Skip to main content

SEPTEMBER IN TUSCANY & the Untold Secrets of the Harvest Frenzy

September is my favorite month in Tuscany. Stunning weather, perfect for long days at the beach or series of Cappuccinos or Prosecchi on medieval Piazzas. And all of it with much fewer tourists than in overcrowded August. The only downside is that you'll have to sip your aperitivo on your own. At least if most of your friends turn out to be Tuscan winemakers...

Let's get this right: EVERYBODY wants to be friends with Tuscan winemakers. Whenever we invite them over for dinner we're sure to drink some of Tuscany's finest. And the occasional times we throw a party, the least worry is the booze. After the pre-Christmas party we've organised last December, we happily discovered several cases of 'left-over' wine; most of it wonderful Tuscan reds (Sangiovese on its own or blended with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon), the occasional bottle of white (mostly Vermentino or Sauvignon blanc) and the rather rare but oh so delicious Tuscan rosé strewn in. What a memory - it took us nearly three months to drink through the whole lot. Sorry, what did you say?

However the one time you don't want to be friends with Tuscan winemakers is September. Want to invite somebody over for dinner or trying to organise your daughter's birthday party? Forget it. NOBODY around here has time to attend a birthday party in September. People are out in the vineyards harvesting; starting in late August or early September with the white wine varieties and then moving over to the reds. Merlot and other fancy foreign varieties first and last but not least the good old Sangiovese. It's the time of the year where conversations in Tuscan bars turn into an endless loop around two topics: how are your grapes? and what's the weather forecast like? And occasionaly somebody will complain about a backache - a fair price to pay for anybody daring to cut off Bacchus' children.

On some September days winemakers are not harvesting. Instead they talk to their grapes. They monitor them, they taste them (I once attended a full-day seminar on grape tasting - incredible stuff), they send them off to fancy high-tech laboratories, and yes they talk to them. How else are you supposed to know whether the variety from that particular vineyard is ready to go or not? Cut off a bunch of grapes who still wanted to enjoy the September sun for a few more days and you'll taste their revanche once they're out of the stainless steel vat. So yes, you want to know BEFOREHAND whether they'd kindly up their sugar levels if allowed to hang around for another day or two.

With this year's incredibly hot September sun winemakers around here all look as if they are playing endless rounds of Russian Roulette. Leave your grapes on a day too long and your liquid Tuscan gold is going to taste like Straw wine. Cut them too early or too late and you'll find yourself with a totally different wine because of the lack of sugar in the grapes (which is essential for fermentation and alcohol content).

Now, what all of this comes down to is that my children never get a birthday party. My son is born in mid August, close to dreaded FERRAGOSTO, when everybody right in their heads leaves the country (us included), whereas our daughter is born in September when everybody is around but nobody has time. Planning far in advance isn't one of my main strengths, but I do feel quite smug about the timing of my children's births. Or does anybody really enjoy never-ending kiddie birthdays in too small, too loud and over-heated rooms?

Feel tempted to call Telefono Azzurro (Italy's children's help line)? Don't worry, my kids don't get fancy birthday parties but at least they are allowed to go to school - something my parents-in-law could only dream of during harvest time.

For an insider's view on how things are going with the 2011 harvest in Montalcino, check out Il Palazzone's blog post: Fingers crossed: HARVEST 2011.

Popular posts from this blog


A quick round up of my favorite wild hot springs and historic bath towns in Tuscany (more detailed information on spas and rock pool bathing can be found in the single articles the links will lead you to).  WILDERNESS POOLS   PETRIOLO  half an hour to the south of Siena. With its steaming hot water in the upper row of pools a favorite of mine on icy cold winter mornings. The Farma river passes right next to the hot springs. So be courageous and have a splash to try the benefits of kneipping.   SATURNIA  the biggest, most southern and also Italy's best known (and loved!) wilderness pools. The closest option for a soak if you arrive from Rome. To be avoided on weekends.  FOSSO BIANCO  in the Val d'Orcia is a spectacular sight hidden away in the woods below Bagni San Filippo. The shady surroundings make of these natural springs a nice location in the summer.  BAGNO VIGNONI  has a lovely pool below the small waterfall. However, the water arrives from the medieval t


In the wine world the Tuscan coast equals Bolgheri and Sassicaia. No other wine has done as much to turn the lay-back beach side paradise south of Livorno into a famous wine growing region as the prestigious Sassicaia from Tenuta San Guido. But whilst the rise of Supertuscans blended from French grape varieties may resemble a fairy tale story, it shouldn't keep you fro m drinking Sangiovese wines in the smaller and lesser known wineries along the Tuscan shore. 


The Fosso Bianco hot springs and natural pools in Bagni San Filippo If there's one thing I didn't expect when moving to Tuscany, it's the multitude of freely accessible natural hot springs. Day spas and thermal baths can be found all over the world. But when talking hot baths in the wilderness my first guess would always have been a geyser in Iceland.  The generous natural pools near Saturnia  and the hot springs in Petriolo taught me differently. Both places are well known in Italy, a fact that can make them packed on weekends and public holidays. If you like to take your bath a bit more privately, move on towards Val d'Orcia and explore the Fosso Bianco hot springs   near Bagni San Filippo. The waters are as hot as they should be for some comfortable soaking and high in sulfur and calcium (which explains the formation of the white rock and the name of the place).