Meeting around a glass of wine...
An XO Private Story by Zoila Checa

“Anni, amori e bicchieri di vino, nun se contano mai”

As per the previous proverb, in Italy it is said that years, lovers and glasses of wine should never be counted, and who are we to contradict such a bold and historic statement? Especially when it comes to wines coming from the lands of Italy and France. We have had the privilege of encountering some of the top gems that have designed a 360 degrees hospitality experience around wine at XO Private, and in my humble opinion, these are the only experiences that should indeed be counted and relayed to you, dear readers and very possibly, wine enthusiasts.

Nuzzled in the rich green hills of Emilia, in Italy, Relais Roncolo 1888 is one of those soulful places where organic, terroir-driven wines flow freely. In fact, the ones available here are estate-grown and come only from their own vineyards, made with predominantly indigenous grape varieties that, as Julia Prestia, the owner, mentions proudly, have a focus on rediscovering historic or forgotten varieties.  

Flying in from all over the globe, guests at this beautiful boutique luxury hotel go wild not only over the wine itself, but over the precious natural environment and the experiences that surround it, for it is enveloped in the Tenuta di Roncolo eco-estate, at the heart of Italy’s Food Valley and Motor Valley. “Nestled in an oasis of nature and peace and the essence of quiet luxury, Relais Roncolo is the perfect hub to discover Emilia, enjoy the Tuscany-like nature of the estate, or venture out to see towns Parma, Modena or Bologna”, says Julia.
Relais Roncolo 1888 from above
However, as you might have guessed correctly, the top aspect about this establishment is its contribution to the evolving landscape of wine-centric hospitality. In fact, Tenuta de Roncolo is an operating winery in a 350-acre estate producing wine, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. As Julia explains, this is their other core business: “The estate actually started out as an agricultural estate, only adding the hospitality offering two years ago when we opened Relais Roncolo 1888 in the historic residences of the estate”.

When it comes to crafting their unique wineing experience, they ensure that guests not only savour exceptional wines but also immerse themselves in the cultural and historical aspects of the region, creating a truly enriching and memorable stay.

“Together with our balsamic experience, which takes place in our historic Acetaia di Canossa from the 17th century, our wine experience incorporates very much a terroir-driven storytelling, paired with local specialities such as Parmesan cheese, salami, Parma ham, and all the typical produce from the Food Valley”, she says. Moreover though, they also offer a local tasting dinner with wine pairing, which provides a delightful journey through Emilia’s foodie side. 
Degustazione at Relais Roncolo 1888
Aperitif at the property
In this way, the team makes sure that guests create core memories and spend quality time through an immersive experience that goes beyond a technical tasting by including the local food offerings, historic context and winemaking philosophy. Plus, they craft bespoke experiences that include private tastings in their historic cellar, walking tours and private visits with the winemaker, as well as fresh pasta cooking classes with a private lunch paired with their exquisite wines.

With a profound respect for nature and commitment to sustainability too, it is clear to us that Roncolo 1888 is much more than a hotel. Instead, it is a grand, sustainable borgo creating a seamless wine-driven experience that combines elegance, modern design and historic buildings in the heart of the Italian countryside.
Cantina at Relais Roncolo 1888
Also in Italy but moving roughly three hours west by car lays Villa Pattono Relais, in Costigliole d’Asti, a historic estate from the 18th century where the Barbera d’Asti wine is produced. Although they also create other regional wines such as Barbera d’Alba, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo, Barolo, Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Rosé and Grappa from Barolo grapes. “The owner of our winery and accommodation was a pioneer in the production of Barolo and it is thanks to him that we now have the division of different ‘cru’ of Barolo variety. Our wines are from one of the most ancient wineries in the Langhe area”, says owner Pietro Ratti.

