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Podere Gualandi and what’s really in your wine

A grape harvest in Tuscany in the fall… sounds pretty romantic, right? I thought so, too, until every single person I talked to about it said something along the lines of ‘You know it’s really hard work, right?!’ But, thinking strong thoughts, I packed up my backpack and headed to Poppiano, Tuscany for two weeks of harvesting at Podere Gualandi through a WWOOF opportunity.

Podere Gualandi

Now, I’m not going to say that harvesting isn’t hard work. Because it is. It’s also very purple and sticky work. Here’s some photo proof: Grape harvest

What I am going to say is that my two weeks at Guido Gualandi’s vineyard were two of my favorite weeks in Italy. I could gush all day about how lucky I feel to be one of 12 WWOOFers chosen to help in 2015 out of 1,500+ applicants. Or about how the food was some of the best I’ve ever eaten in my life.homemade pizza

And the wine paired with it turned me into a red wine drinker. (Unless we were having sparkling rosé… in which case, I was definitely a sparkling rosé drinker.)

Podere Gualandi rosé - Rosato

Podere Gualandi

First, a little background on Guido: His family has roots in the Tuscany area for over 1,000 years. The Gualandi name was even mentioned in Dante’s Inferno. 

As a trained archaeologist, Guido has worked on excavations in the Middle East and at the Louvre in Paris. He was also an international reporter. Currently, he is a professor of food and wine at Gonzaga University in Florence. And most importantly (because it’s the reason I got to meet him and his wonderful family), he acquired land in Tuscany which contained vines planted in the 1970’s (some even older than that) and has cultivated it to yield an amazing harvest for making wine. One more talent? He’s an artist whose work is featured on every bottle of wine and olive oil he makes.Podere Gualandi vineyard

One of the things I appreciate most about Guido’s way of harvesting and wine-making is that he uses techniques that are thousands of years old. He’s studied ancient texts by Columella (born 4 A.D. and an important writer on agriculture) and others, and tries to stick as closely to the methods they describe as possible. That means hoeing the fields by hand, caring for the vines all year long, picking the grapes by hand, pressing by hand, and aging… all without the use of machinery.

Even the bottling and labeling is done one-by-one, by hand.Labeling Podere Gualandi wine

The work is more strenuous, takes more time, and the method of pressing yields less liquid… but the end result is a higher quality wine.

Grape harvest

Did you know that most of the wine that you drink has chemicals in it?

These chemicals cause wine to age more quickly, so it can be bottled more quickly, which allows for less storage space to be required. And the craziest part is… these wineries are not required by law to report chemical use! In the past, many of these wineries used egg to help with the process, but the FDA does require allergens to be reported on labels. And so… out with the eggs and in with the chemicals.

If your palate is not up to sommelier standards, you may not notice a chemical taste in other wines… so aside from the fact that chemicals aren’t good for you, you might be wondering if Guido’s no-chemicals-added method is worth the trouble. How’s this for proof? Podere Gualandi’s wine was voted 13th best in Europe… in its first year of production!

If you’d like to try this kind of archaeological wine for yourself, head on over to the Podere Gualandi website and order a case.


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What you don't know about the wine you're drinking


Friday 30th of March 2018

Hello! I just found out that I'm going to be able to WWOOF at Podere Gualandi! Thank you so much for your thorough and inspiring post. I'm a first-time WWOOFer and will be solo, and I want to find places that will feel safe and comfortable while also offering authentic work and interesting experiences. It sounds like I found the right place and really lucked out, and your post had a lot to do with that! If you have time, I'd love your insight regarding a few things:

Were you also WWOOFing solo, and did you feel safe and comfortable at Podere Gualandi? (I'm pretty sure I already know the answer to this one!) Is there anything you wished you'd packed and didn't ? Is there anything you're really freakin' glad you packed? Is there anything you'd recommend I read or research before I arrive? (I'm going to have to brush up on my Dante!)

Thank you, again, for the insight and inspiration!


Sunday 1st of April 2018

Oh Maurissa!! I am so happy to hear that you got a spot!! I felt 100% safe and comfortable-- I am supremely jealous of you at the moment :)

I wish I had packed more grubby clothes-- You are going to get DIRTY and grape juice doesn't come out, so bring things that you'll be ok leaving in the trash.

Can't wait to hear all about your experience!


Wednesday 7th of February 2018

Hi! Great article! I'm planning on WWOOFing in Italy this June for 3-4 weeks. Podere Gualandi is my top choice and I contacted them at the beginning of January to express my interest and inquire about volunteering there. Guido responded within minutes (!!!) and told me that he isn't sure what he's doing in June yet, but to inquire again in a few months. How far in advance do you suggest sending this follow-up email? I had no idea he received so many requests, but I'm hoping that since I expressed interest early and will follow up, that'll work in my favor. Thanks!


Saturday 10th of February 2018

Hi Erin! It's completely a timing game-- I totally lucked out by emailing him at just the right time! For me, that was the end of April... good luck to you! Please let me know if you get to go volunteer there!


Saturday 8th of April 2017

Gosh! I'm considering doing something similar for the harvest this fall. I'm studying wine and would love to find out more about the winemaking process.


Monday 10th of April 2017

Reach out to Guido! I know he gets TONS of requests, but it's worth a shot! Good luck!


Thursday 11th of February 2016

Such a great way to spend a few weeks...and red wine is the best wine!


Thursday 11th of February 2016

I'm definitely a new red wine fan... I've been missing out!


Wednesday 10th of February 2016

I'm not a wine drinker but the part about the chemicals was interesting. I've heard about this before.


Wednesday 10th of February 2016

It's pretty scary when we find out about unexpected things added to foods and drinks! I'm glad there are people like Guido who are committed to natural wine!