Tasting Vin Santo with Cantucci

September 23, 2017  |  Food & Wine  |  Comments Off
Barrels "Caratelli" for Vin Santo ( Holy Wine) in Chianti

Barrels “Caratelli” for Vin Santo ( Holy Wine) in Chianti

Have you ever tasted Vin Santo with Cantucci? If not, you miss something! An ancient and fabled wine, Vin Santo is one of the most voluptuous, although nearly unknown, dessert wine. Wine’s historical roots date as far back as the Middle Ages, and its name most likely can be attributed to the use of sweet wine during catholic masses.

According to the legend, Vin Santo can be traced to 1348 when the plague was rampantly devastating the whole of Europe, and when a friar from the province of Siena began distributing this sweet wine to the sick to alleviate their pain, hence the name of Vin Santo, or Holy Wine .

The Vin Santo wine is made from naturally dried grapes with a concentrated sugar content due to the evaporation of water. In 1990 Vin Santo produced in the “Colli di Etruria Centrale” obtained the D.O.C (Denominazione di Origine Controllata), which means that it must contain at least 50% of Tuscan Trebbiano, up to 5 % of Malvasia from Chianti and a combination of 5% Pinot Bianco or Grigio, Chardonnay and Sauvignon . The sugar content of the grapes must reach at least 28%.

Vin Santo (Holy Wine ) and Cantucci

Vin Santo (Holy Wine ) and Cantucci

Traditionally, Vin Santo is produced by picking the best bunches of grapes and spreading them on mats or hanging them on hooks, sometimes until march, to allow grapes to dry (traditionally the grapes were hung in waning or hard moon periods with the conviction that it was avoiding the grapes to rot).  When dried, the grapes are pressed and the grape must (with or without grape juice depending on the tradition followed) is transferred to various small wood barrels (caratelli) of varying size (usually between 15 and 50 liters) from which the previous production of Vin Santo had just been removed.  This allows to keep some yeast (madre) from previous year’s production and it is believed that this older wine can help jump start the fermentation process and add more flavors to the wine. Afterwards the ”caratelli” are sealed and generally housed in an attic as it is believed that strong summer-winter thermal differences of temperatures are good for the fermentation. At least 3 years three years of aging in those small barrels are necessary to produce good Vin Santo wines, but the best ones are left for aging sometimes for 10 years. The color of Vin Santo ranges from pale to dark amber, and exude intense and aromatic perfumes, and its flavors include nutty or raisin notes with honey and cream attributes. Usually, Vin Santo is served, as we do in Villa le Barone, with “Cantucci” , crunchy biscuits with almonds typical of Tuscany.

Organic food in Tuscany

August 26, 2017  |  Food & Wine, Hotel  |  Comments Off
Jujube fruits at Villa le Barone Panzano in Chianti

Jujube fruits at Villa le Barone Panzano in Chianti

Do you wish to taste organic food and seasonal food in Tuscany? At Villa le Barone we serve organic food, with fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables: in early spring, we had the cherries. In summer, we have made our jam with the apricots and the plums produced in Villa le Barone.

Soon the quinces will be mature and we will make the jelly!

Did you know that in Greek mythology, the “golden apple” Paris gave to the goddess Aphrodite (in return for the love of Helen, ‘the most beautiful woman in the world ‘) and which sparked the Trojan War, is thought to be a quince, and not an apple? We have brought back from our organic farm the savory “beefsteak tomatoes” (cuore di bue), as well as the delectable “Muscat Hambourg” grape, a black grape known for its sweet flavor, its smooth texture and musky taste. It also makes exquisite pies!

Soon we will be able to crop the white grape “Dattier de Beyrouth”. There are still some peaches with which we are making our own sherbets. Figs are beginning to ripen… and some guests like to pick them up on the tree! In our orchard, we also have hazels, medlar, kakis, and ”jujube”, a very ancient shrub tree coming from south Asia, with thorny branches, that produces fruits looking similar to an olive pit! And we have, in our farm as well as in Villa le Barone, many olive trees, allowing us to produce an extra virgin olive oil that benefit from the ecolabel “Agriqualità”.

In Villa le Barone’s vegetable garden we have some salads, kale to make the delicious “ribolitta”, beautiful pumpkins, and all the aromatic herbs necessary for cooking: various species of sage, rosemary, thyme, laurel… The organic food served in our restaurant is genuine and delicious! It is “slow food”!

