September is a charmed month in the Maremma. We have had a rubbish summer, so the warm weather, if local folklore is to be believed, should hold out until October.
We’ve all got our fingers crossed because there is so much to see and do as the grapes ripen in the province. It’s time for the vendemmia. The word translates to wine harvest, but it’s a feeble translation.
The vendemmia is as much as a cultural phenomenon as it is an annual agricultural occurrence. Your average Maremmano has nothing to do with harvesting the grapes that cover the rolling hills of the province. That’s left, as sad as it is, to the machines and the foreigners.
I’ve written posts about everything you need to know about the local reds and whites. About the Maremma’s incredible vineyards and the biodynamic labels that are maintaining the traditions of their ancestors and respect that land that gives us so much.
But this is your definitive guide to September in Southern Tuscany
What you need to know about new wines
New wines are the wines of the new harvest. You won’t taste them at any of the festivals in the Maremma. Depending on the weather, most vineyards will only be gathering the grapes in September. Most will put it off until later in the month this year because the weather has been so wretched and the grapes aren’t juicy ripe yet.
The Morellino di Scansanos and Bianco di Pitiglianos served at the festivals and sagras will the last of the year’s reserve. The reds especially are always aged for a year at least, so you’ll be tasting the harvest of 2012 and 2013.
If you stick around a month or so, you might be lucky enough to try a few new reds or whites. These are fresh off the grape press. They haven’t had the chance to be aged and they won’t be bottled. But they’re sweet and delicate. They won’t have a high alcohol content and will remind you of grape juice, but I love them.
The super wine festivals
Visit any Maremman town and you’ll stumble across a festival or two this September, but the best are local institutions that have at least 30 years of celebrations under their belts.
The undisputed king is Scansano’s Festa dell’Uva. This is its 46th edition and it’s spread across two weekends. On the 20th and 21st, you can taste the year’s best Morellino di Scansano DOCG wines with sommeliers on hand to explain the finer details.
The annual wine awards will be held for the local winemakers and there will be plenty of good honest grub to wash it down with. For a more family friendly event, head to Scansano on the 27th and 28th, when the wine tasting is diluted with kids’ activities and live music.
A honourable mention goes to Cinigiano’s Festa dell’Uva, which is on October 3-6 simply because they have the fantastic float parade that I can’t get enough of. Giglio Island’s Festa delle cantine aperte on September 27-28 is also a good one to check out.
Vineyard tours and tastings
There is no better time to check out the Maremma’s vineyards to buy direct from the wine makers or just try their wares. The Maremma has three Strade del Vino with information about the province’s best vineyards. You can get maps online or from any tourist office.
My personal favourites are Fattoria La Maliosa in Saturnia, Montauto wines in Manciano and Antinori in Castiglione della Pescaia.
The first is the province’s only biodynamic vineyard and one of the few players to be making some seriously good organic wines. The second is the biggest vineyard in the province with a seriously impressive range of whites and reds. And the last is part of the monolithic Antinori wine empire and a seriously beautiful vineyard.
This year’s Festambiente also awarded some of the year’s best local and organic/eco-friendly vineyards, so check out their website for a guide.