Wine! Food!! Shopping!!! - plus fascinating history on this delectable day trip!
Enjoy this relaxing unstructured day around the largest crater lake in Italy and Europe and 3 attractive towns that have existed since antiquity, including the romantic Montefiascone. This tour can be enjoyed at any time of the year but especially Autumn when it's a little quieter and the surrounding centuries-old woodland foliage bursts into colours of copper and bronze and the comforting aroma of wood smoke fills the crisp Autumn air.
We travel up the charmingly picturesque ancient Roman Cassia Way - passing several typical Italian small towns. Our first delicious stop is for hand baked cream-filled, butter croissants, and a little further on we have a refreshment stop plus cappuccino.
We arrive in Bolsena where we will explore the town and lakefront. Bolsena, known in pre-Roman times as Volsinii was inhabited by Etruscans and then Romans and if we're lucky we might find the complex of ruins belonging to this era open to the public. In the old town you will taste the best gelato, more delicious pastries and take-away pizza, plus chance to purchase an extremely illusive (and exclusive) extra virgin olive oil, which is only sold in two wine shops in Italy (one of which we will visit today) and two places in New York. You will be able to explore artisan workshops such as pottery shops (selling reproduction Bucchero ware - a typical Etruscan shiny black pottery obtained by an unusual baking method), and other workshops such as one that makes various gorgeous items from olive tree wood.
For lunch (à la carte) you have the choice of restaurant with beautiful lake views or an intimate taverna in the heart of Montefiascone also serving very delicious cuisine. Both places use produce cultivated and farmed locally.
In the afternoon you will be able to explore Montefiascone for a spot of shopping, admire the wonderful views of the old town and lake below and discover the local wine and food. There will be chance for one or two tasting of cheeses aged in straw, ash, red wine, Buffalo mozzarella and ricotta made from sheep's milk, plus other kinds of artisan cheeses. To conclude your day you will have a wine tasting of several local versions of the famous Est! Est!! Est!!! as well as other red, white and rosé wines in a tasting room hewn into the rock.
Throughout the day you will be able to listen to tales from local history and explanations such as why the wine has such a strange name. The main theme here is medieval, which you get a real feel for from the architecture even though the deep roots are centuries older. And keeping with the relaxed theme we may have chance for an impromptu visit to the notable Falesco wine outlet to purchase a bottle or two.
Time/weather permitting you may be able to stroll down by the lake shore at a neighbouring village and sample/purchase the locally roasted coffee.
During the summer months (May - September) it is possible to enjoy a leisure boat ride (cost not included). If you are interested in this please get in touch via the contact form.
Some of the grape varieties on this tour
Whites - Bellone, Grechetto, Roscetto, Trebbiano, Chardonnay, Pinto Grigio
Reds - Syrah (Shiraz), Sangiovese, Cannaiolo Nero, Merlot
LAKE BOLSENA AREA
The Lazio variety is known as 'Aleatico di Gradoli' - Gradoli is a nearby village overlooking lake Bolsena of north Lazio. It is generally believed that the grapes were introduced by the Etruscans. They are traditionally used for red wines. Tasting notes: aromatic, floral, hints of roses and violets, black cherries, velvety, smooth.
This wonderful grape has many synonyms (in Lazio it can also be known as Arciprete or Cacchione. It was cited by Pliny the Elder: proof that Bellone has been present in Lazio since ancient times?). Tasting notes: fragrant, rounded, smooth, peach, apricot, sometimes banana, honey, bitter orange, hazelnut.
Originating in France, introduced into Italy in the 1800's (parent of Cabernet Sauvignon, used as a blending grape in the famous Bordeaux blend), Cabernet Franc does extremely well in Lazio as a single varietal. Tasting notes: peppery, dark aromatic spices, red fruits, licorice, sometimes tobacco and violets.
Of uncertain origins, with recent studies suggesting a spontaneous cross-breeding between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc during the 18th century, although Pliny cited a vitis caburnica, which could be a reference to the same grape. Tasting notes: dark fruits, chocolate, earthy, velvety tannins.