Perched on a sunny hill, the villa actually dates back precisely to the end of the eighteenth century, and was purchased and completely refurbished by Pietro’s ‘Pattono’ ancestors from Costigliole at the end of the nineteenth century. As he explains: “It was thus destined to be a country residence: my great-grandmother Vittoria Pattono Calissano lived in Genoa, but she loved spending her summer holidays there until the grape harvest. There she loved staying in the good company of her guests, always generously offering them a taste of her wine produced in the cellars of the Villa. It’s been thanks to this connection between hospitality and wine that we decided to continue this family tradition, starting from a renovation of the vineyards and then of the Villa that had to became a special and unique place”.
Villa Pattono Relais
View from the vineyards
Since the place first became a well-known winery in the area, it was only natural for Pietro and the team to also make a hotel that showcases the wines produced. Within the range of experiences offered, they guarantee a fine wine tasting inside the property, through which they try to convey all the information about the region and the wine’s territory. Additionally, they then also offer guided bike tours that can help guests to experience first-hand what they were explained in the tasting, as well as the possibility of visiting the production site of their wine, often taking them through the vineyards too to explain the process that takes the grapes they see to the wines they’ll soon be pleased to taste.
Wine selection at Villa Pattono
Wineing in the park at Villa Pattono Relais
As we witness this profound global rise in properties offering immersive wine experiences, we wonder what inspired other incredible accommodations like Sikelia, located in the Italian island of Pantelleria, to join this growing trend, and how they contribute to the evolving landscape of wine-centric hospitality.

Chatting with Giulia Pazienza, owner of the hotel, we come to find out that the island is a unique place for viticulture, having actually become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. “Terraces enclosed by low stone walls accommodate vineyards formed by low-broad bushes that create a unique setting. When I arrived in Pantelleria more than 20 years ago, I was fascinated by these ‘natural sculptures’ and decided to develop the viticultural part of the business, thanks also to my great passion for wine. Actually, the boutique hotel Sikelia came years later, but Coste Ghirlanda Estate have always been representing the place to be for our guests”, she explains.
Sikelia & its vineyards
That’s actually a wondrous plus side, since besides Sikelia Resort (with 20 distinct suites), guests are more than welcome to immerse themselves in the Coste Ghirlanda estate, a magical and remote spot in the middle of the vineyards. “As soon as our guests enter the Estate, it is exciting how the sight and smell inspire them deeply to live this moment completely. The experience begins by taking our guests on a guided tour of the Estate among the dammusi – the traditional houses of Pantelleria - surrounded by greenery and the narrow paths winding through the vineyards”, says Giulia. More so, it is then and there that guests experience the scents of the pink pepper and citrus trees hidden within their secret Arabian garden. This is then followed by the most exciting part, during which the walk ends on a platform completely immersed in the vineyards, where guests can taste the resort’s wines in front of the plain of the island's hinterland. If we extend the experience a little longer, the most charming moment arrives at sunset, when the intimate light of the moon rises from the mountain behind the estate under the starry sky and by the light of candles all around the outdoor lounge, explains Giulia enthusiastically.
Immersion in the vineyards at Sikelia
Wine experience amidst the vines
Many of the guests at Sikelia, who come primarily from the USA, UK, France, Australia and Brazil, as well as about 35% from Italy itself, are truly passionate about wine, but it is extremely important to go beyond the traditional wine tasting and experiences to offer them personalised interactions or other bespoke activities that deepen their appreciation for the artistry and craftsmanship behind the wines. At the property, they first make sure to walk guests among the expanses of Zibibbo vines while learning how the typical low-broad plants are still cultivated today with great effort with the method of the ancient peasants. “This is the so-called ‘heroic’ viticulture that has obtained the recognition of UNESCO World Heritage”, says Giulia.

“The pruning of the vines and also of the centuries-old olive trees (another important part of the production of the land of Pantelleria) as well as the harvest together with our workers is another exclusive and totally immersive experience”, she adds. In this way, they allow guests to not only taste the products of the volcanic land and be a viewer in a ‘green’ audience, but also to work the terrain and touch it with their bare hands as protagonists of this ancient story.
Savouring the wines at Sikelia
Nights at the property
After learning all about the estate, they key resides in tasting the incredible wines offered at Sikelia and the island of Pantelleria. The main grape variety grown in this area is the aforementioned Zibibbo, the name given by the Arabs to Moscato d'Alessandria.

