-4
53024 Montalcino, Siena, Italy
Disclosure: I purchased wines at this shop and did not pay a tasting fee. No free samples or other inducements were provided to the author in return for this review.