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La Badiola, Lucca

La Badiola estate near Lucca

The lovely Renaissance villa and estate of La Badiola has a fascinating story with roots that stretch deep into the long history of Tuscan wine. Set at 700 feet up in the foothills north of Lucca just below the village of Matraia it is well protected by the Apennines at its back as it looks south across the broad plain of Lucca and benefits from the moderating winds blowing in from the sea.

La Badiola vineyard near Lucca

Originally constructed centuries ago by a wealthy city merchant, Arnolfini, as his summer residence in the verdant countryside, it was purchased by Elisa Bonaparte in 1812 who at that time had become sovereign of both Lucca and Tuscany courtesy of her brother, Napoleon himself. Wine was one of her passions and she selected La Badiola as her personal residence from among her collection of villas not only because of its sweeping views but also because it had a fully operational wine business, which already had a century or more of history.

But Elisa was nothing if not French and she wanted French grapes planted. One could argue that the first Super Tuscans were born here in this little corner of Tuscany two hundred years ago with the introduction of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot and just for good measure she also planted Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc.

We have been coming to La Badiola every few months for many years to buy their wines, everything from their vino sfuso (the cheap table wine that you pour from tanks straight into your own bottles), to the top of the range Merlot Riserva which is only produced in good years. It should also be mentioned that the olive oil produced here is one of the best in the whole province of Lucca and we are not alone in that opinion. We have reviewed it alongside Baldaccini's olive oil.

Romina Mariotti helping customers at her winery La Badiola near Lucca

Today La Badiola produces 40,000 bottles a year which puts it firmly in the small producer category. In addition to the French grape varieties small amounts of the Italian varieties Trebbiano, Vermentino and Sangiovese are used for blending and for the cheaper wines in the range. Every year we buy the red wine Rosso Flora, which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, and the white wine Stoppielle, which is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc. In good years we also buy the Riserva, Serafino, a 100% Merlot. And this year there is a new wine in the lineup which we have yet to taste because it sold out in a flash, the very first vino spumante Metodo Classico in the entire Lucca wine area.

Despite the small production at La Badiola the owner, Romina Mariotti, had the good fortune 30 years ago to employ a young intern called Stefano Chioccioli who went on to become one of Italy’s better known oenologists and out of gratitude to her for giving him a start he returns to La Badiola every year to give help and advice.

The whole wine estate is in a beautiful setting as you can see from their 20 second video on and well worth a visit for a wine tasting. In the summer Mike goes right by it on his bike two or three times a week on the way up the mountain to the Altopiano delle Pizzorne and it is one of the loveliest parts of greater Lucca with views to the sea and the Monte Pisano mountains opposite.

The province of Lucca has just two DOC regions: Colline Lucchesi and Montecarlo. They are physically quite close with the former spread out all along the hills to the north and Montecarlo a much smaller area to the east. La Badiola produces Colline Lucchesi DOC and IGT wines.

Tasting Notes:

Stoppielle 2019

Grape variety: 50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Bianco

Fermentation: Stainless steel

Classification: IGT

Alcohol: 14%

Price in Italy: 7.50 Euro

Unavailable in the UK/US but will ship on request

Straw yellow with a little green in the glass. Apple, white peach and some lemony notes on the nose. This is a fresh, precise wine that is a little austere at this early stage and will open up more with time. Good acidity but well balanced with some depth. Not overly fruity this has plenty of structure and is definitely a food wine. Some hints of salinity. We both like it and as ever it is great value.

La Badiola wines in Lucca

Rosso Flora 2016

Grape variety: 50% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc

Fermentation: Stainless steel

Aging: 12 months in large French oak barrels (500 liter capacity)

Classification: IGT

Alcohol: 14.5%

Price in Italy: 12.00 Euro

Unavailable in the UK/US but will ship on request

Intense ruby red color. Very recognizable Bordeaux-type nose with the Cabernet Franc to the forefront despite only being 15% of the final blend. All violets, dark fruits and spicy pepper with those background aromas of nutmeg and tobacco. This is a full wine with good fruit and balancing acidity but not particularly tannic though it still needs food; it went very well with roast lamb at Xmas as all good Bordeaux wines do, even those from Lucca. It has plenty of vigor, still quite fresh but is softening noticeably. It may develop further but is a well-rounded wine right now. Great price for the quality here and we will hold a few bottles back to see how it develops if we can resist the temptation.

Serafino 2016

Grape variety: 100% Merlot

Fermentation: Stainless steel

Aging: 12 months in large French oak barrels (500 liter capacity)

Classification: DOC

Alcohol: 15%

Price in Italy: 18.00 Euro

Unavailable in the UK/US but will ship on request

Same year as the Rosso Flora and same ruby red color but in this case noticeable bricking at the edges. Perhaps Merlot ages faster in Lucca. Big nose and a big wine in every sense but at the same time quite complex and as elegant as a 15% alcohol wine can be. Completely different aromas here, much more dried flowers and black cherry and those tertiary notes of cacao and leather. The tannins are quite fine and well integrated.

This is a wine with persistent harmonious flavors that envelop and linger but there is always that power present. Needs red meat, game or mature cheeses but is a pleasure to drink.

La Badiola also produces a Colline Lucchesi white blend for 5.50 Euro and a Colline Lucchesi red blend for 6.50 Euro, both good value everyday wines.

La Badiola wines in Lucca


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