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Badia a Coltibuono, Chianti, Tuscany

Traditional Tuscan specialties by a top chef, great wines, olive oils, ancient krypts, a hotel, shop, and an Etruscan museum in an 11th century abbey

This is part of a series of stories on food and wine from Tuscany, Italy
by South Florida Gourmet editor
Simone Zarmati Diament

 

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Even on a grey spring day, with billowing clouds darkening by the minute, Tuscany’s wine routes are enchanting; lush mountainous vegetation, a curtain through which one can peep on rolling hectares of vineyards and olive groves, a castle here and there and even the challenging pin curves punctuated with signs of wine estates.   

It ‘s at the top of the highest hills of the Chianti region off the Strada dei Castelli del Chianti (Chianti castles route) in the district of Gaiole in Chianti, the heart of Chianti Classico, that the famed Badia a Coltibuono  - not a label, but the actual Benedictine Abbey founded in 1051 – can be found.

For almost one thousand years the Abbey of Colti Buono or “The Good Harvest” was owned by the Vallumbrosan Benedictine monks – an order known for its austerity, ascetic and penitential character whose lay members produced wine and other gregarious victuals - until Napoleon’s secular armies ousted them in 1810.

Purchased in 1846, the former monastery was transformed into a wine estate and developed by the Stucchi-Prinetti family into a complex business which is today in the hands of  Emanuela, Roberto, Paolo and Guido Stucchi,  each in charge of a different branch: winery, olive oils, restaurant,  cooking school, hotel, museum and a shop selling its products. 

The wines, Certified Organic
Under the Stucchi Prinetti family Badia a Coltibuono has more recently morphed into two separate top of the line wineries  - ‘Badia a Coltibuono’ for wines made from its own grapes, and ‘Coltibuono’ for its selections - producing approximately 400 thousand bottles annually.

Certified Organic in 2003, it cultivates organic grapes in 70 hectares of 194 hectares estate to produce Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva, the “super Tuscan” Sangioveto with 100% Sangiovese, Vin Santo del Chianti Classico with Trebbiano and Malvasia, Grappa and Extra Virgin olive oils from 18 hectares of olive groves According to Emanuela Stucchi Prinetti “Since we have embraced organic methods of agriculture, our products, our Chianti Classico wines and our extra virgin olive oils are gaining an ever stronger identity and are improving  in quality.”   

The cooking school

coltibuono11cookingschoolcoltibuono10cookingschool  Emanuela - the first woman to be elected as President of the Marchio Storico del Chianti Classico in 2000 -  helped market and develop the cooking school made famous by Lorenza de Medici, the wife of Piero Stucchi-Prinetti, whose PBS TV series, The De Medici Kitchen, and books on Tuscan cookery shaped the way America eats Italian food.

 

The hotel

Guido manages the hotel,  service, tourist-related activities and the running of the villa. The austere monks’ cells clustered around what is now a delightful cloister, have become comfortable rooms and suites with state-of-the-art amenities¸ a Turkish bath and a hot tub,  and a gorgeous sitting room decorated with original frescoes from 15 and 16 century masters. Adjacent is the Etruscan Museum with an exhibition of remains found in digs within the 194 hectare property.

The restaurant at Coltibuono

coltrest1 Paolo handles the restaurant. Warm and inviting it overlooks the Abbey’s typical Tuscan garden with a harmonious Renaissance design, a rectangular pool speckled with red fish, pergolas draped with vines and an orchard from which the chef picks herbs and vegetables. On warm summer evenings, there are live  classical and jazz concerts.

The Coltibuono restaurant alone is worth the drive to the top of the hill. There is a seasonal menu of refined traditional Tuscan dishes like the hearty Farinata or thick soup of chestnust and semolina with smoked herring and an egg yolk;  chick pea galette topped with sweet roasted pumpkin and drizzled with cabbage pesto for antipasti;  tagliatelle with beef hoof ragoût and chicory;  or black bean gnocchi with sheep cheese fondue.

 Tuscans love hare and rabbit (there was recently a Sagra della Lepre or Festival of Hare nearby in Ciliegi where all the local restaurants prepared dishes made with rabbit) and wild game, and the menu offers a rich tasting rabbit leg fricassée with sour onions and sautéed cabbage, ossobucco with baked potatoes and T-bone steak from locally grown cattle with salad. Desserts are delicious and every meal is followed, as wills Tuscan tradition, by a glass of Vin Santo in which you can dip the Canducci - light and dry anisse-flavored cookies filled with roasted almonds or hazel nuts.

coltrest2cultusboniThere’s a wine list to dream of,  obviously headed by very reasonably-priced Badia a Coltibuono wines, but including some top Italian, French and even American labels. 

We chose a Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Cultus Boni 2004, DOCG (EURO 35), a blend of Sangiovese, Colorino, Ciliegiolo and Merlot aged for 24 months in French oak in the ancient and moldy cellars of the Abbey.  It is a medium-bodied, dark garnet ruby wine with a nose of red fruit and licorice, round tannins, hints of wood that meld earthy flavors with hints of tobacco, violet and mint and end in a deliciously long and generous finish.  

Visits to the abbey church, cellars and gardens can be arranged in a local guided tour.  For more information on the tours, wines, olive oils and other products contact: 

Badia a Coltibuono
53013 Gaiole in Chianti (SI) Italy
Tel:               (+39) 0577 746110         (+39) 0577 746110 www.coltibuono.com
For the resort: info@coltibuono.com Tel:               (+39) 0577 74481         (+39) 0577 74481
The restaurant: ristbadia@coltibuono.com Tel:               (+39) 0577 749031         (+39) 0577 749031
   

Badia a Coltibuono
53013 Gaiole in Chianti (SI) Italy
Tel:               (+39) 0577 746110         (+39) 0577 746110 www.coltibuono.com

For the resort: info@coltibuono.com Tel:               (+39) 0577 74481         (+39) 0577 74481

The restaurant: ristbadia@coltibuono.com Tel:               (+39) 0577 749031         (+39) 0577 749031

  

 

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