Greve in Chianti - Confessions of a wine tourist

by Caesar Glebbeek

Greve in Chianti, Tuscany, 12 October 2001, hot (25+ degrees). Despite being a popular tourist destination (all year around; easily reached by SITA bus from Firenze, approximately 60 minutes), Greve has managed to retain much of its charm from the past.

The town is one of the 33 so called "slow cities" in Italy, thus you will find no fast food joints there, no billboards, no neon lights, etc. The central piazza (triangle-shaped) Matteotti is a lovely place to hang out, wander under the terraced porticos, and pay a visit to the famous Falorni butcher (everything they sell has been made from wild boar). Next door to is a small, but well-stocked, Enoteca where you can buy and taste Chianti's (usually four different ones; in the lower to mid-price range).

Another good Enoteca in town is Del Gallo Nero (no tastings there, though) situated at the far end of the main piazza. But by far the best place to go for grapes in Greve is Le Cantine (established in 1893). They boldly advertise with the slogan "the biggest wine store in the Chianti Classico region" and yep, it's true! What's more, you can also taste wines there until you drop: they offer a staggering 140 different vinos! Apart from many Chianti's to try they also have a reasonable selection of other wines from the rest of Italy. You pay your money for the tasting at the counter, they hand over a plastic card with your grape-credit, you stick the card into the vino-machines, select what you want to taste, and presto, off you go. As it obviously would be rather foolish (ha!) to sample 140 wines in one session, I decided to stick with tasting just a few Chianti Classico's: 'Villa Vignamaggio/Castello di Mona Lisa Riserva" 1998 and "Castello di Brolio" 1997 - both wonderful. After that I still had some money left on my wine-card, so I decided to splash out and try the most expensive one on offer in the Chianti Classico range: "Castello di Fonterutoli Riserva" 1998. As soon as I stuck my nose into the glass I knew this was going to be very, very special. The taste was (to borrow a phrase from Michael Winner) absolutely historic! Intense, super aromatic, and with a very long finish. No surprise then that Chianti picks up a "Three Glass" award year after year. (The wine is not cheap, of course: around Lire 60,000 per bottle.)

Done with tastings, I was getting hungry! Since it was a lovely warm and sunny day, I wanted to enjoy lunch outside, and decided to try Bottega Del Moro in town, known for their excellent food. Much to my horror they had plastic chairs on the outside-terrace - "the food better be very good and make up for the sticky, fast-food seat" I thought; and it did! One of the treats of drinking wine in Italian restaurants (unlike in Ireland and England, for example) is that the "mark up" is very low: so the bottle of "Villa Vignamaggio/Castello di Mona Lisa Riserva" 1998 I ordered at Del Moro set me back Lire 40,000, just 2,000 more as it would have costed in the Enoteca's in town. I can't remember what I had as a starter but after I finished it, two locals eating two tables away from me told me I had ordered the "wrong" starter: I should have ordered the goat cheese (which they had, of course). Oh well, too late now - next time... After my lunch I went inside to settle my bill and had a chat with the charming owner of the restaurant. Me: "Nice establishment, great food and wine, shame about the plastic seat!" She: "You can have a proper seat inside, but people were stealing these when we had them also outside, hence we now have plastic ones there." Souvenir hunters?

  • Le Cantine, Piazza delle Cantine 2 (daily; 10:00 to 13:00 and 15:30 to 19:30).
  • Food tips: Bottega Del Moro Ristorante, Piazza Trieste 14/R (closed wednesday); Trattoria Giovanni da Verrazzano, Piazza Matteotti 28 (closed sunday).
  • Walking tip/short: from Greve (231 meter) to Panzano (478 meter), mostly via the old Chiantigiana road.
  • Walking tip/long: from Greve to Mount San Michele (the highest hill in the Chianti region - 880 meter, so better be fit!) and back, this takes at least 5 to 6 hours.
  • Other places of interest to visit: Montefioralle (20-minute uphill walk from Greve) and beautiful Panzano.