Chianti in Tuscany: landscapes, art, wines and gastronomy

Chianti hills and vineyards in autumn, view from Villa le Barone’s tennis court

Are you sure you know Chianti? It is a blessed region of Tuscany: landscapes, art, wines and gastronomy! You have to come and come back again and again to discover all its facets. Villa le Barone has the chance to be in the heart of this corner of paradise!

Indeed there is a lot to discover in Chianti: sublime hillside landscapes, exquisite wines, authentic small villages, wonderful artistic heritage, and delectable gastronomy.

The stunning landscapes change with the seasons: tender green of the fields and sunny yellow of the broom in spring, yellow of the sunflowers in summer, ochres and the reds of the vines and vineyards in autumn. And, along the hills slopes, cypresses and olive trees, symbol of Tuscany! Pure air, perfumes, birdsongs, and church bells sounds guaranteed! Chianti is full of small churches, abbeys, hamlets and medieval villages, to be discovered along the roads.

Along the Chianti roads in spring : brooms and hills

Gastronomy is one of the pleasure of the lifestyle in Chianti , with the “antipasti” composed of various hors d’oeuvres, with the “bistecca alla fiorentina”, with the pecorino cheese, with the fresh and tasty vegetables and fruits, … And of course, there are the wines of Chianti, with a winemaking tradition that dates back to the 13th century. Most wineries and caves can be visited and wine tastings are a must!

Villa le Barone lies in the middle of the Chianti paradise… whether you are a walker, a cyclist, or driving a car, you will find at the Villa all the information you need to discover the many facets of Chianti!

2018: Year of Italian food: a fabulous gastronomic and wine heritage

Italian food market

Did you know? 2018 will be the year of Italian food, celebrating the Italian gastronomic and wine heritage and the links between gastronomy, landscape, art and culture.

However, the term “Italian food” is too generic! It is much richer and diverse, although for many non-Italians pasta, risotto or pizza are synonymous with Italian cuisine. In fact there are many types of Italian food, as many as regions!

Food and wine are two pillars of the Tuscan culture. Inherited from rural tradition, it is made of simple products: locally sourced, fresh, seasonal and tasty, such as tomato, eggplant, peppers, beans with regard to vegetables, beef, wild boar, rabbit, chicken, with regard to meat. Everything is cooked with locally produced extra virgin olive oil… With these dishes, simple but tasty, accompanied by exquisite wines, and especially the Chianti Classico, you taste Tuscany!

And Villa le Barone serves traditional Tuscan food, prepared, with local fresh products by our Tuscan cooks. The extra virgin olive oil, with ecolabel, comes either from the olive grove of Villa le Barone, or that of our farm in Maremma. Beef, also eco-certified, comes from our breeding free limousines cows… and in July, August, and September, tomatoes so tasty also come from our farm.

Buffet of appetizers at Villa le Barone

The dinner menu is a typical Italian menu. First, the traditional antipasti buffet to whet your appetite, with various regional charcuteries, colorful salads, marinated or dried vegetables… Then a “primo” (different kinds of pasta prepared in various ways, or risotto, or soups such as the Ribollita), then a “secondo”, meat or poultry or “bistecca alla Fiorentina”, or a vegetarian dish, finally dessert, with a choice of ice cream or homemade sherbet. You can eat as much cheese and fruit as you wish on the buffet…

The candlelight dinner is served in the restaurant or if the weather permits on the terrace in the greenery!

The famous composer Gioacchino Rossini has written: “An Italian meal is like an opera!” Come in Tuscany and celebrate Italian food and gastronomy, and at the same time relax and immerse yourself in the beauty of Chianti at Villa le Barone!

Tasting Vin Santo with Cantucci

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.