One of Lazio's 3 DOCG wines produced by this antique autochthonous varietal. The Piglio valley has been used for growing grapes since Etruscan times. Earliest records date to the Roman era (133 BC). Tasting notes: intense cherry and forest fruits, black pepper, floral (violet), mineral, tobacco and juniper.
Opinion differs re the origins. Some say a native of Burgundy (after Roman soldiers planted Gouais Blanc there which crossed with Pinto Blanc); others say it came from the Middle East, brought to Italy by returning crusaders. Tasting notes: fresh, crisp, smooth, acacia, peach, exotic fruits, apple, vanilla, honey.
A central Italian grape variety (Greci genus) and probable Greek origin brought to Italy by Greek colonists into Magna Grecia (southern Italy). It is often used in blends but also as a successful single varietal. Tasting notes: exotic fruits, white flowers, aromatic, buttery, hazelnut, vanilla, subtle woody flavours.
It is said that since ancient times two varieties of the Greco Bianco (Greci genus) were cultivated in a small territory of south-east Lazio, but over time had almost become extinct. Today these varieties are revived and thriving in the same area. Tasting notes: peach, pear, almond, vegetal, mineral, tropical fruit.
There are 3 varieties in Lazio, predominantly in the Frascati/Castelli Romani volcanic complex, but also elsewhere in the region. Used in blends (single varietal in passito). An antique Peloponnese vine thought to have arrived in Venice via Crete. Tasting notes: apricot, floral (acacia, lavender), citrus and dried fruits.
A well known Bordeaux grape from Gironde, the Merlot grape reached Italy late 1700's/1800's. Often produced in Lazio as a single varietal - finding ideal conditions in both terrain and climate - as well as in blends. Tasting notes: summer berries, vanilla, warm woody spices, dark fruits, velvety, sometimes herbaceous.
This well documented autochthonous grape most likely originated in Tuscany and represents one of the best of central Italy reds (not to be confused with the Sangiovese grape of the famous wine Nobile di Montepulciano). Tasting notes: black cherry, blackberry, licorice, spices (nutmeg).
The Nero Buono grape has obscure origins but is believed to have been cultivated around the Cori territory for two millennia. The micro-climate and geology of surrounding volcanic hills are ideal for this rediscovered and revived grape. Tasting notes: complex spiced, full-bodied, dark berries, cocoa.
Origins of the Passerina are uncertain - a rare autochthonous grape producing a well regarded wine of the Ciociaria. Named after a small bird (Passera - of the Sparrow family), which likes to eat the grapes. Tasting notes: golden apple, citrus fruits, fresh floral aromas with a good balance of sweet and savoury.
Originally from the Mèdoc are of Gironde and used traditionally in blends with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, it holds its own in Lazio as a single varietal, adapting perfectly to the micro-climates of this region. Tasting notes: red berries, myrtle, juniper, full-bodied with velvety tannins, incense and a peppery finish.
Taking its name from the blood of Jupiter (sanguis Jovis) this central Italy grape gives us the famous Brunello di Montalcino and the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Well known by the 16th century but probably dating to Roman times (reference to the god Jupiter). Tasting notes: red fruits, earthy, strawberry, spices.
There are two schools of thought re the origins: that the grape came from Shiraz, Ancient Persia, or from Syracuse, Italy (imported from Egypt by Emperor Marcus Aurelius Probus). Used in blends for Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Tasting notes: cherry, blueberry, warm spices, vanilla, black pepper, cinnamon.
Lazio has two predominant varieties: Toscano (also known as/related to Procanico) and Giallo (known as/related to Roscetto). Pliny the Elder named the latter "Vinum Trebulanum" (Romans were already calling the vine Trebula - meaning 'farm'). Tasting notes: aromatic, woody, almond, melon, apricot.
Origins are unknown but presumed to be an ancient grape. One legend states that Emperor Marcus Aurelia Probus brought vines to the Rhone Valley probably from his home-land, Dalmatia/Sirmium (an ancient Roman province). Tasting notes: fresh floral and mineral aromas, creamy ripe peach, sensuous.