Tuscan Enotecas With Enomatics


Tuscany has no shortage of enotecas (combination wine bar and shop) offering tastings. But in many of them, as is too often the case in Europe, one either has complimentary tastes of wines in order to decide which bottle(s) to buy, or one simply purchases wine by the glass, making it difficult to taste more than two without becoming intoxicated. Neither choice is ideal for the traveler interested in learning about Tuscany’s wines by comparing several examples in a row.

Nowadays, an increasing number of enotecas are taking advantage of Enomatic machines to offer samples of far more (and far better) wines. The Chianti-based Enomatic company has developed machines that can dispense measured portions of wine while keeping the rest of the bottle intact by filling it with nitrogen, an inert gas that won’t cause the wine to oxidize. This system allows a shop to offer a dozen or more wines to taste, rather than just, say, four or five. These delightful contraptions can now be found around the world. I won’t soon forget tasting Latour, Margaux, Cheval Blanc and Ausone, in succession, from a certain blessed Enomatic machine in Bordeaux!

On my recent trip to Tuscany, I decided to seek out enotecas with Enomatics, which are ideal for those interested in doing wine tastings without investing hours in the experience or being pressured to buy a bottle. The wine shops and bars below have their own systems, but I found each tasting to be both enlightening and thoroughly pleasurable. Since we had our own car, I was sure to request a sputtacchiera — spittoon — at each venue, in order to limit alcohol consumption.

Borgo Divino

This wine shop in the center of Montepulciano has a vaulted bar in back, where one can sit down with glasses of wine and plates of salumi and cheese. But we decided to stand by the Enomatic machines, so we could chat about the wines with the vivacious and knowledgeable woman behind the counter, Fiore. She offered helpful information about the five bottlings I sampled (of 14 available).

For example, I learned that the 2019 Salcheto Rosso di Montepulciano — an inexpensive but serious wine — was organic and that the winery was converting to biodynamic production. The taste was just €2. I then tried two Vino Nobile di Montepulcianos by Talosa, the classy 2017 “Alboreto” (€2.50) and the bigger but more velvety 2015 “Filai Lunghi” (€3), also a Sangiovese but vinified with “highly selected” grapes. The 2013 Dei Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva Bossona Vineyard was an absolute steal at €3 a taste, with an enticingly rich aroma and big fruit that rammed through a wall of fine-grained tannins. And though it wasn’t local, how could I turn down a sample of one of Italy’s most famous red wines, Sassicaia? The 2017 vintage smelled of plum, leather and purple flowers, and it was beautifully integrated, lasting for ages on the palate. What a treat, to try such an exquisitely crafted wine for just €15.

Borgo Divino
Via dell’Opio nel Corso 2, Montepulciano. Tel. (39) 057-807-0245

La Bottega del Nobile

Lucky Montepulciano has another enoteca with well-stocked Enomatic machines. On the edge of the old center, La Bottega del Nobile has a full-service restaurant with tables on a street-side patio as well as in an atmospheric vaulted cellar, but again, we installed ourselves at a table in the shop close to the wine dispensers. The charming gentleman manning the store, Lorenzo, gave us a card to insert into the Enomatics. When we selected a wine, the price of the taste was recorded on it, and we paid for everything at the end. He also provided a helpful introduction to the 26 wines in the three machines, which included local bottlings, Brunellos, Bolgheris and various other Tuscan options.

None of the nine wines we tried cost more than €5 for a taste. Of the seven Vino Nobile di Montepulcianos I sampled, most memorable were the savory 2003 Carpinto Vigneto St. Ercolano, a bold wine with massive tannins that cried out for fat, and the 2016 Dei “Madonna della Querce,” the winery’s top bottling (owner Caterina Dei dedicated this wine to her father). It offered both impressive power and polished refinement. When I remarked to Lorenzo how delicious this wine was, he smiled and said, “Yes, we know.”

La Bottega del Nobile
Via di Gracciano nel Corso 95, Montepulciano. Tel. (39) 057-875-7016

Casa Porciatti

In the center of diminutive Radda in Chianti, Casa Porciatti has a restaurant and shop facing the street, and below, a wine bar in a vaulted cellar with tables spilling out into an atmospheric old tunnel. We sat down at a two-top made from a barrel and ordered “A Taste of Radda,” one of five tempting wine flights on the menu (the Enomatic machines behind the bar allowed for the multiplicity of options). Riccardo, our friendly waiter-sommelier and a member of the family that owns Casa Porciatti, told us that these flights were inspired by similar offerings in American wine bars. Along with the four wines, he brought a helpful page with English descriptions of them.

