After our trip to France, we took a flight from Paris to Milan. But nature had her own plan. The wind was so strong that the small aircraft we were on board could not land in Milan, so instead, we landed in Pisa. We were okay with this because it meant that we got to see the leaning tower as well. We took some photos, got our rental car, and went on our happy way to visit the Italian winemakers that work with Vegan Wines.
Here are the stops we made during our wine travels through Italy…
Luca di Tomaso – Umbria
First, we paid a visit to Luca di Tomaso. Luca is the youngest winemaker in Umbria and his new ways of winemaking are the talk of the town! He originally hails from the big city of Milan but decided to move to the countryside and start producing wine his way. Luca is now creating elegant, natural, organic wines with no pesticides at his small winery using his love, patience, and dedication to the craft.
You can learn a little more about Luca and his wines in this interview with Italian blogger, Alessandro of TanninTime. His wines involve minimal intervention and, as you’ll hear, he draws his greatest inspiration from living close to nature.
Vegan Wines carries his 2016 Luca Di Tomaso Montefalco Rosso and 2016 Luca Di Tomaso Rossoconvinto, both red blends of grapes, including the native Umbria grape Sagrantino. (We sell them at a great price and they’re perfect for the holidays!)
Luca also produces vegan olive oil. As I learned from our wine director, many olive oils aren’t vegan because the olive harvest often destroys natural wildlife. So during our visit to Umbria, we arranged to import small batches of Luca’s olive oil to introduce to the US! There are so many great things happening with this young farmer – Luca is doing his part when it comes to nature to create a better future and produce excellent wines that we are proud to share with you. Salut!
Eraldo Dentici – Umbria
“My wines are rock and roll,” Eraldo says.
I love the way he describes his wines. (And yes, they sure are!) Eraldo’s wines are made naturally and you can taste his spirit in them. I feel as if nature gives him high-temperature days to create grapes that are bold because she knows he will balance all his wines perfectly!
Eraldo’s winemaking – from the day he handpicks the grapes to the day he feels his wines are ready to be bottled – is all about working side by side with nature to produce great wines. His wines are truly a natural work of art made with almost zero intervention. He avoids using any extraneous products – only a tiny amount of sulfites in his winemaking. They don’t wear gloves, add yeast, or impose any temperature control during the process.
You can learn a bit more about Eraldo and his winemaking techniques in this interview with Alessandro. Pay close attention to how he explains the process of making his natural, vegan wines: “Wine is a pleasure, and for that reason, it has to be good and healthy.” We can definitely get on board with that statement!
Eric and I were very fortunate to meet Eraldo’s wife and two beautiful children during our visit as well. His wife made us the best porcini pasta dish I’ve ever tasted! We were overnight guests at their cellar and cantina, so we also had breakfast there, which included an amazing fresh jam.
We’re so thankful to Eraldo and his family for welcoming us, not just as their wine exporters from the US, but also as friends. It means so much to us to work together with winemakers and owners who value the importance of building a strong business relationship because, in the wine industry, one must also be friends!
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La Veneranda – Umbria
We had such a wonderful visit with the family at this cantina and winery. The owner, Roberto, dreams of leaving everything that he has built here to his two young sons in the future. His 16-hectare vineyard is all harvested by hand to generate only the highest quality wines. Although manual processes often make things more difficult, he says, they believe in ethics over economics. There’s a reason his family has lived here and cultivated the land for almost 500 years!
Vegan Wines already offers La Veneranda’s Grechetto. People love this particular wine from Montefalco (so much so that it’s currently sold out!). And we are excited to share that we hope to add another of their wines soon!
You can learn more about La Veneranda, the family business, their favorite wines, and the science and ethics behind their winemaking in this interview with Alessandro:
Castello Vicchiomaggio – Tuscany
We first met John Marta of Vicchiomaggio and his daughter, Victoria, last year during a trip to Tuscany in search of Italian wines. This year, we had the honor of meeting John’s wife Paola and his son, Sebastian. Together we had a wonderful vegan dinner paired with their Vicciomaggio Vegan wine. Their chef created some extraordinary dishes for us – they were truly a work of art!
