Lunching and Tasting at Fattoria dei Barbi (#ItalianFWT)

We're stopping into Fattoria dei Barbi, one of the most historical producers of Brunello di Montalcino. While we're there we'll grab lunch at their restaurant, tour the winery, and taste through a selection of their wines. 

Note: The tour and wine tasting were comped as a member of the wine industry. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own

Today I invite you to join me for lunch and tasting in Tuscany. Specifically, we’re heading to Fattoria dei Barbi, a family-owned winery with centuries of history. Before we get into the tasting, we should probably have a base in our stomachs for the wines, so we’ll stop into their Taverna to grab a bite to eat. Then we’ll tour the historic winery, and finish our visit by tasting through their offerings. Sound good? Let’s go!

Fattoria dei Barbi was our first stop in Montalcino when Greg and I visited in the fall of 2018. We’d just driven up from Rome and it was nice to be able to decompress from the drive with lunch before heading into the tour and tasting.   

Let’s quickly recap what Brunello is all about. 

Map borrowed from

Brunello di Montalcino 5 Fact Cheat Sheet


We’ve visited Montalcino and its incredibly celebrated wine several times on this blog, so please check out this post for a little more background on the region and city, and this post for a look at the region’s soils and how they affect the flavors of the wine, but here are some basics on this famous Tuscan wine that commands the big bucks.  

  • Sangiovese is the star grape, as is the case through most of Tuscany. Brunello must be made from 100% Sangiovese and Sangiovese Grosso is the clone(s) the area is known for. Brunello is a diminutive form of the word bruno ("brown") and was the name that was given to the grape locally before it was known to be Sangio. 
  • Montalcino is the town. Your clue is the di which means “from.” It’s a beautiful hilltop town with vineyards that spread out all around it. I highly recommend visiting if you ever have the chance. 
  • There are aging requirements. Brunellos are aged for at least four years, with a minimum of two years in wood, and four months in bottle prior to release. Riserva wines get an extra year in bottle for a total of five, and six months in bottle prior to release. This aging process is part of the reason the wines are so pricey – having the space to store and age the wines is expensive. Even with all that aging before release, Brunellos can age for a very long time and might take quite a few years before they hit their peak(Although, in comparison to Napa, they're not such a bad deal especially when you consider everything that goes into making them.)
  • They’re big and bold. These wines tend to be full-bodied with lots of acidity and pronounced tannins. They’re flavorful wines with a mix of red and black fruits with sour black cherry notes, espresso, leather, licorice, and there are also often earthy and herbal notes mixed in.
  • Bold recognizes bold. Pair these wines with rich, meaty dishes and dishes driven by umami flavors like braised meats and savory stews.



Bonus Points: Rosso di Montalcino is your less pricey alternative. These wines are also made from Sango, but the wines in this classification undergo a lot less aging time  – one year with only six months in oak. The regulations are also a little more relaxed and the wines are often made from fruit from younger vines. Altogether, they display a fresher style and are a lot less expensive.

Pro Tip: Decant  . . . or don’t.  I find these wines usually benefit from decanting, and I like to give them time to breathe after opening. I will note though that not everyone agrees on this point, and some prefer to see how the wine develops in the glass over the course of the evening. 

We’ve taken a closer look at the soils of the region before, as I mentioned, but this series of soils displayed at Fattoria dei Barbi does a nice job of summarizing what you’ll find in the region.

Fattoria dei Barbi

This is one of those wineries that makes you realize just how short our own winemaking history is here in the US. Fattoria dei Barbi is owned by the Colombini family who has owned land in Montalcino since 1352. They were Sienese nobility and had an active in local government since around the year 1,000 CE. Once they arrived in Montalcino, they built the Poggio alle Mura (now owned by Castello Banfi), later the Villa Argiano, and finally founded Fattoria dei Barbi in 1790, where they’ve been making wine ever since. The estate is currently owned and managed by Stefano Cinelli Colombini, representing the 20th generation of the family.

Family timeline. 