Tuscan Beer

June 10, 2017  |  Food & Wine, Tuscany  |  Comments Off
Tuscan beer Vapori di Birra

Tuscan beer Vapori di Birra

Tuscan wine or Tuscan beer? You will find both in Tuscany and they are both excellent! Tuscany is in fact the third craft beer producer in Italy, with about 80 producers but there is only one Tuscan beer produced with geothermal energy!

One of the oldest beverage produced by man , beer was brought in Italy by the Etruscans 2000 years ago , It was one of the most common drinks during the Middle Ages.in Europe, in particular in the northern and eastern part where grape cultivation was difficult or impossible. Today, the production of beer has been industrialized, but a number of innovative entrepreneurs have continued the tradition of producing craft beer, and Tuscan beers are particularly appreciated.

The bar , next to the infinity pool at Villale Barone

The bar , next to the infinity pool at Villale Barone

Beer production requires a lot of energy (the grain is milled, mashed, cooked, etc), but there is a Tuscan beer produced with geothermal energy, a sustainable source of energy, it is the brewery “Vapori di Birra” , based in Sasso Pisano , close to our farm “Vecchienna”. Water, malt, hops, yeast and sugar are the only ingredients used to produce this Tuscan beer, cooked and brought to fermentation with the heat of the earth. The result is an exclusive high quality beer, unfiltered and unpasteurized, refermented in the bottle. To preserve the organoleptic quality it is not more submitted to any filtration and pasteurization. It is marketed in 3 varieties Magma, Geyser and Sulfurea.

One can find this craft Tuscan beer at Villa le Barone in our honesty bar or in the bar close to our infinity pool!

Tuscan food wine and cheeses

March 30, 2017  |  Food & Wine, Hotel  |  Comments Off
Free serving buffet table with Italian cheeses

Free serving buffet table with Italian cheeses

What is best than a Tuscan dinner with good Italian cheeses and with a good glass of Chianti Classico wine? Made of cow’s milk, sheep or goat’s milk, Italian cheeses come of all of shapes and flavors, and at Villa le Barone, we are selecting the best for our guests on the free serving buffet table: parmesan, gorgonzola, pecorino, taleggio… and all of them have the label DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta) that certifies the origin of the product.

For Italians, there is no good dinner without cheese, and, at Villa le Barone you will find a good choice of Italian cheeses, from all regions. They are served on the free serving buffet table in our restaurant, and you can savor them either at the beginning of the dinner… or at the end.
Of course, you will find Parmesan (“parmigiano”) the king of the cheeses. Produced in the Parma region, in the northern part of Italy, it is a “grainy” cheese, coming in huge round wheels, in which pieces are cut. A sprinkling of parmesan cheese gives everything a delicious taste, and is used to top pasta. But it is also used in a number of dishes such as “the Parmigiana”, a gratin of eggplant covered with Parmesan cheese.

A very famous cheese from Tuscany is the “Pecorino”, one of Italy’s oldest cheeses that gets its name from the Italian word “pecore”, which means sheep .Earliest records of pecorino cheese production in Tuscany go back to Etruscan and Roman times. You find it soft or dry (“Stagionato”), and served with pears and walnuts or with honey or jam.

Italian cheeses on a Tuscan market

Italian cheeses on a Tuscan market

Gorgonzola is a soft cheese, a specific type of blue cheese prepared with cow milk, and that contain spots or stripes of the mold “Penicillium”. By law (and by tradition!), Gorgonzola is made exclusively with milk from cows raised in Piedmont and Lombardy, around the city of Gorgonzola . Since 1996, Gorgonzola has benefited from the Denomination of Protected Origin (DOP) certification.

Taleggio  is a semisoft, washed-rind, smear-ripened Italian cheese that is named after Val Taleggio, an Alpine valley in the Italian region of Lombardy.  Traditionally formed in square molds, the cheese has a thin crust and a strong aroma, but its flavor is comparatively mild. The cheese is set on wood shelves in chambers, sometimes in caves as per tradition, and matures within six to ten weeks. It is washed once a week with a seawater sponge to prevent mold growth and to form its typical orange or rose crust.

A delicious dinner with exquisite cheeses and an excellent Chianti Classico in the cheerful restaurant of Villa le Barone, what best?

A new book on Chianti Classico

February 24, 2017  |  Culture and Art, Food & Wine  |  Comments Off
Chianti Classico

Chianti Classico

Do you really know what is “Chianti Classico” wine? We are sure you don’t! To know what it is, you have to read the most fascinating new book Chianti Classico: The Search for Tuscany’s Noblest Wine , written by Bill Nesto and Frances Di Savino, which has just been published by the University of California Press.

