As the vines sprout fresh, bright green leaves, spring is the perfect time to meander through Italy’s wine regions.
With wine tourism on the rise, oenophiles can stay in villas, castles and old hamlets surrounded by valleys of vines.
Here are three of the most luxurious vacation properties where there’s always wine.
Borgo San Felice for Chianti connoisseurs
In the Tuscan lands of Chianti, wine and tourism have merged seamlessly.
The famous grape-growing hills are dotted with flowery villages, monumental castles and landscaped estates that have turned wine production into a luxury tourist experience.
Driving or cycling the cypress-lined roads of the Chianti region, you’ll be tempted to turn off the countless signs advertising wine tours, tastings and accommodation.
To immerse yourself in the history of the name, take the winding path to Broglie Castle. Beneath the austere walls are parts of the vineyard from which Baron Bettino Ricasoli created the prototype of Chianti Classico.
The Baron broke with the winemaking tradition of the past and in the 19th century came up with a mixture of Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Malvasia that would be the forerunner of Chianti Classico.
You can still taste Brolio Bettino Chianti Classico, which tries to imitate the original blend as closely as possible, in the modern cellars just down the slope.
For one night (though you’ll want to stay longer), travel back in time Borgo San Felicean ancient hamlet restored as a 5-star vineyard accommodation.
You can sit on the benches in the village square, the noble manor house behind you and the small chapel across the lawn.
Rooms are set in the surrounding medieval stone buildings and are decorated with magnificent jewel-toned fabrics and Renaissance prints.
Borga’s crowning glory is the Michelin-starred restaurant Il Poggio Rosso, by Colombian chef Juan Quintero, where you can dine on outstanding fusions of Tuscan dishes with a Colombian twist.
The Borgo vineyards and cellars, called the San Felice Winery, actually predate the resort and are just across the square.
In 2015, Chianti Classico’s flagship Il Grigio Gran Selezione topped the Wine Enthusiast rankings with the 2011 vintage.
You can taste wine on the spot surrounded by wooden barrels, and then take a dreamy walk around the perimeter of the village through vineyards and vegetable gardens cultivated by elderly volunteers and a group of young people with disabilities.
Tenuta di Montecucco for Maremma wild wines
Along with famous Tuscan wines, there are lesser-known names worth seeking out.
The quest to taste Montecucco wines, some of which have DOCG status since 2011, takes you to the heart of the wild Maremma in Tuscany.
Follow the Montecucco Wine Route to visit the seven municipalities of the appellation: Arcidosso, Campagnatico, Castel del Piano, Cinigiano, Civitella Paganico, Roccalbegna and Seggiano.
Along the way, you’ll pass silvery olive groves, historic hilltop villages and vast nature reserves wrapped in streams.
An untamed natural paradise lies at the foot of Monte Amiata, an extinct volcano whose slopes provide a cool microclimate and a unique terroir for Montecucco wines.
Take breaks in a modest trattoria and try local pecorino cheese, truffles and wild boar sausages.
Spend the night at Montecucco estate, owned by the Collemassari winery. This restored hamlet is located on a high ridge overlooking the Ombrone valley.
The village from the 13th century has been restored without losing its rustic Tuscan character. Guests sleep under wood-beamed ceilings in rooms with terracotta floors.
The accommodation is spread between stone buildings that were once a castle, mill and stables, all surrounded by green lawns and slender cypress trees.
Restaurant I Granai, once a grain warehouse, serves traditional Maremma cuisine including fat small pasta with Chianina white meat sauce and lamb chops juicy with Tuscan lard.
As the sun sets, sip their Poggio Lombrone, a complex and full-bodied Montecucco Sangiovese Riserva DOCG. These robust reds are obtained with one of the lowest yields per hectare in Italy – barely 7,000 kilograms of grapes per hectare of vineyard.
The appellation is protected and promoted by Consorzio Tutela Vini Montecucco, a consortium representing 68 winegrowers and over 500 hectares of vineyards.
Castle of Semivicoli for adventures in Abruzzo
Tuscany has been luring tourists to its vine-covered hills for decades, but other regions of Italy are also quietly mastering wine tourism.
Abruzzo may not have the famous artistic cities of Italy’s hotspot regions, but its backbone is the formidable Apennine mountain range, while its eastern border is the coast of the Adriatic Sea.
The delicate balance between the mountain terrain and the sea breeze created a unique environment for the grapes to flourish.
Just a few decades ago, wines like Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Trebbiano and Pecorino were little respected. Although much of Abruzzo’s grapes still go through consortia and are sold cheaply, some producers have managed to gain international respect for their wines.
Winemaker Gianni Mascarelli was one of the pioneers of Abruzzo wine. The company he founded now has around 300 hectares of vines producing award-winning wines such as Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC Riserva and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC Riserva.
The Mascarelli company also ventured into wine tourism Semivicoli Castlea baronial villa with a view of the snowy Maiella massif in one direction and the misty Adriatic in the other.
In spring, the gardens are in full bloom and sunlight streams into the elegant interiors with frescoed ceilings and stylish furniture.
But you might actually be hoping for some cooler evenings to get the fire going in the ocher-walled kitchen where you can order dinners from local restaurants.
Forbes – Lifestyle