The Radda wines we tried all had a certain spiciness to them, but otherwise they presented obvious contrasts and demonstrated that winemakers in Chianti are still innovating and experimenting. The organic 2018 L’Erta di Radda Chianti Classico was the spiciest of the four — it really grabbed my attention with its fresh fruit and zing. The turbid 2016 Caparsa “Caparsino” Chianti Classico Riserva had similarly fresh dark-cherry fruit, with a lift of leather and some supple tannins and earth to add complexity. The concrete tank-aged 2019 Tenuta di Carleone “Il Guercio,” in contrast, was a brilliant transparent ruby color, and despite its youth, it already proved remarkably well integrated. In a departure from Sangiovese, we finished with a rather decadent glass of 2018 Il Barlettaio Merlot. These four half-glasses of wine cost just €18, a sensational value.

Casa Porciatti
Camminamento Medievale, Radda in Chianti. Tel. (39) 057-773-8234

Enoteca Falorni

This sprawling wine shop is one of Tuscany’s best-known enotecas, and with good reason. Beneath its brick vaults are no fewer than 13 “tasting islands” (cylindrical Enomatic machines) presenting a variety of Italian wines, along with a few spirits. After I procured us a card for the Enomatics, I felt like a kid turned loose in a candy store.

For the heck of it, I started with a €1.38 sample of 2018 Südtirol Kuenhof Eisacktaler Sylvaner from Italy’s far north. This lively, savory and minerally gem was the best Sylvaner I can recall trying. Nearby was Gaja’s 2020 Ca’Marcanda “Vistamare” blend of Vermentino, Viognier and Fiano, redolent of tropical fruit and orangy acidity, at just €2.20 per taste. Elsewhere, I spotted the 2017 Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva (€2.47), a wine I didn’t have the chance to try at the winery itself. This brooding beauty was a real mouthful, with ample fruit, bouncy juiciness and big, well-integrated tannins. In a side room, I splurged on the still-youthful 2014 Sassicaia (€10), full of luscious dark fruit and notable for its fine-grained polish, and the simply gorgeous 2015 Ornellaia (€10), which offered sublimely rich fruit followed by a laser beam of spiciness pointing the way to chocolatey tannins. This wine could serve as the definition of structure.

Enoteca Falorni
Piazza delle Cantine 6, Greve in Chianti. Tel. (39) 055-854-6404

Da Rizieri

I also had a fantastic time at this wine shop in Montalcino’s old center, with 32 wines divided between two large Enomatic machines. No fewer than 16 of the open bottles were Brunellos. Since there were no other customers in the store, we had the full attention of the shopkeeper, Francesca, who knew the Montalcino region inside and out.

She started us off with simpler Rosso di Montalcinos — the fragrant and lively 2017 San Giorgio Ciampoleto cost just €0.40 for a taste — before moving us on to some more complex Brunellos. Francesca led us from examples from the north, which she said tend to be fresher and drier, to bottlings from the south, which tend to be fruitier and softer. One of her favorites from the north is the 2016 Dino Ciacci Brunello di Montalcino, and I can see why. It offered ample ripe fruit, juicy acidity and big but balanced tannins. My favorite from the north, however, was the 2013 Renieri Brunello Riserva, with notes of leather, black cherries, green tobacco and white pepper. It moved with such grace and confidence from one note to the next. From the south of the Montalcino region, I especially loved the 2016 Fanti “Vallocchio” Brunello. Its bright fruit rang like a bell, and bold but focused spiciness led to a satisfyingly tanninic finish.

After tasting two cheerful Rossos and eight splendid Brunellos (plus one delicious wine from Bolgheri), the tab came to a measly €25. That’s less than $30, including tax! Only in Italy.

Da Rizieri
Piazza del Popolo 21, Montalcino. Tel. (39) 057-784-9183

Read more about our editor’s trip to Tuscany and Umbria

By Andrew Harper Editor Andrew Harper editors travel the world anonymously to give you the unvarnished truth about luxury hotels. Hotels have no idea who the editors are, so they are treated exactly as you might be.

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