Picture the scene: It’s June and you’re in the beautiful Tuscan countryside. Near Colle Val d’Elsa, to be precise, which is just south of Poggibonsi in the province of Siena. Chiantishire.
Despite the straightforward instructions – “follow the long stone wall and turn left after the postbox” – the house was not easy to find. I realised that I’d gone too far, when the only option available to me in this little Fiat 500 was to hurtle down a very steep slope on the other side of the hill, back down to the river. After a (rather embarassing) nine-point-turn on this tiny, tiny road, I was able to backtrack up to the top to the hill and relocate that infamous postbox. The turning that I needed to take was not so much a road, as a gap between two walls. Fortune favours the brave however, and yet I’m sure I heard this city car take a gulp as we turned into the winding track. Upon turning a bend, I saw a bright rainbow flag and instantly, I was sure that I had made it to the right place.
All that doesn’t matter anymore. Sitting under a fig tree, with a glass of unfiltered Trebbiano-Malvasia in hand, it is a natural paradise. The tasting cellar is to your right and there are still half-a-dozen more wines left to try.
Spring and early summer 2013 saw a lot of rainfall in this part of Chianti. As a result, the ground is still very muddy under-foot but the vegetation is looking fantastic. Fifty shades of green. There are a couple of WWOOFers moving carefully from row to row, making sure that the vines stay healthy.
During a brief pause in the rain, Helena leads me through the two vineyards (which are differentiated by the age of the vines.) On a gentle, south-westerly facing slope, fully exposed to the elements, they are so full of life. There are only four hectares of vines here so it doesn’t take long to do our little tour. Sangiovese, Colorino, Canaiolo, Trebbiano and Malvasia. Helena and Dante have been working organically since 1999 and biodynamically since the mid-2000s.
After a quick cup of tea and a slice of Helena’s delicious cherry tart, it’s time to leave. Just as I’m pulling out onto the road, next to that postbox again, my attention is drawn to the rear-view mirror. Right over their family house, as bright as day, is a rainbow. A real rainbow, with all its refracted colours distinctly visible – red, orange, yellow… Now that’s biodiversity in action.
For more information, check out their website: colombaia.it