As the mercury heads south, our taste buds turn to Tuscan reds. Warming and generous, Sangiovese embraces like that favourite scarf around our shoulders. These wineries in Montalcino and Montepulciano serve considered local fare to accompany their top vino rosso.
MONTALCINO / Fattoria dei Barbi
Renowned worldwide for blue-label bottlings, present-day owner Stefano Cinelli Colombini is the latest in a long line of merchants, monks and bankers to own this estate south of Montalcino. The cellar tour is a history lesson as panels explain the family history alongside historic large oak barrels and artifacts from the past. The tasting experience starts with this year’s new addition paired with the fruitiest of Rosso di Montalcino: cheeses produced on-site by Sardinian transplants in a variety of flavours, like olive and walnut. The winery’s restaurant Taverna dei Barbi makes a point of researching and serving Montalcino recipes (apparently turtle soup was once a thing, but no more for obvious reasons). Chicken aspic, hand-rolled pinci with farmyard ragu and persimmon and ricotta dessert are currently on the menu designed by chef Maurizio Ianniciello. As only winery dining provides, special treats hail from the cellar. The Vigna del Fiore Brunello dating to 1991 is an elixir of geraniums and roses with a halo of cigar smoke, while the 2012 Vin Santo is a dolce in its own right. It’s not all sunshine and roses, however, as Cinelli Colombini is battling today’s demons in the vineyard through experimentation against esca disease and taller bush-like vine training to fend off thirsty deer.
Taverna dei Barbi, Localita Podernovi, 170, 53024 Montalcino
MONTEPULCIANO / Bindella – Tenuta Vallocaia
Classy Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is carefully crafted in this architectural masterpiece designed to welcome wine lovers from all over the world at recently revised Tenuta Vallocaia. Rudi Bindella, an unassuming wine exporter extraordinaire from Switzerland, purchased the estate back in 1983 and he’s now invested a figure in the region of 16 million to update the facilities. The result shows: the slanting wooden roof in the hospitality hub and elongated Val di Chiana brick-framed cellars are dotted throughout with site-specific tactile paintings by German artist Christopher Lemphfuhl, bronze human sculptures by Flora Steiger-Crawford and Rolf Brem, as well as unique pieces from Bindella’s bell and terracotta jar collections. It is without a doubt one of the most aesthetically breathtaking wineries in Tuscan and the wines are spot on too, especially the single vineyard I Quadri 2017, which is a dashing display of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano in a hot year with exquisite acidity and luscious forest fruit, and the sensual Vallocaia 2016 layered with incense and medicinal herbs. Plus, the food is delicious with local fare in pride of place, from the ubiquitous pici pasta with meat sauce to pork with just picked vegetables, and grazing boards of southern Tuscan cheeses and cured meats to accompany tastings.
Tenuta Vallocaia, via delle Tre Berte, 10/A, 53045 Montepulciano