Lucca & Montecarlo Wines
In the valley, mountains, seas, and hills of Tuscany
The wine and olive oil road in Lucca is divided into several zones; the principle and more famous areas for wine are Lucca and Montecarlo. However, the official name is Strada del Vino e dell’Olio di Lucca, Montecarlo e Versilia and thus incorporates the area near the ocean and the Serchio Valley where they include not only wine options but also typical cold cuts, cheeses, desserts, bread, and more.
These itineraries, called the Strada del Vino, propose different routes which basically promote the local of wines (and olive oil). Basically, they are a great way to introduce yourself to the special personality of the area. A visit to this part of Tuscany will include time spent in towns like that of Pietrasanta, Camaiore, Lucca, Capannori and it might even include a stop at one of the absolutely unique historic villas. But to get the flavor of the land you will need to visit one of the vineyards and olive groves along the Strade del Vino.
These "wine roads" (Strade del Vino) were established in 1999, and the goal was to exalt the local products:
From the famous DOC wines of the Hills of Lucca and Montecarlo to Lucca's DOP-certified light, extra virgin olive oil, from the fragrant breads ... pork-butchers, from the mountain cheeses to the refined fish dishes of Versilia ... flower-growing industry.
Did You Know that Lucca was (also) Famous for its Wines?
Of these products, wine is most probably the least known for those visiting the area. However, it has been a mainstream product for the locals for...well, for centuries! One of the distinguishing characteristics of the wines in this area are the blends of the local grapes with "varieties of French origin". Some will say that the secret ingredients are:
The mild climate, the exposure at noon and the presence of high peaks that protect the grapes from the northern cold. All of this contribute to a strong production, healthy, with high sugar content and intense perfumes.
The products truly are representatives of the “terroir” found in Montecarlo and Lucca: a combination of the nearness to the sea, and the mountains create the distinctive flavor of these DOC wines.
The Lucca Hills DOC Wine
Also knowns as Colline Lucchesi DOC Wine
In the hills just outside of the city center of Lucca, you will find several vineyards with their own special signature productions: Rosso DOC, Bianco DOC wine, and vin santo, as well as a delicious DOP extra virgin olive oil, said to feature a “fruity, basically sweet taste and pungent, bitter sensations.”
As with all wines labeled with a "special designation", there are specific production rules to follow. "Colline Lucchesi", literally the hills of Lucca, is allowed to make both a "Bianco" (white) and "Rosso" (red) wine, in addition to varietal wines. In addition, it produces an excellent vin santo wine popular in Tuscany.
The recipe? You will find that these wines definitely vary from their counterparts in other areas such as Chianti or the Vino Nobile outside of Montepulciano. They are are also distinctly different from the DOC wines that come out of Val d'Orcia and the infamous Brunello wines from Montalcino. The difference is in the blend:
the bianco blend is allowed to be "complex and flexible", but is dominated by the percentage of Trebbiano grapes; 45% to 70% Trebbiano Toscano.
The remaining percentage can be up to 45% Greco, Grechetto, Vermentino and/or Malvasia; up to 30% Chardonnay and/or Sauvignon blanc and up to 15% other white varieties. You will also find that the DOC regulations allow for two white varietal wines: Vermentino and Sauvignon Blanc. These varietal wines must have at least 85% of the variety stated on the bottle.
As for the rosso blend, like many Tuscan wines, it must be Sangiovese-dominated: 45% and 70% Sangiovese.
As for the remaining grapes it can have up to 30% Canaiolo and/or Ciliegiolo, up to 15% Merlot and up to 15% other grape varieties, such as Vermentino nero, with Aleatico and Moscato only allowed to reach 5% of the blend.
The red wines are similar to the whites because the DOC allows two varietal wines: Merlot and Sangiovese. The Riserva wines must be aged a minimum of two years.
A well-kept secret near Lucca
On the 13th of August in 1969, the Montecarlo Bianco DOC was recognized as one of the first DOC wines from northern Italy, later in 1985, the Montecarlo Rosso was also designated as a DOC wine. What is so special about this white? It is the unusual international influence that distinguishes the wines in Montecarlo.
Tuscan white wines are made from Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes, but here in the area surrounding Montecarlo, the whites are commonly made from the Sémillon, Sauvignon blanc and Pinot Bianco grape varietals.
To wear the Montecarlo Bianco DOC label, the following recipes must be used: 40-60% Trebbiano Toscano and the remaining 40-60% shall be comprised of Semillon, Pinot Gris and Bianco, Vermentino, Sauvignon, Roussanne, globally considered, provided that at least three of the combined grapes make up of 10%.
The Montecarlo Rosso and Riserva also have specific rules combinations of grapes to be followed: 50-75% Sangiovese, 5-15% Black Canaiolo, 10-15% singly or jointly Ciliegiolo, Colorino, Malvasia Black, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot.
There are several vineyards in the Montecarlo area which are open for wine tasting, however, since they are small and normally do not have the personnel to keep the shop open all day, you need to call and make an appointment. The Pro-Loco and Information center in Montecarlo can assist you in deciding which vineyard might interest you the most and call to make sure someone is waiting upon your arrival. They are located in the middle of this charming little historic center and are eager to help you enjoy their hometown.
If you are visiting in the month of May then you will want to keep in mind the wine event ViaVinaria, a weekend where the cantinas open their doors and bottles of wine for you to savor their deliciousness. See our events calendar for more information.
Wine Tasting Suggestions outside of Montecarlo
Enough said about what goes into these great wine, let's talk about where you can go to taste them and visit the vineyards. Below are a few of our favorites which we have actually visited and enjoyed.
Borgo La Torre
Within walking distance of the historic center is the vineyard, wine tasting experience, and restaurant La Torre. They offer several options to enjoy their wines. The first two options require no reservation, in fact, they are open all day and accept walk-ins, but you will need to call and book for the lunch tasting; choose from indoor seating or the outdoor terrace in the shade of the town of Montecarlo and a menu of several wines and olive oil combinations. The other option entails a special lunch which is paired with their delicious wines. There is a reasonable fee for a wine tasting.
Fattoria La Poggio
A little further away from the city center, under the arches of a Roman aqueduct is the cantina of La Poggio. They offer a fun combination of five wines and lunch. You choose how much you want to eat (just an abundant selection of Italian cold cuts, bruschettas, olives & cheeses, antipasto, and a pasta dish - or go for the full meal of antipasto, pasta, and grilled meat). They bring out all 6 types of wine, explain the composition and then they let you pour and taste at your own pace. The tasting with the meal is a reasonable price and no reservations needed, they are open every day of the year all day long!
Tenuta del Buonamico
Another wine stop which offers a wide range of wines combined with food is the Tenuta del Buonamico, founded in 1964, and it is considered one of the Montecarlo’s leading companies for its wine production, with a style that respects the territory and its tradition. A quick stop to visit won't require a reservation, but if you really want to enjoy the wine and flavors book ahead.
Fattoria del Teso
Tastings take place in their fabulous cantina, among the huge "botte". You do need to call and reserve but the service and the atmosphere make it all worth the effort. A short guide is offered of their wine cellar, vineyards and production area. Then your guide will walk you through their production, accompanied by a delicious selection of local products. Whites, reds and olive oils will dazzle you with their flavor.