The book not only tells the story of this famous wine since the 1500s until today, but it also reveals the closely intertwined socio-economic story of the Chianti territory. It is also a story of the laws, decrees, institutions and lobbying bodies which sought to protect the place of origin of wines and have led to the modern Chianti Classico, with its trademark, the Black Rooster (Gallo Nero).

We hope that the book’s short summary below will give Villa le Barone’s magazine readers the desire to read the book!

For centuries, “Chianti was valued as a special wine from the rocky hills of three river valleys between Florence and Siena in the heart of Tuscany: Val di Pesa, Val di Greve and Val d’Arbia”. This place, the original Chianti, has been mired in conflict for much of its history… and it was the dispute over the borders of the Chianti zones in the 20th century that came to be known as the “War of Chianti” (Guerra del Chianti). In 11 chapters, Bill Nesto and Frances di Savino describe the evolution of Chianti from the 1500s through Bettino Ricasoli in the 1800s, to the twenty-first century, including the birth of the competing “Chianti Classico” and “External Chianti” zones in the twentieth century. It tells how Chianti Classico entered the global market, mainly commercialized in “fiaschi” (flasks), wrapped in traditional reed, “sala”. At the same time, Italian wine merchants started to sell red wine under the brand “Chianti” coming from all over Tuscany, and even Rome, Naples, Sicily and other Italian regions. Tellingly, Italy did not sign the international Madrid Agreement to protect “indications of source or appellation of origin” in the late nineteenth century. In 1924 a law called Disposizioni per la difesa dei vini tipici (Provision for the defense of typical wines) gave precedence to the concept of “Vini Tipici “ over that of wines from delimitated areas, the result of a 4-year legislative odyssey. The Chiantigiani immediately fought back, and in May 1924, the “Consortium for the defense of the typical wine of Chianti and its mark of origin” was created in Radda in Chianti, and choose the Black Rooster, the emblem of the medieval Lega del Chianti, as its “mark of origin”. Within 6 months the consortium grew to 189 members. It was soon called “Rooster Consortium” (Consorzio del Gallo). The authors continue describing the divisions and fights between Chianti Classico and External Chianti and their respective consortia after World War 2. In 2014, a new Chianti Classico DOCG (Denominazione Origine Controllata e Guarantita) discipline was adopted. The Chianti Classico zone now covers the full townships of Radda in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti , Castellina in Chianti, and Greve in Chianti (which includes the hamlet of Panzano). The denomination also includes part of the townships of Castelnuovo Berardenga, Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, Barberino Val d’Elsa, Poggibonsi and San Casciano Val di Pesa. Today, the discussions are continuing: Is it important to identify “subzones” of Chianti Classico? Should there be “township labeling”?

Chianti Classico Vineyards from Villa le Barone Panzano in Chianti

Chianti Classico Vineyards from Villa le Barone Panzano in Chianti

 

“Essentially, Chianti Classico is a Sangiovese varietal wine”, already referenced in 1552 by Girolamo da Firenzurola in his long-lost treatise, “Sopra la agricultura”. It is Baron Bettino Ricasoli who, in 1870, re-established Sangiovese as Chianti’s star variety, sharing the stage with Canaiolo and Malvasia. But the authors state in conclusion of their chapter “The Secret of Sangiovese” that creating a new category of 100% Sangiovese Chianti Classico would allow “Sangiovese and terroir to shine”. Organic and biodynamic viticulture is now growing. It began in Panzano, where the Villa le Barone hotel is located, and where the Chanti Classico producers agreed together to adopt “sustainable viticulture practices”.

There are about 380 grower-bottlers of Chianti Classico, and Bill and Frances have selected a number of them, mostly the smaller to midsize ones and present them in one of the last chapters.

You will be able to savor the best Chianti Classico wines at Villa le Barone, together with the best traditional dinners prepared by our cooks!

“This is not a simple tale”, as Bill Nesto, MW and founder of the Wine Studies Program at Boston University, and Frances Di Savino, attorney and co-author, state in the first chapter of Chianti Classico: “With its many twists and turns, peaks and valleys, Chianti is a territory worthy of an epic. Framed by Florence to its north and Siena to its south, Chianti is a land of quintessential beauty and culture. It is the timeless paesaggio (landscape) in the background of a Renaissance painting. It is a land of castles, chapels, bell towers, farmhouses, hills, oaks, cypresses, olive groves, and vineyards. It is an authentic place which gave birth to an iconic…wine, also known as Chianti.”

You have to come to Chianti!