I find the centre of Florence irresistible – most of the time. But there are moments when the thought of cutting a path through the forest of selfie sticks just to have lunch or spend a quiet hour in the Uffizi makes me want to run in the other direction. At times like these, Rinuccio 1180, the in-house restaurant of the Antinori family’s spectacular winery – barely 30 minutes outside the city, in a landscape of ancient churches and gently tumbling hills – is a haven of simplicity.
The winery – a series of long, low-slung, terracotta-coloured buildings so discreetly settled into the hillside you barely know they are there – was seven years in the making, designed by architect Marco Casamonti in close consultation with the Antinori family. Glimpsed from below, it gives the fleeting impression of two earth-brown, snake-like swooshes cut out of a vineyard canvas – a deliberate echo of the slashes in a Lucio Fontana painting.
The restaurant – the domain of chef Matteo Gambi, serving upmarket classics – sits on the winery roof, with the vines planted neatly at your feet, so lunch on the terrace, shaded by a tent-like canopy and soothed by cooling mist blowers, feels like you’re picnicking in the vineyards, only in far greater comfort. And in cooler weather, there’s an indoor dining room (open from midday to 4pm) in a refreshing palette of pale oak.
The menu is deliciously unfussy; think traditional Tuscany shedding its jacket, and that’s chef Gambi’s style. Antipasti include bruschetta four ways (€15) or a cool pecorino and pear salad with honey and walnut dressing (€13). There are always seasonal soups, such as roasted carrot with pistachio, ginger and spices, and pasta dishes: the homemade ravioli stuffed with turbot on a courgette cream (€14) is a triumph.
For a more robust lunch, I go for the classic bistecca alla Fiorentina (€5.50 per 100g steak) with garlic spinach and beans, or the chianti burger (€20), made from the region’s prime beef, with vin santo-braised shallots and pecorino. Of course, the allure of the celebrated Antinori Super Tuscan Tignanello wine (€17 per glass/€85 a bottle), grown on the nearby Tignanello estate, makes ordering these a clear-cut decision; a deep ruby blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, it was one of the first reds in the Chianti Classico area to be made without any white grapes, and has a touch of spice to it.
As you would expect, there’s a stunning selection of Antinori bottles from the various domaines around Italy to peruse, but with a particular focus on the Chianti estates. In my experience, a glass of Pèppoli (€5), the entry-level Chianti Classico (90 per cent Sangiovese with a splash of Merlot and Syrah) made in the winery downstairs, slips down beautifully with any of the pasta dishes.