“Our production with Zibibbo includes a splendid dry white wine called ‘Silenzio’, named after the absolute silence of the starry nights on our island closer to Africa than to Italy. We also produce a Passito - the typical sweet wine that has generally made Pantelleria famous in the world. Ours has notes of grace and sweetness, and it called ‘Alcova’, named after the recess of the typical room of the dammuso, with the arched ceiling that could only accommodate one bed and was intended for the bride and groom on their wedding night as their small and intimate love nest”, says Giulia. And on the other hand, with Grenache grown on a part of the island facing the sea, they also produce the exquisite rosé ‘Rifulìa’, along with two crimson reds, ‘Talè’ and ‘Crù Ghirlanda Rosso’.
Grape harvest at the Sikelia estate
Fresh produce at Sikelia
Clearly, the estate and the island of Pantelleria have a special energy, reminiscent of the now extinct volcano, as Giulia likes to say. “What I love of Pantelleria is the boundless silences, the scents of the Mediterranean scrub, the expanses of Zibibbo and olive trees prostrated by the wind and human hands. The contrast of colours is incredible: the white roofs of the dammusi, the gorse blossoms in spring, the deep blue of the sea, and the African sunsets that paint the sky with different shades every night”, she adds. However, it is also true that in Pantelleria operating this wine-centric experience and accommodation is somewhat of a struggle, with the cultivation of grapes and olives being a constant battle with Mother Nature. Despite this, says Giulia, she was ready to accept the beautiful challenge! Needless to say, it has been more than worth it.
Sikelia's UNESCO background
Back to the mainland’s Florence hills, another wine estate and sleep master arises: Torre A Cona. Surrounded by 200 hectares of fields, gardens, vineyards, and olive groves, the historic property is owned by the Conti Rossi di Montelera family, comprising a refined, ancient residence in contemporary key, a leading wine estate, and an Osteria, all following the authentic essence of Tuscany.

“The Torre a Cona estate vineyards comprise some 21 hectares, specifically Sangiovese (10 ha), Merlot (2.5 ha), Colorino (2 ha), Trebbiano, and Malvasia. The vineyard parcels lie at elevations between 300 and 400 metres and face south and southeast, optimal conditions for high-quality viticulture. The estate has a significant complex of alberese limestone marl, classic to the Chianti zone, but the vineyards enjoy a very particular climate, thanks to the valley that opens in front of the vineyards and invites up great draughts of air and wide day-night temperature differentials”, say the Rossi di Montelera family members.
Torre a Cona
An expert team headed by the respected agronomist, Federico Curtaz, renowned for his vast experience and sensitivity, masterfully tends the vineyards. Vineyard management is fundamental, and so it is guided by the sustainable agriculture model to preserve the ecosystem. The same philosophy guides the harvests, they explain. With the consistent goal of ideal grape ripeness, the harvests at Torre a Cona are gradual, generally beginning in mid-September and often lasting till late October.

“The hand-picked clusters are brought into the wine cellar, a structure that has remained the same for centuries. These traditional spaces host today, obviously, temperature-controlled stainless-steel tanks, but in the venerable barrel room the light still filters through slit windows, and temperature and humidity remain natural and constant”, they say.

Led by the great Beppe Caviola since the 1990s, the winemaking team relies on exceptional expertise too. Following his suggestions, the wine-centric property and estate focuses on Sangiovese clones, and vinifications are meticulously tailored to the individual character of each single year. “The results are wines of distinctive style and stand-out personality, combined with an extraordinary degree of drinkability”, they point out.   
Pool and vineyards at Torre a Cona
Wine & dine experience in the estate
Within the astonishing selection we find the Chianti Colli Fiorentini, the monovarietal Merlots (Fontesanta Rosato and Il Merlot) and Colorino (Colorino Casamaggio), the various versions of Vin Santo, and the white Vermentino di Maremma, perfect for an aperitif, seafood and dishes based on vegetables. Completing this collection is the famous Torre a Cona Vermouth, created with an original recipe dating back to 1920.

Apart from being able to dive into activities like truffle hunting, picnics, pasta-making and horseback riding within the estate, Torre a Cona’s top offering resides in its wines, of course. To experience this authentic Tuscan wine estate and its exquisite drinks, the property proposes various cellar tours and tastings, which include visiting the estate, discovering its history and tasting the different wines.

The first offer is the ‘Complete Wine Tasting’, a tour that guides guests to the archive, the historic cellars and the Vinsantaia, followed by a tasting of four top Torre a Cona wines paired with local cheeses. For about 32€ per person, visitors can delve into this experience and try out the Fontesanta Rosé, the Crociferro, Badia a Corte Riserva and the Merlaia vin Santo wines.

The ‘Prestige Tasting’ takes a different approach, in turn. It includes the guided visits to the archive, the cellars and the Vinsantaia, but is followed by both a tasting and an in-depth discussion of the firm’s iconic labels. During an average of 90 minutes, the experience includes tasting the Riserve, Nuova Riserva and Occio di Pernice wines, as well as the classic vermouth.

