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Italian Wine Tasting Tour

A road map and a watch, if used incorrectly, can be very dangerous. I found out the hard way in the Fall of 1992 as I planned a visit to over 50 wineries throughout Italy. Having specific directions, limiting your visits to two wineries per day, and stopping for lunch are all very important rules I urge you to follow. These planning tips will not only save you time but will keep you from pulling your hair out on what should be a joyous and relaxing occasion.

Perhaps the thing I tell more people when planning their wine tasting trip is to limit the number of wineries they visit to two per day. Usually itís best to plan one appointment before lunch and one about an hour after the lunch hour ends (usually a 3 oíclock appointment works well). In order to fully enjoy your winery visit youíll want to give the winery operator ample time to tell his story. Especially at small, family operated wineries, it is important to remember that this is not just a job but a life that represents generations of his familyís hard work. This is their time to showcase the fruits of their labor and time for you to relax and take it all in. Allow at least two hours for your visit to have time to taste the wines, walk through the vineyards, take some photos, and of course, buy a bottle or two of their best hooch. They will certainly appreciate the fact that youíre not constantly looking at your watch worried about making it to your next appointment and, who knows, they may even invite you to stay for lunch or dinner.

Take time out for a relaxing mid day meal. All of that lovely wine tasted on the stomach of a skimpy Italian breakfast can oftentimes leave the head spinning and the stomach growling. Make sure you leave time to stop for a leisurely lunch after your morning winery visit. Try and choose an unhurried trattoria, perhaps one that the local winery suggested, that is on the way to your next appointment. Not only will your stomach appreciate a plate of pasta absorbing some of the acid thatís bound to be churning around at that point but it also is a good time to re-hydrate, learn a bit about the local cuisine, and cool your heels for a moment. Thereís plenty more walking to do!

If thereís one thing I would tell you twice, it is to make sure you have specific driving directions to your appointments. Driving in Italy has its challenges to begin with, but driving in Italy and having no idea where you are, is a challenge I would not wish on my enemies. Italyís roads, especially in Italian wine country, are full of signs pointing in different directions but having the same destination printed on them. Use printed maps with caution and road signs at the peril of being late to every appointment you make. I suggest calling the winery and having them tell you the best route to arrive at their winery. Even though there are seemingly 4 different ways to get to every Italian winery, the winery staff will be accustomed to giving the least complicated directions to the tourists who they know are constantly getting lost. Get directions from the winery and read them twice; it will save you time.

The key to a safe wine tasting tour in Italy is to keep the planning simple. If thereís ever a time to bite off more than you can chew, itís in a trattoria not on the road.

Todd Alexander reviews Italian wine in his online newsletter at the ItalianWineReport.com.

Todd Alexander, a native of Atlanta, Georgia, is the founder of Todissimo and the Italian Wine Report.

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