It has been over two months since the completion of the Banfi trip, but I am still living in the “emperor-like” experience. I often think about the incredible food and wine I tasted along the trip and share my travel experience with my friends and guests around. Although I have been to Italy a few times before, this time with Banfi was so unique and precious that it highlighted my life in Shannon College.
I was very looking forward to the trip because Italian food and wine are two of my favorites, I always love the moments that when I sip some Italian wine while eating the traditional Italian food, the harmony in my mouth makes me feel like I’m living in heaven.
I traveled with Mr Langford and my classmate Andrew for the trip in early June. The tour started from Milan, a city that I have strong emotion with. Because we arrived one day early than most of the team members, we got some spare time to visit the fashion city. Wandering on the street of Milan, I recalled some beautiful moments from my past trips. All of us didn’t have any shopping targets, so we went back to the hotel after a casual Italian lunch. Travel always makes you feel tired even there is only one-hour time difference, but my excitement outweighed the tiredness when I though that I would meet part of the group members in the first day welcome dinner. As expected, everybody was very friendly. Our common passion in both food and wine facilitated our conversation, so we could know each other very quick.
Well, one day seemed like forever, eventually the trip started next morning. We departed to Vigne Regali, the first winery we visited in the tour. This winery is located in Piedmont province and was acquired by Banfi some years ago. The scenery along the way was breath taking and you could see the snow-capped Alps loom in the distance. In Vigne Regali, we visited the basement storage where local bubble wine was fermented by applying champagne style and the barrel fermentation of the red wines, I had saw these fermentations from textbooks but this was my first time seeing it with my own eyes. COULDN’T BELIEVE IT!! The winery manager also went over the wine production process with us and of course, we tasted the pure grape juice and some quality wines. Lunch was hosted in the winery with some traditional Italian appetizers and desserts served. The Food sounds simple but there was actually no need to worry about food and wine (We didn’t stop eating and drinking until the end of the trip, I remember when we arrived in Rome, people started to avoid food). Afterwards, we left to Acqui Terme, a typical Italian town which is closed to our second destination, Gamba!
The next morning, we went to Gamba, a top-notch wine cask and barrique maker in Italy. I started to feel very lucky to be part of the trip after I visited Gamba because I was told that not all the people could visit this place even if you paid to visit. Gamba is a three-generation family business and that’s why there is an underground museum been built to remember the history of this barrel factory. Gamba is not big but the whole process of making barrels takes place there. The owner of Gamba took us to visit the barrel making workplace and told us the barrel making process in detail from the selection of wood to barrel making in the factory. Seeing how barrel was made totally blew my mind because this was again my first time to see it in person.
Everyday was a Brand-new experience; we visited the cheese factory in the coming morning. Due to the hygiene reason, we had to cover ourselves before entering the workplace. The form of cheese from milk is a magical course and it takes a long time to obtain the cheese we often see in the supermarkets. We toured the cheese factory and were informed of the phases in making cheese. Later in the afternoon, we went to the Reunite winery nearby to watch the wine production and to do the wine tasting. The winery has a very large scale, during the tour of the winery, I saw the grape-crushing process, the process that fresh juice been delivered to the big steel barrel via pipes, the fermentation process and the bottling and packaging process. Reunite has a very enormous wine production and their wines are very popular in both Italy and overseas markets such as the United States. Reunite targets younger generations, their wines are fruity and easy to drink which I can easily fall in love with. After lunch with the Reunite executives, we started to approach to the Tuscany region, one of my favorite areas in the country. Tuscany has its unique landscape and the architecture from the renaissance time is still preserved very well. Tuscany is also where Banfi vineyard is located, so I feel like coming back home. We stopped at Siena to have dinner before we arrived at Montalcino, Siena is an old city with natural charm and beauty. Walking on the old street was a fascinating experience and dining in the very famous plaza really increased my appetite.
We arrived at Montalcino very late so we didn’t have the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of this small town and its surroundings. The hotel we stayed was situated on the edge of the mountain, so it was very easy to view the panorama of the area by standing on the hotel terrace. Visiting Banfi brought me the most excitement not only because Banfi financially supported me to conduct this trip but also because of Banfi’s long time relationship with my college. Banfi is on the outskirt of Montalcino. It consists of so many vineyards, orchards and a luxury castle accommodation. We toured the vineyards firstly and got to know the grape varieties that Banfi plants and the terroir needed for grape platation. Then we went to visit the winery in Banfi. Similar with other winery visits, we toured the wine production workplace and the storage place. However, the opportunity to met Mr and Mrs Mariani was the highlight of the day! On the second day in Montalcino, we visited the castle and its glass museum. At night, we were invited for the grand Gala dinner in the castle, which by the way, was one of my most unforgettable dinning experiences. We were treated like nobles that night. The welcome ceremony was very enjoyable, we also tasted the best food and wine.
During the time in Montalcino before we set off to Roma, I also had the opportunities to tour the balsamic vinegar, olive oil and the pastry production workplaces, these experience really broadened my horizon.
Last two days of the tour were in the Rome region; we toured the last winery-Fotana Candina before going to Rome city. The winery itself was very beautiful and I think the scenery is more incredible than a lot of other ones I visited. We mainly toured its basement wine storage area. The storage was old but it applies very traditional way of wine storage. After lunch, we left to Rome. Rome is always one my favorite cities, but I felt down when the bus got close to Rome because going to Rome meant the trip was coming to an end.
Last day in Rome was a free day. Because I’ve been to the city a few times before, so I just did some shopping rather than visiting the tourist attractions again and again. The next day, we were very reluctant to go back to Ireland.
Banfi wine trip was truly a once in lifetime experience, it gave me so many good memories, I’m talking about not only the food and wine knowledge I obtained, the food and wine I tasted along the way but the incredible people I met during the trip. Thank you Shannon College of Hotel Management offered me such a precious opportunity!