Finalising the extensive experience offering is the ‘Art of Tasting’ immersive circuit, which includes the aforementioned visits followed by an explanation of the wine-tasting techniques and the discovery of three vintages: Riserva, Occhio di Pernice with chocolate, and vermouth. This exclusive activity takes place twice a month for about two hours. The property’s program is completed by ‘A walk through the vineyards’ experience, a new proposal sure to impress every single visitor.

Relaxing walks through the estate & wine conservation
Meanwhile, in Fasano, owners Alesandra and Giuliano speak marvels of their green and sustanaible boutique agriturismo Masseria Montenapoleone, focused on allowing guests to get in touch with the essence of nature and find psycho-physical wellbeing.

“At Masseria Montenapoleone we promote biodiversity. We cultivate the land respecting our long peasant tradition. We follow the methods of organic agriculture. We respect the crop rotation and we employ many ancient seed species. We support native species in order to preserve the identity of our land. Offering immersive unique experiences in our gardens is not only a mission, but it is engraved in our philosophy”, they say, visualising how they willingly contribute to the growing scene of wine hospitality.
Masseria Montenapoleone
When it comes to offering experiences centred on wine, they mainly focus on leading guests to the heart of nature, with three distinct proposals: the Vineyard Experience, Dinner under the stars, and the Herbarium.

“The Vineyard Experience is a special chance to have an aperitif inside the rows of our vineyard, a lunch or a dinner surrounded by a unique microclimate, enjoying the retro allure created by our d’antan design pieces. Facing the Adriatic sea, it is possible to taste the farm to table seasonal goodies prepared by our chef, while sipping a signature cocktail made with our grape juice”, says the couple.

Moreover, Dinner under the stars is a journey into the taste of Apulian food and wine, they explain: “It recalls the image of a meal in the desert, among a thousand candles and dreams to be shared with open eyes, under a blanket of stars which can appear closer than ever. The sea on the horizon releases its scent, inebriating the olive trees and the vegetation of the masseria”.

Finally, the Herbarium is their holistic center, where visitors can enjoy all sorts of massages and treatments based on the exclusive use of the botanical wonders of Puglia. Of course, this can be enjoyed anytime, but we sincerely recommend doing so after a lovely picnic, which Alessandra and Giuliano can organise based on local organic products prepared lovingly by the estate’s chef.
Vineyard Experiences at Masseria Montenapoleone
In addition to this, since most guests are dearest wine enthusiasts, Masseria Montenapoleone offers an outstanding Wine Tasting with their farmer/sommelier and the opportunity of tasting their ‘Primi Passi’ red wine, a white and a rosé all organically produced at the masseria.

Primi Passi is a pure Susumaniello wine, red and organic. Giuliano specifically chose and vouched for this variety of Italian grapes, given that they are cultivated only in Puglia and the Brindsi area and became almost extinct in the not too distant past.

“The name refers to the ‘somarello’ (little donkey), indicating its high productivity, a vine loaded with bunches, just like a donkey”, they say. The result is a table wine with hints of fruit on the palate and a Southern product that has had the chance to receive the sun. Since the vineyard is still young, they baptised the beverage as ‘Primi Passi’ (first steps), dedicated to Marcella, Alessandra and Giuliano‘s firstborn. In fact, the footprints on the label are hers!

Last year they also welcomed the Primi Passi Rosè, and soon their production will be enhanced with other indigenous red and white grape varieties named Ottavianello and Impigno.
Masseria Montenapoleone's Primi Passi wine
Botanical mixtures amidst the vineyards
To highlight the enriching experience at the masseria even further, the property eagerly sheds light on its design, which also supports their sustainability project. “We value objects from the past found in the farm and in antique markets. The rooms fully express the philosophy of recovery, each presenting its own uniqueness, both for the design and for the choice of fabrics. The love for tradition is combined with the desire for originality: shoe racks made with old shutters and rudimentary tools used in agriculture are transformed into pieces of furniture, accompanied by ancient prints, wooden doors and iron beds from the beginning of the century”, they explain. Truly, this is an incomparable wine-centric gem ready to offer the most sumptuous and comfortable of experiences in Italy. 
Romantic Suite at Masseria Montenapoleone
The Angel's Cave
Lastly, all the way from France, Les Sources de Caudalie is a pioneer in French wine tourism. Opened in 1999 in the middle of Chateau Smith Haut Laffite, the vineyards of Alice Tourbier’s family, the first idea behind the hotel’s concept was to promote the homegrown wines by welcoming visitors who would later become wine ambassadors. “Our concept evolved with our guests’ expectations. Our connection to the vineyards is everywhere: architecture, best grands crus on the winelist, food and wine pairing, or the spa using Caudalie cosmetic made from the benefits of grape seed extracts”, says Alice.

