Wine Tasting in Italy

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A day trip to the Petrillo Winery in Irpinia

Petrillo winery in Irpinia, Italy

On our cruise we did an excursion of wine tasting in Italy. Now I am not one for guided tours or excursions. They have you meet like cattle and tell corny jokes on a stage while they get everyone to the appropriate groups. This is not the excursion of my dreams. 

I like to go off the beaten path, make my own itinerary and discover my own adventure. However, my boyfriend and I had just had one of those “adventures” a few days before. Our trip without a specialized itinerary and tour bus had ended up in our butler calling around looking for us, an unplanned jog that turned into a frantic run when we got lost on shore, a lift back to the ship in a security officer’s car while being scolded in broken English, resulting in the boat leaving an hour late and the entire ship talking about us. 

Jillian travel and wellness influencer wine tasting in Italy at Petrillo winery

After this, I figured a guided tour was a safe bet, and I wanted to wear my new aperol-colored dress without sweating profusely from hiking all over on our own. Wine tasting in Italy it was!

We did, however, have an Italian guide, a plus for authenticity, but she did speak English, thank goodness, because I’m not that great at speaking Italian. 

We were in the region of Irpinia and were off to a locally run winery called Petrillo. The drive there on the bus with 20 people was gorgeous, think the rolling hills of Tuscany minus the fact that we weren’t actually in Tuscany. When the bus finally pulled up to our destination after the hour-long journey, we all jumped off and started snapping photos. Let the wine tasting in Italy begin!

Petrillo is a family-run winery, and the entire family was there to greet us.

Maurizio, the owner and operator, was our main guide. He greeted us with a glass of prosecco and fried dough. The day was off to a very great start! Everyone wandered around the beautiful, picturesque tasting room. There was a patio and the view looked down onto the hills. We saw the long dining table set for our upcoming meal. There were fresh flowers everywhere, as well as Instagram-worthy props like a grand piano and a bicycle. After soaking in our surroundings, we were introduced to Maurizio’s wife, Samantha, and their daughter, Athenea. Athenea is a college student who studies marketing at the university, runs the winery’s social media, and helps out when needed. She is fluent in English and ended up being my favorite storyteller of the day. 

Jillian travel and wellness influencer wine tasting in Italy at Petrillo winery
bicycle on italian vineyard at Petrillo in Irpinia, Italy

After everyone got settled in, we learned about the prosecco, and we headed off to the vineyards on foot. The vineyard was gorgeous–no photo could do it justice, but we all tried nevertheless. Maurizio encouraged us to try the grapes, and they have ruined all other grapes for me forever. Not only was it so special to try something that someone has poured their life’s passion into, but they were delicious. There in the bright not-Tuscan sun, Maurizio demonstrated how he tested the sugar levels of the grapes to get the right alcohol percentage. If I had had a picnic basket I could have spent hours at the vineyard. It was breathtaking, romantic, fun, and educational. 

Maurizio demonstrated how he tested the sugar levels of the grapes to get the right alcohol percentage. If I had had a picnic basket I could have spent hours at the vineyard. It was breathtaking, romantic, fun, and educational.

One of my favorite things about wine tasting is that it is not only a fun activity, but you also get to learn something.

grapes from the vineyard  wine tasting in Italy at Petrillo in Irpinia
grapes from the vineyard  wine tasting in Italy at Petrillo in Irpinia

You can learn as much information as you want. There is so much to know about wine and grapes and so much goes into growing grapes and making wine. You can learn a few facts to keep you abreast at social events or  pour your soul into it and make it a full time hobby. I think that’s what makes wine so special and such a unique hobby. 

jillian travel and wellness influencer wine tasting in italy on the vineyard at Petrillo in Irpinia, Italy


Jillian travel and wellness influencer, wine tasting in Italy at the vineyard with stainless steel wine barrels at Petrillo in Irpinia, Italy

After visiting the vineyards, we went off to the basement where the magic happens. It was cool and damp, filled with large stainless steel barrels. In these barrels were the grape juices all temperature-controlled, fermenting and slowly making Irpinia’s greatest wine. Maurizio gave us our next lesson, showing us again how he tested the wine for the correct alcohol levels.

Maurizio demonstrated that winemaking is a science and an art, captivating the entire group. 