Fattoria dei Barbi is one of the oldest producers of Brunello di Montalcino and is only one of five producers in Montalcino that have continuously operated for over 100 years. Moreover, along with the Biondi-Santi family (who have the honor of having made the first Brunello), they were integral in building the wine’s prestigious reputation. Their current holdings extend over 350 hectares of fields and vineyards in Montalcino, Scansano, and Chianti. The name of the estate is derived om “Barbo,” a reference to the seashell fossils found throughout the vineyards

The Colombini family’s philosophy has always been to know and understand the most current and innovative wine technology, and then find ways to marry this with the best traditional techniques. As such, included in their long history, their website boasts an impressive list of firsts and innovations in both areas of business and production through the years:

  • 1817 - the first firm in Montalcino to export bottled wine to France.
  • 1832 - the first to sell Brunello by mail order.
  • 1962 - the first to export it to America, followed by England (1969), and Japan (1975). 
  • 1974 - It created the first single-varietal grappa (Grappa di Brunello). 
  • In the 1960s the estate was a pioneer in using organic fertilizers, in the 1990s it created the first “artificial nose” for analyzing wine, and in 2000 was one of the first to use carbon dioxide for cold fermentation of red wines.
  • They were also one of the first local producers to encourage agro-tourism. They now receive 17K visitors per year.

They focus on low yields in the vineyards and strict grape selection, often opting to declassify around 40% of the vintage to Rosso di Montalcino. Their average yields are less than 1.5 kg of grapes per vine, which means that each vine produces only just a little more than one bottle of wine. In addition, no irrigation is used on the vines for their DOC and DOCG wines.  In total, their current annual production is about 800,000 bottles, of which more than 200,000 are Brunello.

Taverna dei Barbi

Since the winery was one of the first to encourage agro-tourism, visitors were being welcomed at Fattoria dei Barbi over fifty years ago. Many people asked to accompany their tastings with something to eat. The Taverna was created to meet the demand and they offer a selection of regional dishes characteristic of Montalcino. 

The Taverna has a really homey vibe with stone walls, wood beams, and a large fireplace and hearth space at the center. It’s a lovely and comfortable space. However, I’ll admit that we found the dishes to be a little hit and miss. Still, I was hungry after the drive and was happy to be able to land directly at the property, rather than having to search around for another place to have lunch. The dishes were also very representative of the region, as promised.

Since we were about to taste through lots of big reds, we decided to enjoy a glass of their Vermentino with our meal, but I think a lot of these styles of dishes would work well with many of the wines. 

Eventhough it’s a simple dish, and never the prettiest one at that, I love crostini with chicken liver spread. It was one of the highlights for me. 

I was excited about the idea of the “Old Tuscan-style beans cooked in a flash with sage and Extravirgin Olive Oil placed in a corner of the fireplace,” partly because their version was apparently based on a historical local recipe. Sadly, we found them to be underseasoned and lacked flavor. 


This was our first encounter with pici/pinci pasta, the thick hand-rolled spaghetti that is typical of Tuscany. These were covered in a duck ragú. It was a solid, tasty dish, although I would have liked it to be a bit more ducky –– I like gamey flavors. Nonetheless, a happy friendship started right here. 

The pappardelle with porcini mushrooms was another favorite dish. Simple and delicious. 

Their website notes that they are currently open and operating under COVID protocols. While the menu has been updated, I believe versions of all of these dishes currently appear to be listed. You can also find a sample menu on the site.

The Tour & Tasting

After lunch, we had a chance to tour the cellars, which is an excellent way to get a grasp of the history of Brunello in general, as well as that of the winery itself.

Barrels at Fattoria dei Barbi. You might notice the coat of arms at the top. The family earned it in 1200. It is made up of four little doves painted on a blue field and was originally separated by a golden cross. With the years the cross disappeared, but the doves remain.

There are bottles in the winery dating back to the late 1800s. Older wines are checked for quality every 20 years or so. They're opened through a vacuum system and topped off as needed. All of their bottles after 1950 are still drinkable.

The humidty in the cellars is kept at around 80% to best preserve the wines.

Bottles, bottles everywhere. I love the look of old bottles.