A natural beauty spot located just minutes from the centre of Bordeaux, Les Sources de Caudalie is a genuine hamlet with a respected wine country hotel that has been environmentally-friendly from the very start. But what’s more, the property is also a true French jewel for those seeking a unique wine-centric experience where they can savour exceptional wines but also immerse themselves in the cultural and historical facets of the region. As Alice explains, they actually offer guests the remarkable possibility to experience the life of a winegrower, participating in the harvests in September and October or composing their best match by mixing the different grape varietal Merlot, Cabernet and Sauvignon.
Les Sources de Caudalie and its vineyards
Additionally, in order to deepen guests’ appreciation for the skills and artistry behind the wines, the team at Les Sources de Caudalie can also offer a meet-up with Alice’s parents, who are the wine makers and are always delighted to share their passion around a glass of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte. “We had the special honour to welcome King Charles and Queen Camilla recently for a visit and a wine tasting of our best vintages. We know how to make sure our guests feel like King and Queen!” adds Alice devotedly.

As for the wines showcased here, we must say that the list is rather impressive, with their oldest vintage being a Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte 1878. Not only that, but wine has also made it to the spa in this stunning site, with the property being a pioneer of a concept invented in France almost 20 years ago. Here, the Caudalie Vinothérapie Spa combines the virtues of naturally hot spring water (that comes from a depth of over 540 metres) with vine and grape-based products, such as the famous Crushed Cabernet scrub, Barrel Bath and Winemaker’s massage. This certainly is a wine experience taken to the next level. In fact, here one is also able to take a plunge into a divine berry bath, since the old Merlot leaves give way to a brand new underwater work of art by Mathilde de l’Ecotais in the pool. The art chosen is a grape berry macroscopic photo. Why? Simple. Because in this region vines and grapes are the root and heart of all its surroundings, and this is a marvellous opportunity to admire the intrinsic splendour of the grape: its veins, its juice and its pips. No wonder that no one can resist Les Sources de Caudalie’s charm in the area, with about 50% of guests actually being French!
Indoor Pool with grape-inspired underwater artwork
Grape berry macroscopic photo by Mathilde de l’Ecotais
Noticeably, the couple of Alice and Jérôme Tourbier have managed to delicately grow this charismatic 5-star hotel, with 61 bedrooms and suites, three restaurants and the Vinothérapie spa, thanks to their immense efforts and passion, thus providing the property and estate with the warm-heartedness of a private home.
Room at Les Sources de Caudalie
Les Sources de Caudalie Outdoors
With travellers increasingly seeking more experiential and cultural travel worldwide, it was only a matter of time before wine tourism and wine-centric resorts felt a rise in popularity. In fact, recent figures show that, specifically, local and authentic wine experiences in family-run estates are the go-to now. As the aforementioned properties do, this trend goes beyond wine and the conventional experience, offering the possibility to connect more profoundly with the environment, local inhabitants and the whole process of making the beverage and the story behind it. What’s more, it seems that there is also a growing trend towards boutique or ‘maker’ wine brands, with these being characterised by exclusive production, artisanal methods and unique stories. As it turns out, all of the properties within this article’s assortment produce their very own bottles, with sustainability at the forefront. This has proven of immense importance too within the wine tourism industry, amid travellers looking to learn more about regenerative agricultural practices in the vineyards, which in turn means stronger and better-quality grapes - and wines, of course!

Honestly, when meeting around a glass of wine in these select spots, you're not just sharing a delightful drink; you're collecting treasured memories and immersing yourself in the rich culture and history that each locale has to offer.
Zoila Checa
Zoila's true passion lies in the art of storytelling, whether that is in print, online, or on screen. Bilingual in English and Spanish since she was born, and versatile by nature, she has a professional background in journalism, travel writing, and screen acting, all of which have led her to live and work in places like London, Madrid, Ibiza and Los Angeles. For Zoila, writing serves as an ingenious channel to convey her profound love for soulful travel, singular cultures, and their transformative impact. She currently resides in Mallorca, her native island in Spain.