BY SIMONE BANDINI
We are with Silvia and Marco Barneschi at the Podere La Piaggia: and around a rugged rustic wooden table we taste their new extra virgin olive oil on a bruschetta, before trying other ‘magic’ bottles of oil flavoured in the old fashioned way. To get to the two siblings we went down a slope (‘piaggia’ in old Italian, ‘discesa’ or ‘descent’ in the Tuscan dialect). With spectacular traverses on the western slopes of Chianti.
Theirs is clearly a family business, a home farm. Founder and progenitor Adriano Barneschi, father of Silvia and Marco, moved here in 1950 starting to cultivate vines and olive trees – in addition to the traditional rotation crops for fodder and vegetables. The first properly labelled bottle is from 1964. Classic style vineyards arranged in different rows and terraces still surround the farmhouse on every side, with splendid ancient ungrafted vines. Surrounded by pleasant and flourishing woods in a perfect balance between spontaneous nature and agricultural efforts. These are the hills of Chianti Classico, the famous land of the Black Rooster. We go down to the venerable seventeenth century cellar that everywhere exudes rural life and family history. Marco proudly talks to me about his Riserva Ceppo Franco and his historic and beloved half-hectare vineyard – protected by the Tuscany Region and studied by the University of Florence – with the varieties 80% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo, 10% Malvasia and Trebbiano according to the old Chianti Classico recipe, vinified in large chestnut barrels.
But let’s talk oil, the reason for our visit this time. The olive harvest has just ended – with artisanal pressing done in Panzano in Chianti – from their 1400 trees spread over twenty hectares: “For several years we have been starting around the twentieth of October. The production was about one hundred quintals of olives, with a maximum yield of 12/14%” Marco tells me. Silvia adds: “This year we have an unparalleled quality, an oil of joyful sapidity, robust, with intense aromas – which leaves hints of artichoke in the mouth.” Soft, pleasant, never bitter, I confirm this by biting into a bruschetta. We must not forget that Podere La Piaggia is certified organic: “Natural fertilizers, natural pesticides such as the organic Spintor Fly bait with a modest application of Bordeaux mixture and kaolin in case of heat stress,” – Marco’s awareness of and research into the best natural techniques in the field is evident. The two cultivars here – typical of the Tuscan hills – Frantoio and Moraiolo are bottled as unfiltered Extra Virgin Olive Oil – while an Extra Virgin IGP Oil is produced from Moraiolo as monocultivar, filtered and very delicate.
The family organizes tastings of its agricultural products all year round, along with accompanying local specialities and runs a farm shop and ships everywhere. Another great passion is honey: its production is becoming more and more difficult because of the uncertainty of the seasons, as well as the scarcity of flowers. “Don’t be cheated, the only one that remains liquid in the cold is acacia!”, Marco explains, who then tells us about his favourite honey, heather or Scòpo del Chianti with a very intense, full and rounded taste. Among the family’s artisanal gems – we chat with Silvia – are strawberry, apricot and fig jams, then the oils flavoured with rosemary, chilli and truffle. Lastly, amidst this large production from the farm, dry Vin Santo from ancient kegs and yeast and the Chianti Classico and Riserva grappa, 43 degrees alcohol, aged in barriques for three years and flavoured with vanilla: soft, round, never too pervasive. The right epilogue for a day in the countryside, the real thing.
Info and orders: Podere La Piaggia Farm, Castellina in Chianti (Si)/ Tel. 340 3863441/ firstname.lastname@example.org/ www.poderelapiaggia.com