This family produces wines with passion, and that love shines through when they share their wine stories. I particularly enjoyed listening to John and Sebastian discuss their new, naturally vegan wines that are just now aging to perfection.
We were also overnight guests at their castle, which is a magical experience in itself. It truly felt like a “happily ever after” scene from a fairytale, especially in the morning overlooking their vineyard from our bedroom suite.
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Questa mattina abbiamo avuto l’opportunità di sorvolare il Castello in elicottero!! Ecco il risultato!!❤️ . . This morning we had the opportunity to fly above our Castle with the helicopter!! This picture is the result!!❤️ #castellovicchiomaggio #vicchiomaggio #greveinchianti
Vegan Wines features their 2014 Castello Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico Reserva, which is available exclusively in our online wine shop and wholesale in New York, New Jersey, and California. (It’s also sold out, we’re working on restocking now!)
When I first began my Vegan Wines journey, most winery owners would look at me strangely – nobody was asking them questions like, “Are your wines vegan?” But the owners at Castello Vicchiomaggio were different. They saw the changes happening in the world and produced a beautiful vegan wine from Tuscany. Their wine is not just vegan-friendly, it is vegan from the soil to the CORK. (Yes, corks are sometimes made with bee products, but that’s a topic for another post!)
They use no manure or any harsh chemicals in their soil, but rather covered crop farming methods, which results in vineyards filled with all the beautiful colors of nature during autumn. The final product is beautiful wine with nothing added but patience and love. We are honored to feature Vicchiomaggio at Vegan Wines to introduce you to this family of great farmers and winemakers!
Vicchiomaggio is now producing natural vegan wines using amphorae for the fermentation and aging processes. Expect more on those wines from us in the future!
Terre del Gufo – Calabria
We visited Terre del Gufo on a beautiful day, meeting up with Eugenio and his wife to taste their wonderful wines. We even got to try wines that were still fermenting and hear about Eugenio’s plans to return to Italy’s traditional aging method of using bigger barrels to age his wines.
I’m not sure how many people are aware that the small-barrel aging process used in Italy actually comes from the US. In past years, the oak barrel taste in wine was in high demand, but it’s great to see that more and more winemakers like Eugenio are now going back to aging wines in the traditional, larger barrels. This way, the wine holds the grapes’ natural flavors rather than masking it with strong oak flavors.
Terre del Gufo is listed in the official wine guide of AIS, the Associazione Italiana Sommelier (or Italian Sommelier Association). The beauty of the vineyard high in the mountains overlooking the town of Cosenza was a life experience to remember!⠀
The labels on Terre del Gufo’s wines contain the image of an owl. That’s because Eugenio’s dad was nicknamed “Owl” because he had big eyes and wore eyeglasses that made him look a bit like an owl. The label is an ode to him!
Italian blogger Alessandro of Tannin Time also joined us on this visit, and we are so grateful because he is bilingual and helped us lift the language barrier with his Italian and English translations. The visit felt like long-time friends sharing delicious wines paired with great talks and laughs!
Azienda Agricola Serracavallo – Calabria
Finally, we visited the owners of Azienda Agricola Serracavallo. They graciously invited us to join their dinner reservation with friends for appetizers, and it was lovely to meet all of them. Alessandro also joined us for this visit! Later that evening, we ventured off to a restaurant that became my favorite in Cosenza. (You can find it in the restaurant recommendations below!)
On a referral from Alessandro, we also visited a small cantina, CerzaSerra, owned by two brothers. We are hoping to import some of their wines in 2020 as well!
Vegan-Friendly Restaurants We Visited in Italy:
L’Antica Locanda dal Povero Enzo in Cosenza was my absolute favorite restaurant. Their vegan option was so delicious! They also carry Serracavallo wines, which we ordered and enjoyed with our food!
Zenzero, a vegan and vegetarian restaurant in Taranto.
Un Gelsomino in Salerno was a fantastic 100% vegan restaurant.
We also loved the restaurant at Vicchiomaggio in the castle.