Despite some initial embarrassment, I am glad my friend Allison has agreed to do this chat about Lucca wines and wineries.
I have thought her point of view could be interesting, since she is not a producer or a sommelier – she has developed a real love of wine.
Simple as that, we met several years ago because she started Lucca wine club: monthly meetings over some glasses of wine and homemade food and I really enjoyed her unpretentious approach.
Anyway, just let me introduce her first with some background information and then the real interview will be following.
Allison was born in the US, for the last 20 years she has lived in London, and more recently added Lucca to where she spends her time when I bought her place here 10 years ago.
Happy with this choice? Yes!
She has got access to wines from all over the world when she’s in London, but here in Lucca she has a chance to really dive deep into a single area, develop relationships with the producers and get to know wines from one vintage to the next.
Then it gets even better because her work focuses on the environment so for ethical reasons Allison is drawn to natural, organic and biodynamic wines – and is lucky enough to live in a place where that philosophy is so prevalent.
There is a downside, however, she is sure all her friends here are tired of her banging on about how they should be drinking them too…
Anyway, here we go:
1)What tips do you have for someone going to a wine tasting around Lucca? What should they expect?
One of the great things about Lucca is that we’ve got Lucca Biodinamica a group of wine makers here who do use biodynamic processes and who make some of the best wine in the region.
But beyond that, it’s important to know that most of the producers are pretty small, so visiting these vineyards isn’t like hitting up Napa Valley which has become a conveyor belt of almost industrial wine houses.
Here, the wines really reflect not only the land but the winemaker – their personality and the style they prefer.
You can really see this in the different types and styles in the area.
Very few other places in Tuscany have such a wide variety of types of wine so close together.
Here white, rosatos and sparkling are given the same care and attention as the reds.
2) Typical situation: ordering wine at a restaurant in town. Do you have your favorite combination, for example, of a local dish and a local wine? What goes well with what? Even if it is a risky match!
That’s a tough one.
Instead of a specific match, I’d say this – find out whether your restaurant knows anything about wine and if they do, ask them to recommend something to you.
Good place (and that doesn’t only mean expensive) will be keen to show off interesting wine and serve you something you would have otherwise overlooked.
The other advantage of eating out here in Italy is that good wine isn’t expensive as it is in places like the US and the UK.
Even when I’m eating out alone, I’d rather buy a bottle and try something new, then just go with the house wine.
You can always take home what you don’t drink, and often your bottle will cost the same as two glasses of wine in London.
3) Aperitivo time is quite a moment even in Lucca, is there any local wine you would recommend?
I have to admit I generally go with a cocktail along the lines of a spritz or a negroni sbagliato during aperitivo time – or some prosecco, though I have to admit most of the prosecco you’ll get will be pretty average, it’s more for a bit of sparkle than a serious wine.
That being said, if you are looking for an opportunity to have a bit more of a serious glass or two of wine for an aperitivo, I’d suggest Bar Osteria Lo Stellario as they have a changing list of about 10 wines each day you can have by the glass.
It’s a good opportunity to try some good wines by the glass, whether you prefer red or white.
4) Which events dedicated to wine would you suggest to people visiting Lucca or Tuscany?
As Italy is one of the biggest wine producers in the world, and Tuscany is one of the most famous wine producing areas in Italy, we’re not lacking in wine events.
I think though, one of the advantages of where we live is the fact that we have access to a number of wine events that are focused on natural or biodynamic wines.
It’s a great way to support small producers and producers that support environmentally friendly practices.
Vinoi and Vini Migranti are two that I put in my calendar every year.
And of course there’s Anteprima Vini della Costa Toscana which takes place in Lucca in late April/early May.
Whilst it showcases wines from all over the Tuscan Coast and not just natural wines, many of the producers there are organic or biodynamic.
It’s also a great opportunity to try some amazing whites, roses and increasingly sparkling wines that most people don’t know about since Tuscany is known for its red wines.
5) Exactly, the wine competitors like Chianti, Bolgheri, Brunello di Montalcino dominate the scenes on the tables. However, do you think there is a Lucca wine or more which deserves more attention or to be better known by the people?
There are a lot that deserve to be known better – although I will say I’m more and more often seeing Lucca wines on menus around the world (and geek that I am, often take photos and send them back to the producers so they can see where people are drinking them and the mark up!)
But some of my favourites:
Fabbrica San Martino, their reds are well known but their rose is a brilliant savoury wine that I often get in the summer even when I’m having a steak and their white wine is almost an orange wine that I’m very fond of.
Villa Sardi make some excellent roses, and sparkling wines which is are quite unusual for the area. They’re closer to a French style but still have a bit of that local feel and depth of flavour that you get in Italian wine.
Il Calamaio has a great really versatile red that I always keep at home, and their white again has that depth of flavour that the best orange wines have.
…and of course there’s Tenuta di Valgiano which produces some very impressive wines for special occasions.
I’d have to mention as well though that there’s also been a real growth in vermouths in the region which I’ve lately become obsessed with and it’s worth trying Lenzini’s Vermoon and Mr Liquor’s Vermut Fresco.