After all of the learning about oenology, it was off to the good stuff–to eat and drink. But the education wasn’t over.

All 20 of us got situated at our dining table. While we enjoyed four different types of bruschetta, we were to learn how to make fusilli. Fusilli is a pasta shaped like a corkscrew. And who better to teach us this art than the Italian grandma, who, by the way, spoke zero English, which made her more authentic and the trip more special. White wine had started flowing, and we all watched as our guide explained as she demonstrated and explained in Italian how she made the pasta. 

The first step is to make the pasta dough.

The fusilli has two ingredients–flour and red wine. Why would you make your pasta with water when you can make it with wine? After kneading the dough, her real skill came in. The nonna started rolling each piece of dough off the large chunk of dough one by one. She was like a machine, working fast, and each piece was exactly the same. 

Now for the fun part, twirling the pasta around an umbrella spindle. When the tour guide picked up the first fusilli to show us while nonna was hard at work, the whole room oohed and awed! She smiled, but she didn’t slow down. She was cranking out fusilli by hand faster than a machine. 

After she had made plenty, she invited us up to the table to try making one. Of course I jumped at the chance, hoping I would make it perfectly on the first try and get an offer to be adopted, no such luck….

By this point we were on to tasting red wine and being served our main dish of fusilli. It was delicious. There are few things in life I love as much as homemade pasta, and this one, at this place, with the herbs from the garden, was spectacular. 

handmade fusili pasta at wine tasting in italy at Petrillo in Irpinia

Every so often Samantha and Athenea would come and fill our glasses, continuing the wine tasting, and telling us about the wine we were drinking. Athenea’s storytelling was magical. It is one of the things I love so much about the Italians–the way they talk about food and wine with such heart–they could serve you cardboard and you would eat it up drooling because of their passion. 

This is when, as if in a dream, a short, bald Italian man emerged with a guitar and started serenading us.

The group all looked around at one another, had we had that much to drink? No, it was real. After singing a few songs I had never heard he went into the classics and we all started clapping and singing along–the most notable song being Volare. 

charcuterie board at wine tasting in Italy at Petrillo in Irpinia, Italy

At the end of the meal right when we were stuffed, they brought us a charcuterie board. I had only ever seen this served as an appetizer, but as a girl who can eat I gladly tried bits and pieces, pairing it with my wine. Dessert was my favorite Italian cracker, taralli, made with red wine and coated in sugar. 

reserve bottles of wine at Petrillo at a wine tasting in Italy

After our tasting and meal, it was time to go to the wine shop down in the basement where we saw the more prestigious and expensive wines and blends.

The most impressive was the collection of three bottles of reserve wine with labels all named after members of the family.

Athenea told the story of the reserve collection in her Italian accent with a smile and full Italian gestures. The bottles told a story of being on a farm with corresponding artistic labels. The first bottle in the collection was named after our main guide, Anthea, a fiano white wine. It represents the first hour of the morning, when the day breaks and the sky is painted with pinks. The second bottle, Controra, a greco white wine, represents lunchtime and the hours when the sun is high, warm, and bright yellow. The last bottle in the collection is Notte Temp, a taurasi red wine which is represented by the dark purple sky, a time for passion and evenings spent with loved ones. 

We left a tad tipsy, with our bellies full, and wine in the mail. I hope to make it back one day and that I find Athenea spending a bit more time there. While I understand the younger generation isn’t as involved in viticulture and enology as their parents, I believe that she has a gift for sharing the magic of wine tasting in Irpinia, Italy, and that’s something that cannot be taught.

I love the experience of wine tasting in Italy. It’s so much more than a glass of drink. You aren’t just drinking a beverage, you’re tasting the passion, the hard work, and a labor of love. You get to learn something about viticulture and participate with your taste buds. Wine has an ability to tickle all of your senses at once. It teaches us the history of the people, the terroir of the lands, the soul of a culture, all while you’re on a sensory journey. 

bottles of wine at Petrillo at a wine tasting in Italy

Wine lights me up in a way that Italy lights me up.

There is something so unique, so special, so heartwarming. I know I will never be Italian, but savoring an Italian wine gives me a feeling that I can someday hope to wake up and be Italian. 

Want to read more about my love affair with Italy? Click here.

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