Tuscan Treasure

By: Penny Patsos
Marcello Crini

Badia di Passignano, ITALY –

Marcello Crini lives a charmed life. Known as an aficionado of Tuscan wines, he founded one of the best restaurants in Tuscany, Osteria di Passignano, with his partner Allegra Antinori, whose family has produced wines from their vineyards for more than six centuries.

The history behind the Antinori vineyards, where many of the restaurant’s outstanding wines are produced, reads like a historical novel. In 1385 Giovanni di Piero Antinori became a member of the “Arte Fiorentina Dei Vinattieri” the Florentine winemakers guild. The fame of their wines and family fortune expanded over the years with acquisitions, but weren’t without its scandals-including bankruptcy, exile and an infamous infidelity that resulted in death. Despite its turbulent past, the Antinori family has been committed to the art of winemaking for more than six centuries and 26 generations.

Heading up of one of the best restaurants in the Tuscan region is a perfect place to showcase Crini’s talent. Osteria di Passignano is a Michelin rated restaurant that boasts a charming location in the Marchesi Antinori’s late 19th century wine cellars next to the Abbey of San Michele Arcangelo a Passignano, an ancient monastery dating back to 395. It will take some time to reach as the drive winds through the gorgeous vineyards. An impeccable setting awaits, with a beautifully decorated interior, dining area and entrance draped in endless bottles of wine.

There are tastings offered daily, and while you can get lucky and get a seat without calling ahead, reservations are strongly recommended. The cuisine is on a par with the setting and is a surprisingly delicate version of the simple, rustic Tuscan food that so many visitors to the region love. The kitchen will graciously accommodate special dietary needs.

The restaurant’s menu varies according to the seasonality of the ingredients to ensure their freshness and quality. The recipes proposed are those of the Tuscan tradition, revisited with the imagination of young but expert chefs, who experiment with new combinations by selecting the best raw materials: from organic stone-ground flours to make bread and fresh pasta, to farmed Cinta Senese pigs in the wild at the Guado al Tasso estate, owned by the Antinori family.

A superb wine list, including legendary wines from Marcello Crini, are available to all diners.

Osteria di Passignano has long been one of Tuscany’s 

best-loved dining destinations, with its intricate 

Tuscan-inspired dishes using the freshest ingredients.

Marcello Crini gives us his top picks from the best of Antinori Vineyards. All wines can be purchased directly from the shop of Antinori di Passignano

CHIANTI CLASSICO BADIA A PASSIGNANO G.S.

The Badia a Passignano Gran Selezione is produced exclusively from a selection of the finest grapes cultivated on the property of the same name, located in the Chianti Classico production zone. The abbey of Badia aPassignano, around which the vineyards are situated, is one of the loveliest fortified monasteries of the area and has been famous for the high quality of its wines since the year 1000. The Antinori family acquired the terrain around the abbey in 1987, and ever since that date has utilized the splendid cellars of the monastery.

GUADO AL TASSO

Guado al Tasso was produced for the first time in 1990. It takes its name from a curious fact: at the Guado al Tasso estate it happens quite frequently that badgers, shy animals, can be seen fording the various rivers which flow through the property and this inspired the name of the property and its top wine. The estate is located some 50 miles to the southwest of the city of Florence near the medieval hamlet of Bolgheri in Tuscany’s upper Maremma. The property, 2,500 total acres in size, extends from the coast to the hillsides where the vineyards are cultivated in rocky and lightly calcareous soils and produces a Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

(www.osteriadipassignano.com) All photo credits by Lido Vannucchi, Lorenzo Noccioli, Alessandro Moggi

TIGNANELLO

Tignanello is produced exclusively from the vineyard of the same name, a parcel of some 140 acres with limestone-rich soils and a southwestern exposure at 1150-1325 feet above sea level at the Tignanello estate. It was the first Sangiovese wine to be aged in small oak barrels, the first modern red wine to use non-traditional varieties such as Cabernet in the blend, and among the first red wines from the Chianti Classico area to be produced without white grapes. The wine, originally called “Chianti Classico Riserva vigneto Tignanello” (a Chianti Classico Riserva from the Tignanello vineyard), was produced for the first time from a single vineyard parcel in 1970, when the blend contained 20 percent of Canaiolo and 5 percent of Trebbiano and Malvasia, both white grapes, and the wine aged in small oak barrels. In 1971 it became a Tuscan red table wine rather than a Chianti Classico, and was called Tignanello. In the 1975 vintage, the percentage of white grapes was definitively eliminated from the blend. Ever since 1982, the blend has been the one currently used. Tignanello has bottled only favorable vintages, and was not produced in 1972, 1973, 1974 1976, 1984, 1992, and 2002. It is considered the first “Super Tuscan.”

CERVARO DELLA SALA

The Cervaro della Sala name derives from the noble family which owned Castello della Sala during the 15th century, the Monaldeschi della Cervara. The Antinori family purchased the estate in 1940. The first vintage of Cervaro della Sala to be produced was the 1985, marketed in 1987. Considered one of the best Italian white wines, it is a blend of Chardonnay and Grechetto.

SOLAIA

Solaia is a 50-acre vineyard with a southwestern exposure situated at some 1,325 feet above sea level at the Tignanello estate. The soil consists of calcareous clays and limestone rock. The Marchesi Antinori company produced this wine for the first time in 1978; the initial blend, 80 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 20 percent Cabernet Franc, was repeated in 1979. In the following years, 20 percent of Sangiovese was added and some corrections in the rapport between the two different Cabernets were also made, creating the current blend. The wine is only produced in high-quality vintages and was not produced in 1980, 1981, 1983, 1984, and 1992

 

photo credits by Lido Vannucchi, Lorenzo Noccioli, Alessandro Moggi

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