12 MONTHS OF BRUNELLO: SEPTEMBER IN MONTALCINO - HARVEST TIME (PART ONE)

Red wine flowing from the barrel after the racking


For a wine loving traveler there is no better month to visit Tuscany than September. Vendemmiathe wine harvest is around the corner and the vineyards look at their best with bunches of grapes showing off their beautiful dark red and blu colors - known as Brunello in the case of Montalcino's famous Sangiovese varietal. 

From early September you'll be able to see the first pickers in action, whilst they harvest Montalcino's rare patches of white wine grapes and French varietals like Merlot and Cabernet Franc. True to its importance, the Sangiovese Grosso grape is the last to be ready. The harvest of the Brunello grape will start during the last days of September in the lower lying vineyards with southern exposition and during the first half of October in Montalcino's higher vineyards and North facing areas.  

TWO FOR ONE - ITALIAN FOLK MUSIC & TUSCAN FOOD: SEPTEMBER 13 and 16, 2014



When summer comes to an end one fears the worst in Montalcino. From music festivals and al fresco dining the population moves right into the wine harvest and nights out become suddenly a no go (anybody who has ever spent a day picking grapes will know why).

Thanks god we are not quite there though. A few white wine grapes may already be off the vine, but since Montalcino is Sangiovese co
untry we still have a couple of weeks before things go berserk and a last couple of events before Brunello town's social life falls temporarily asleep. So better make sure you'll be there!

Hotel Rif, the Italian band around singer songwriter Sabrina Turri will take you on a trip through Italian and Mediterranean folk music in one of the most beautiful venues Montalcino has to offer. Restaurant la Pieve is located on the Tuscan town's south-western slopes, so make sure you leave Montalcino a bit early to take in the fabulous sunset on the road that leads via Tavernelle to La Pieve (if you want to do an extra hour of exploring visit lovely Camigliano beforehand). Then take a seat and enjoy dinner at restaurant la Pieve accompanied by the fabulous sound of Hotel Rif.  

Singer Sabrina Turri with Hotel Rif
Sabrina Turri during a concert of Hotel Rif







HOTEL RIF AT LA PIEVE DI MONTALCINO
Saturday 13th and Tuesday 16th of September 2014

Be sure to make a reservation. Price for concert and dinner 35€. Booking: info@lapievedimontalcino.it; +39 0577 81 66 04. 

La Pieve has beautiful rooms too, if you want to stay overnight. In case they are all booked try one of my favorite holiday rentals in the area: Art and Garden in Monte Antico (20 minutes from La Pieve).

Last but not least, check out Hotel Rif's website and their new record Piedirante to get ready for a last great night out in Montalcino this summer. 


12 MONTHS OF BRUNELLO: JULY IN MONTALCINO AND SUNSET AT ARGIANO

July brings sultry mornings and sizzling hot afternoons to most of Italy. Locals who aren't lucky enough to be sunbathing at the sea will try to spend as much time as possible indoors until temperatures get more bearable in the evening. But there is always an exception to the rule: in July 2014 tourists didn't buy Tuscan straw hats for shade but Chinese umbrellas to shield off the rain. That July central Italy received 16 days of rain en lieu of the three days usually expected during the second month of summer. 

Things were even worse in the north and south of the country and winemakers in Tuscany had an awfully busy time with hail and humidity putting their precious crop at risk (for more info on the mad climate's effect on the vines read the Palazzone winery's account of July 2014). Thankfully Italy's Scottish July is a thing of the past now and in future years the month is hopefully back to what it's supposed to be: the driest and hottest in Tuscany.




Always a great sight - winery visit at castello di Argiano (Sesti wine)


Always plenty of fun: wine tasting with Elisa Sesti


Cypress view towards Villa di Argiano from Castello di Argiano


Pine tree playground at Castello di Argiano


Empty glass? a rare sight at Castello di Argiano


July in Tuscany: Lavender time


The church at Castello di Argiano after another day of unusual summer rain


Castello di Argiano: view toward Castello Poggio alle Mura, aka Castello Banfi from Montalcino's Sesti winery

GOOD TO KNOW

Winery visits are a great escape from the heat since you'll spend a lot of time in temperature controlled wine cellars. However if you want to walk the Brunello vineyards too, make sure you book your tasting in the early morning or late afternoon when outdoor temperatures are less cruel. 

Montalcino's town center and Sant'Angelo in Colle will be pleasant locations for a stroll after dinner since it's relatively high elevation guarantees for a refreshing wind even in the midst of summer. 

July is a great month to visit Brunello town for music lovers: 

  • Montalcino Jazz & Wine takes place every year in the middle of July. The fabulous jazz festival is located in the courtyard of Montalcino's medieval fortress. Bring a jacket since it can get cool even after a long hot day. Or warm up with a couple of glasses of Banfi wine (initiator and main sponsor of the festival). 
  • Members of the Concertgebouw Orchestra from Amsterdam used to host Musica Reale, a chamber music festival in the first week of July. Since summer 2014 the event is on hold due to major restoration works at Montalcino's lovely theater. Check the Musica Reale website for future updates on the festival. 
  • Last but not least Camigliano - one of the most beautiful hamlets belonging to the municipality of Montalcino - is home to yet another music festival: Camigliano Blues, hold every year on the last weekend of July or first weekend of August. 


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