The Chianti area in central Tuscany is synonymous across the world with characteristic undulating countryside, slow-cooked foods and delicate red wines. Indeed, the recent lavish wedding ceremony between Kevin Sharma and Aradhana Lohia, daughter of Indian business magnate Aloke Lohia, which took place at Villa Le Corti in April, is an example of the international esteem to which the Tuscan Chianti is held. Perhaps what makes this part of the region such a popular destination amongst the world’s culinary tourists is its gastro-cultural diversity. As Sam Lawley explains, the Chianti successfully synthesises a range of different styles and ways to appreciate this remarkable part of Tuscany.
TRADITIONAL / VILLA LE CORTI
In the very heart of Tuscany, and only a few kilometres south of Florence, the Corsini family estate of Villa Le Corti embodies the long history of the Chianti area. Steeped in over nine centuries of family tradition and expertise, Villa Le Corti continues the dialogue between past and present, producing its own wine and olive oil, as well as hosting guests as part of its accommodation package.
Year round, Villa Le Corti offers guided tours of the cellars, its olive mill and of the orciaia, the oil cellar with its large terracotta jars, all of which, together with the villa, have been declared a national monument.
The Osteria del Principe, housed in a section of the villa’s old cellars, embodies the Corsini family’s dedication to fine quality and tradition. A great wooden door opens the way to a spacious hall with vaulted ceilings, while centuries-old bookcases line the walls. Cooking courses take place at the villa’s historical kitchen, and offer guests the opportunity of coming into contact with the flavours and aromas of the estate’s vegetable garden.
Wine produced from the estate’s 49 hectares of vineyards and oil from its 73 hectares of olive groves, are on sale at Villa Le Corti’s shop and can also be purchased online.
For more information, see www.principecorsini.com.
GOURMET / LA LOCANDA DI PIETRACUPA
Only a few minutes from the Florence–Siena motorway, in the small medieval town of San Donato in Poggio, lies La Locanda di Pietracupa, which brings together quaint bed-and-breakfast accommodations with a truly exceptional restaurant.
Even the most discerning epicurean will find complete satisfaction at this gourmet experience, where tradition and innovation merge successfully. The imaginative presentation of dishes enhance both their traditional flavours and the overall enjoyment of the food on offer. In particular, the oven-roasted tropea onions, baked for a minimum of six hours, exemplify the care and attention that is lavishly dispensed at La Locanda.
As is to be expected, the wine list offers a variety of locally produced wines, but to the establishment’s credit, there is also an impressive selection of foreign wines–all of which can be enjoyed in an elegant dining room in winter, or on the magnificent terrace, overlooking the medieval village of San Donato in Poggio in summer.
On the upper floor, Locanda boasts four elegant bedrooms, which are a good base from which to discover the rural and natural paradise of the surrounding Chianti countryside. The rooms themselves come with an en-suite bathroom, courtesy products and satellite TV, but most importantly, they offer breath-taking views of the surrounding landscape.
For special offers and more information, visit www.locandapietracupa.com.
HIGH-DESIGN / ANTINORI
A stone’s throw from Florence, the Antinori Chianti Classico winery and estate, whose ethos is encapsulated by ‘tradition opens up to the future,’ represents a more modern face to the Chianti area and is considered at the forefront of the evolving Italian wine trade.
Set amongst the gently rolling hills between Siena and Florence, it is easy to miss this future-forward architectural jewel, designed by the Archea Associati architecture studio. The building complex containing the wine cellars opened on October 25, 2012, after seven years of work, and are designed to explore the relationship between man, product and landscape. Indeed, it is completely immersed into the landscape and, for the most part, develops underground, where the undulating masonry walls and terracotta vaults of the wine cellars help maintain the ideal interior temperature for fermentation. Above ground, visitors can enjoy amazing views of the surrounding countryside from the Rinuccio 1180 restaurant, named after the founder of the Antinori dynasty, where they can also find the auditorium, museum, library, wine tasting areas and shop.
Indeed, the cellars are the heart and soul of the complex, which was purposefully built according to reasons strictly tied to wine production: the high ceilings allow the right temperature to be reached, while the hollow walls facilitate ventilation. The architectural structure also affords wine lovers the opportunity to enter into direct contact with the production philosophy of the family, offering the possibility of witnessing, from the vineyard to the bottle, how a wine is born, and observing—step by step—the different phases of fermentation and aging.
Visits to the cellars, which last approximately one hour, are available from Monday to Saturday, from 11am to 7pm, and Sundays, from 11am to 3pm. The museum recounts the history of the family’s connection to wine, and it boasts an impressive array of antique machinery and wine-related memorabilia, including an ancient grape press made according to an original design by Leonardo da Vinci.
For more information on the Antinori estate, see www.antinorichianticlassico.it.