As we arrived in Gaiole the week before L’Eroica, it gave us a chance to get some riding in before the event and check out the lay of the land. One of our planned training tours was the 46K “Leisure Route” (map of route located below), after which, we realised isn’t as “leisurely” as one would think considering there is more drop than climb, and what gravel drops they are.
Upon inspection of the route, I realised it had been extended from that in 2016 and now passed through Vagliagli with the final rest-station located at the Dievole winery.
I learned a while back they had been purchased in 2013 by the Alejandro Bulgheroni (the Argentinean oil magnate) and had undergone quite a few renovations and changes, especially in their winemaking philosophy – namely, the hiring of oenologist Alberto Antonini, known for his terroir-driven winemaking style. Therefore I thought it would be a good idea to stop off at the winery for a tasting and as I contacted them to organise a meeting; they were extremely accommodating.
The “Leisure” Route
The route begins in Gaiole and as all Eroica routes do, climb up towards Castello di Brolio (10K) – the steepest climb of the route – with the 10K descent towards Pianella being a huge reward.
We climb back on our bikes and continue on towards Pievasciata (25K) and the beginning of a 10K gravel stretch which ends in Vagliagli (30K). It’s pretty much all uphill – with a flatter stretch in the middle – and the gravel gets the best of me towards the end of it: my first flat of three this week.
The scenery is breathtaking and the mix of gravel and asphalt offer a fun & flow factor I’ve rarely ever experienced. We stop for an unofficial break/photo opp at the famous double trunk Holm Oak and just take time to look back and wipe the grins off our face: 20K and almost half of the route behind us already. To date it’s definitely been a “leisurely” ride.
Tire changed! Forward and onward. Arrival at the Dievole winery
We were greeted by Giovanni Mazzoni, Dievole’s Marketing & Export Director, and were first taken on a short tour of the winery, newly renovated hotel – a 300 year old villa – and restaurant. Though I had no idea of what the facilities looked like before hand, I could tell that a ton of work had been done over the past years.
Everything was top-notch and no expenses were spared. And though one is surrounded by exclusivity, it’s all still very inviting and cosy. A fact that is reinforced by the smiling faces of the employees as they greet the guests that pass. At first I thought “maybe they know journalists are coming today?” (it’s not like we were dressed to impress) but as I looked around, it was the norm for all the guests of the winery.
The wine tasting and lunch
The wine tasting part of our tour arrived and I was very looking forward to experiencing Dievole’s new winemaking direction.
From the moment the grapes are harvested, they are treated as gently as possible and are fermented with wild indigenous yeasts, slowly and at quite a low temperature in order to ensure the wine’s elegance and pure expression.
This style was present in all of the wines we tasted that day: authenticity in a glass! A style Alberto Antonini is renown for and definitely the right direction, in my opinion. Serious wines with structure, a voice of their own, and possibility to age well, rather than those with made for generic, international tastes and tons of “make-up”.
Their 2014 Chianti Classico had just received Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri (Three Glasses) and their 2015 vintage was in the finals, and had therefore received the Due Bicchieri (Two Glasses). But in my opinion, there’s an extremely fine line between the two ratings so individual preferences may prefer one vintage to the other. Nonetheless, a great place to start.
Upon hearing of our escapades on the way to winery, Giovanni said “you must be hungry” and invited us for lunch. It’s an offer we couldn’t refuse… and are glad we didn’t. The Chef and his team put together a medley of tasting dishes paired to wines for us and they didn’t disappoint. One of the lunch highlights were the handmade “Pici cacio e pepe”, a classic Tuscan recipe. Thick round noodles in a parmesan cheese and pepper sauce (Find a ‘Pici cacio e pepe’ recipe here on olivemagazine.com). Another favourite dish was the Gnocchetti (small potato dumplings) in a tomatoe & vodka sauce. Think comfort food at its finest and definitely a rich carbo-load for your next ride.
The pasta dishes paired nicely with Dievole’s “LE DUE ARBIE bianco”, a well-balanced and aromatic white blend made of Trebbiano, Malvasia, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. Though red wines are the main staple in the Chianti Classico region, keep an eye out for some of the many interesting whites.
The Post-Lunch Ride
Though some friends think I’m constantly on the go imbibing wine while I cycle, this isn’t the case. If I do wind up tasting during a ride, more often than not I’m spitting more than I am drinking. Though I didn’t spit all of the wine I tasted, I kept my alcohol intake to a minimum – and am glad I did since the rest of the ride was more suited to a mountain bike than it was a vintage road bike. The drops are steep and the climbs as well. And not to mention, all gravel for 7 kms with roots and rocks thrown in for good measure. Therefore I can’t state it enough, please be prudent if you plan on riding the “Leisure Route”, it does have its challenges in last third of the route. And if you stop off at Dievole for lunch, you won’t be sorry.
Buon appetito! Ride safe, ride ON, ride far and drink slow.
Società Agricola DIEVOLE
Località Dievole 6 (fraz. Vagliagli)
53019 Castelnuovo Berardenga
Tel. +39 0577 322 613