Once our tour wrapped up, we had a chance to taste some of the offerings. Here’s what we sipped:

Brusco di Barbi 2016 IGT

Average price: $19

This vintage wine was 90% Sangio with the remaining 10% being made up of Merlot. The vineyard for this wine are in Scansano, which has cooler nights thanks to proximity to the sea. Soils here are stony and mixed with sand. This wine is macerated for a fairly long time but sees no time in oak for a fresher style. 

Nose: Lilacs, strawberry, pomegranate, potpourri.

Palate: Notes of tomato leaf and strawberry leather join the party.

Pairings recommended by the winery: Versatile wine, it goes well with white meats, cold cuts, spicy sauces, not too seasoned cheeses, and traditional pizza.

Rosso di Montalcino DOC 2016

Average price: $36 ($23 across all vintages)

In general, the vineyards designated for this wine are on the younger side, about 5 to 10 years old. However, a portion of the grapes come from vineyards designated for Brunello that are declassified and used in the Rosso.  Soils for this, as well as the Brunello and the Riserva are dominated by gravel and clay soils and produce wines with power, while more sandy soils heighten aromatics. 

Nose: Lots of herbs, particularly medicinal herbs, cherry, strawberry, hints of salami. 

Palate: Very bright sour cherry and licorice join in the mix. 

Pairings recommended by the winery: ​​Perfect with roasted or grilled white and red meats, cheeses, and pan-fried dishes.

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2013 (Blue Label) 

Average price: $61

This is their flagship wine and they’ve been producing it since 1892. Vineyards designated for this wine are generally between 10 to 25 years old. The grapes are hand-harvested. The wine is aged in Slavonian oak.

Nose: More pronounced aging notes are present notes on this one, as is to be expected. Leather, forest floor, tobacco, savory pasta sauce herbs, tomato paste. 

Palate: Strawberry, pomegranate, red plum, orange peels, spice, a little dust. Well-structured with bright acidity. There’s a pretty quality to the fruit, and the savory tones add depth. 

Pairings recommends by the winery: Dishes rich in flavor such as stewed red meats or game, grilled or mixed roasts. Tasty and well seasoned hard cheeses.

Brunello di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012 (Red Label)

Average price: $96

Vines for the riserva are between 25 to 40 years old, but it’s only made in extraordinary years. Grapes are hand-harvested and the wine is aged in Slavonian oak. 

Nose: Meatier on the nose, with tobacco, leather, spice, and cigar box.

Palate: tomato paste, sour cherry, and a little licorice. Even more tertiary aromas, but also more concentration and structure.

Pairings recommends by the winery: Wine for special occasions, it goes well with mixed roasts, braised meats, game, and tasty and well seasoned hard cheeses.

We definitely enjoyed our tasting!

You can find additional details here on touring and tasting at the winery. Additional details on the current vintage of the wines here, as well as on their importer's website here.

We brought back several bottles, so we’ll be seeing them again down the line.


Check out these other posts related to our Italian road trip:


The rest of the Italian Food, Wine, Travel (#ItalianFWT) blogging group is exploring Brunello this month. Check out the rest of their posts for excellent pairing ideas and info:

Additional sources used for this post:



  1. I am SO inspired by the simple and delicious dishes. That's definitely one thing I love about Italian cuisine. Thanks for sharing your travels.

  2. What a fantastic trip. Thanks for sharing it with us. I found that my bottle was much better after opening up a bit.

    1. I relearn that lesson to decant early with Brunello and Nebbiolo wines all the time.

  3. I loved this post! Brings me back to my visit, but unfortunately I hadn’t really started to dig my heels into Italian wine so was just passing through doing a tasting. I love Tuscan dish simplicity!

    1. I have several trips like that I'd love to redo someday -- but it's a good excuse to go back. Thanks so much!

  4. I'm so glad you covered Fattoria dei Barbi and shared your wonderful trip there. I'm such a fan of their wines.

    1. And I loved reading your experience with Biondi Santi! Thanks Katrina!

  5. Dipping your toes in history! You made a perceptive comment about Brunello versus Napa wine. On one hand, it’s too bad regulations require such lengthy aging before release (like Rioja). On the other... many discussions on this one!

    1. Thanks Lynn, and agreed on the multiple perspectives on the requirements.


Thanks so much for leaving your comments and questions. I always love to hear from you!