Away from the beautiful city of Florence and into the Tuscan hills, Mr S and I sat back as a driver from the Four Seasons Firenze drove us into the beautiful Chianti region. Characterised by undulating green peaks, large vineyards, olive groves and small villages; Chianti was utterly beautiful.
It was a fairly short drive of around forty minutes to reach our destination, Badia a Passignano, a beautiful wine estate owned by the Antinori family.
The Antinori family have been involved in wine-making for over six centuries and today the company, Marchesi Antinori, is one of the biggest wine companies in Italy. The estate in Chianti, is one of several in Tuscany and the family also own vineyards in Umbria, Piedmonte and Puglia as well as internationally including the Napa Valley. For all these years the company has stayed in the family and today it’s is run by Piero Antinori and his three daughters, Albiera, Allegra and Alessia.
Mr S and I are still novices when it comes to wine but we love exploring wine countries and we’d come Badia a Passignano, a former abbey, to learn more about the famous Chianti Classico, produced exclusively in the region.
A trip to the estate begins with a private tour starting with a look at the vineyards adjacent to the main house. The Antinori family have only owned the vineyards surrounding the abbey since 1987 and there are 140 acres of vines as well as 37 acres of olive groves, from which they produce the finest olive oil.
The Antinori family have used of the cellars in the monastery which allows for the perfect conditions for aging wine, the temperature is kept constant throughout the year and it is just the right level of humidity for the two thousand 60 gallon barrels which are kept there.
As well as a winery, the estate houses Osteria di Passignano, a gorgeous Michelin-starred restaurant which beautiful high arched ceilings and elegant table settings. After the tour there is the opportunity to have lunch at the restaurant, and of course try some of the incredible wine and olive oil produced both at Badia a Passignano and the other wine estates belonging to the Antinori family.
There were a few set menu options but we decided to sample the signature tasting menu which included the finest wines. Chianti is a vast region but it’s in the smaller area of Chianti Classico where the best known and most-loved wine is produced. The Chianti Classico is recognised by a label with a Black Rooster seal and must abide by specific rules, and be made of at least 80% Sangiovese red grapes and 20% other grapes such as Canaiolo and Colorino, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
We’d be kicking things off with the Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Badio a Passignano 2010, made right here on the estate. The gorgeous rich ruby red colour being typical of Chianti Classico, it was fruity with a slight taste of balsamic with balanced tannins.
The wine was paired with a selection of olive oil, also made on the estate and we were instructed to first try the chickpea in order appreciate the full taste of the olive oil before trying it with the gorgeous bread selection that we were offered.
The olive oil varied in intensity from left to right with the furtherest to the right having the most peppery flavour and the one of the left being more mellow and fruity.
The next wine from the Antinori’s other nearby estate was Tignanello 2012 had soft notes of vanilla and chocolate with an aroma of leather, a wine that made you think of Christmas and and all those comforting tastes and scents.
Paired with a gorgeous starter of crispy egg in a nettle and parmesan flan with tomato water droplets that looked like a work of Impressionist art.
The next course was my favourite; pillows of fresh pasta stuffed with a rich beef stew in a velvety potato sauce, paired with another delicious red this time from the Guado al Tasso estate near the Tuscan coast.
Our main course was a succulent veal sirloin with bell pepper, a quenelle of aubergine and courgetti paired with a floral Brunello di Monalcino 2011 from the Pian delle Vigne estate. Regular readers will know that the menu deviated from my usual lighter choices of white wine and fish but the portions were small and not too rich so it wasn’t overly heavy. It did make me feel sleepy though.
Rather than a full on dessert, the final wine was paired with a cheese course and a small pear puff pastry with honey.
As well as this gorgeous silver carriage of petit fours.
We had a little bit of time before our next Vineyard appointment and our driver suggested a stop at Greve, a charming little town nearby.
With some lovely little restaurants, shops and cafes bordering a main square, there was plenty to browse and little covered walkways if you fancy stopping for a coffee or a gelato.
One of the main spots of note in Greve is Antica Macelleria Falorni, a Tuscan butcher which has been there since 1729.
We had a little browse inside and also loved a shop selling gorgeous handmade linen, and one specialising in handwoven baskets.
Back in the car and only a little further up the hill and we arrived at a small boutique wine estate called Podere Campriano. The gorgeous farmhouse is surrounded by the vineyards and olive groves, and with 5 acres of land, it’s teeny tiny compared to the estates of Antinori.
But I totally loved this vineyard which has been in the family for three generations. There was a real personal touch to the tour, as the owner Elena, showed us around herself, and introduced us to her son while the family dog played in the sunshine.
From the estate, there were beautiful views of the Tuscan countryside and the air smelt of the lemons that grew in the trees.
After a quick tour of the cellars downstairs it was back up into the sunshine to try the estate’s delicious wines.
The signature Black Rooster also appears on the bottles here, signifying the Chianto Classico made from carefully selected Sangiovese grapes.
Though we thought we couldn’t possibly eat any more we some how managed to fit in some of the Elena’s delicious cheese drizzled with the estate’s Bolero elixir, a sweet grape syrup which paired beautifully with the aged pecorino.
We loved the warm welcome and familial environment at Podere Campriano, and adored the wine so much that we bought three cases to be shipped home so that we could remember the beautiful Tuscan country and the beautiful scent of grapes for years to come…
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