Our Tuscany guides contributor wins big award!

April 7, 2009
Michèle Shah was presented with a silver vine leaf

Michèle Shah presented with silver vine leaf

Very proud to report that Michèle Shah who writes our travel guides to the wine regions of Tuscany has won ‘Best foreign journalist of the year’ awarded in the Grandi Cru d’Italia awards in Verona at the end of last week’s Vinitaly wine exhibition. Michèle was one of four shortlisted journalists working for UK, German and Austrian magazines – she won the award for her contributions to the wine magazines Decanter, Wine Spectator and Harpers.

The Grandi Cru d’Italia is a group of 130 Italian wineries, who, according to Michèle, represent the top wine producers in Italy in terms of quality and of market influence. Michèle spoke frankly about what the award means to her: “this was one of the most moving highlights of my working career as a wine critic. I got a tremendous warm cheer from the 130 producers at the award dinner and afterwards many came personally to congratulate me. More than merely receiving the award, it was really the individual messages from each of them that made it so special and meaningful.”

Many congratulations to Michèle who has been given proper recognition for her specialist writing on Italy’s wines and wine regions – you can see most of her published articles on her own website as well as a wealth of further information. You can also read more about Michèle on Wine Travel Guides.

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The Weekly Twitter Quiz #5 – San Gimignano

February 4, 2009
View from a tower to another tower

View from a tower to another tower

A UNESCO World Heritage site, San Gimignano is known for its many towers, which were built as status symbols in the Middle Ages. When I visited a couple of years ago, I found the town a delight to wander around, and when you climb up one of the towers, you get spectacular views of the landscape. Tuscan wine specialist Michèle Shah writes that it is also well worth visiting the Collegiata, located in Piazza Duomo, which houses a famous cycle of Benozzo Gozzoli’s frescoes.

Vernaccia di San Gimignano is the only dry white wine of any real note in Tuscany made from the Vernaccia grape. On Michèle’s guide ‘Between San Gimignano and Siena’ she recommends a visit to the Sono Montenidoli winery “firstly because Elisabetta and Sergio who run and own the estate are both great characters – and secondly because Montenidoli produces San Gimignano’s quintessential Vernaccia.” They also have agriturismo accommodation.

Congratulations to Philadelphia-based photographer Christian Carollo who correctly identified San Gimignano in Tuscany as the answer to this week’s quiz. He wins a PDF guide of his choice so he can plan his own wine tours – @wisequeen and @WritingTravel were also very quick off the mark with the correct answer.

If you aren’t already following me on Twitter, come along for the ride – among other things I tweet new recommendations from new or updated Wine Travel Guides, links to wine or travel articles and sometimes a peep (tweet-peep?) at what wines I’m drinking.

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Plan a wine tour in Tuscany with Wine Travel Guides

January 18, 2009

By Wink Lorch

For anyone who loves beautiful countryside, art, history, architecture, and perhaps above all wholesome food and wine, Tuscany in Italy is a legendary region to visit. I’m really excited to have cajoled Michèle Shah, a top writer on Italian wines, food and travel to contribute to Wine Travel Guides and we have just launched her first two on-line travel guides to Tuscan wine regions which are also our first guides to wine regions outside of France.

Towers of San Gimignano and surrounding vineyards

Two of the towers of San Gimignano and the surrounding vineyard landscape

The area between San Gimignano and Siena is home to so many sensational wine producers that I don’t quite know how Michèle managed to narrow down her Chianti Classico and Vernaccia di San Gimignano selection. The restaurants and bars sound mouth-watering and the places to stay she has chosen range between homely and sheer luxury.



As for Montalcino and Montepulciano, home to the Sangiovese grape, the basis for nearly all the great Tuscan red wines, the guide gives all you need to plan a really interesting wine tour in this fascinating area.

If you are not yet a subscriber to Wine Travel Guides and you are planning a visit to Tuscany, now is the time to remedy this to get access to these wonderful guides.

Michèle lives in Florence and really understands the culture of Tuscan food and wine. In editing her guides, I couldn’t quite include all her words of wisdom, but saved this to share with you:

Salt-free bread is a pillar of the Tuscan diet. There are several theories on why Tuscan bread is salt-free, the most common being that its food is so rich in flavour that bread becomes a necessary accompaniment to hearty meat dishes. It is also used to thicken soups such as ribollita and pappa al pomodoro, and grilled to make bruschetta, drizzled with tangy local olive oil. Tuscan crostini, traditionally made with a chicken liver paté mixture, need a neutral base to enhance the flavours of their toppings. In summer stale Tuscan bread  is the main ingredient used in panzanella salad mixed in with freshly cut vegetables, herbs and a tasty dressing – simple and delicious – just try it!

Tuscany’s hunting heritage provides for all the roast meats and game which still play a fundamental part in their traditional and more formal cuisine –  at times evocative of medieval banquets. It’s all complemented by the archetypal Sangiovese-based red wines and by white Vernaccia, often enjoyed as an aperitif.

Buon Appetito!

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