Home TravelsItaly SEASHELLS 50 KM FROM THE SEA AND WINES LIKE NO OTHERS – USIGLIAN DEL VESCOVO WINERY, TUSCANY

SEASHELLS 50 KM FROM THE SEA AND WINES LIKE NO OTHERS – USIGLIAN DEL VESCOVO WINERY, TUSCANY

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Finding a good wine cellar in Tuscany is not difficult, the hard part is finding and selecting the most exciting places with a curious history and a slightly crazy character, from which you will leave not only with wonderful wine and impressions, but also with questions that you will ask yourself for years to come. It is always helpful to know people in the business, and it is always good to be personally taken somewhere by a local Tuscan oenologist. And so, on a rainy September morning, we meet Federico Ricci at the Usiglian del Vescovo winery, just outside the town of San Miniato, known as the truffle capital of Tuscany.

This story is a part of our epic journey through the wineries and food of Tuscany, about which we have many stories written. If you are a winelover, read the article “Tuscany of wine and the wine of Tuscany”. Everything else about Tuscany can be found here: Tuscany

We consulted with Federico Ricci for much of our wine travel in Tuscany. And it couldn’t be otherwise – he is one of the famous agronomists and oenologists not only in Bulgaria, but especially in his native Tuscany. His passion for the soils and the vines is contagious and it is always an endless pleasure and adventure to leave yourself in his hands to take you around a winery. And despite his busy schedule, we managed to meet us at Usiglian del Vescovo, where he is also a consultant.

We, Federico Ricci (next to Mimi) and Francesco, the owner of Usiglian del Vescovo
We, Federico Ricci (next to Mimi) and Francesco, the owner of Usiglian del Vescovo

Usiglian del Vescovo – off the beaten track

Usiglian del Vescovo is an amazing winery, with an amazing location, even more amazing soils and, you guessed it, absolutely amazing wines that defy all expectations. The winery is located on a hill near the village of San Miniato. There was an agricultural settlement on the territory of the winery as early as 1,000 years ago, and some of the buildings for workers from the last century are still there today.

Старите сгради в Usiglian del Vescovo, някога приютявали местни земеделски общности
The old buildings in Usiglian del Vescovo once housed local farming communities

The vines are about 250 m above sea level, planted on soils strewn with sand and ancient seashells. Yes, seashells, not fossils. As strange as it sounds.

The organic vineyards of Usiglian del Vescovo
The organic vineyards of Usiglian del Vescovo
The layers of seashells in the soil at Usiglian del Vescovo
The layers of seashells in the soil at Usiglian del Vescovo

Federico took us into the tunnels beneath the winery, carved into the soft rock, where the wines age. And told us the incredible history of the place. 6 million years ago, the Mediterranean Sea became closed off from the ocean and began to dry up and form salt basins similar to today’s Dead Sea. After several hundred thousand years, however, the connection was restored and the Atlantic opened the Strait of Gibraltar again. In this unique phenomenon, the ocean invaded with such force and raised a huge wave, which pushed towards the present territory of the winery a dense layer of sand, fossils and shells, which we see today in the soil. That is why they are there today.

In the narrow tunnels dug into the ground
In the narrow tunnels dug into the ground
Priceless treasures mature in the tunnels
Priceless treasures mature in the tunnels

Wines that leave you with more questions than answers

Sangiovese, Chardonnay, Viognier, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc. are planted on these “sea” vineyards. And what is our amazement when we taste them!?!

We taste the young wine that is still fermenting in the concrete vessels. In Tuscany, concrete is extremely popular for making wine
We taste the young wine that is still fermenting in the concrete vessels. In Tuscany, concrete is extremely popular for making wine

Each of Usiglian del Vescovo’s wines shines with its own madness. The first we try is Ginestraio – a blend of Viognier and Chardonnay that fermented together. It is named after the cornflower herb that grows in the vineyards of the winery. The owner Francesco tells us that he imagines it as a morning with spring dew. And it really smells like spring flowers, linden and freshness. The surprise comes in the taste – very mineral and slightly salty.

Exciting wine! The Pink Panther rosé is no less wild. 100% Sangiovese, fermented in oak, aged in clay amphorae. And his idea is to recreate (and it was successful) breakfast on the rocks above the sea. Something sweet, something aromatic, and something very mineral and marine. Il Grullaio in Tuscan dialect means the doctor who cures the mad and the stupid. And it’s true that wine alone can drive you crazy. With a fruity and slightly sweet nose, but with a dense, mineral body, with a taste of mint and eucalyptus. 100% merlot that really makes you think.

The wacky wines of Usiglian del Vescovo, the taste of which we still remember today
The wacky wines of Usiglian del Vescovo, the taste of which we still remember today

And since we couldn’t stay all day in the winery, we took a few more bottles to take home, to taste in peace. Undoubtedly one of the most memorable Tuscan wineries, going beyond all expectations.

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