Located inside the Fattoria dei Barbi,
the Caseificio dei Barbi – Barbi Cheese Dairy
is the guardian of our tradition and our brand,
like our wines. Launched for the first time
in the mid-19th century at Molin del Fiore (still part
of Stefano Cinelli Colombini’s estates today),
the Caseificio dei Barbi is the oldest
cheese production business still existing in Montalcino.
A history of the Caseificio dei Barbi has never been written but, considering that it is the oldest cheese production business still existing in Montalcino, it might be worth dedicating a few lines to it.
The current Fattoria dei Barbi originates from a purchase made in 1794 or 1795; in the family records we find both dates. At the beginning there were three farms: Podernuovo di sopra, Podernuovo di sotto and Podernuovo bianco which together formed the Podernuovi, plus Podernovaccio at the top of the hill. In the mid-1800s, the Poggio structure was built between these two groups of buildings, and the Fattoria dei Barbi, the Fiore and the Molin del Fiore, which centuries before had belonged to the Colombini, were bought from the Clementi. And it is to Molin del Fiore that we owe the beginning of the Barbi Dairy because Rosa, a particular woman, lived there. They said she had “warm hands”, which she used, together with herbs, to cure people and make cheese. Excellent cheese, no less. Then the bandit Bruscone arrived, and despite herself Rosa ended up in the newspapers because of a complicated story between her, her husband, another bandit Baicche and Bruscone that ended up in a shoot – out. Baicche was killed, Bruscone received a Royal Pardon and began a long career as a local legend and Rosa continued to cure people and make cheese, called the Cacio dei Barbi. It was excellent and created a little local fame, so Giovanni Colombini in the 1920s thought of equipping a real dairy and selling it with a label.
Montalcino has always made some form of cheese, but very different from the present one. They were low and wide shapes, with a diameter of 15 or 20 cm and no more than 5 or 6 cm high, with a black rind of olive oil dregs mixed with wood ash and very salty. It was food for hard times, mostly rind, and made to be so hard that a bite stayed in your mouth for a long time. Sometimes in the paste there was black pepper not chopped, the part left over after curing pork. Rosa’s cheese was quite another thing: it was the food of the nobiles and Giovanni Colombini put it on sale with his beautiful label in the newly restored Fortress of Montalcino in the late 1930s. It was a fresh or dry pecorino cheese similar to the current one,rounded shapes weighing a kilo and a half lightly salted, with all the fragrance and flavor of the milk of the sheep that ate our herbs. It was a success, which continued over the years until the transfer of the small dairy from the Barbi to the current headquarters of the Podernovi. Rosa was succeeded by her niece, again named Rosa and still with warm hands, ideal for making cheese, and in the 1960s the famous admirers began. Piero Jahier, the founding writer of “La Voce”, spent his summers as a guest of Giovanni Colombini and always wanted some on his return to Florence as did Federico Fellini, who convinced the Colombinis to make giant five-kilo shapes refined for eighteen months which were a authentic delight also loved by Sergio Zavoli and many others.
In those years the exodus from the countryside led to the end of Tuscan farming, but a large Sardinian community brought their sheep and allowed the survival of the cheese tradition. The presence of two extraordinary police chiefs from Sardinia in the Montalcino station, Soro and Spada, favored the amalgamation of the two communities and kept the countryside alive even where there is no vineyard or olive grove: without that union, who knows if the Val d ‘ Orcia with its gentle rolling hills that everyone loves would still exist.
In the 70s the Caseificio dei Barbi created the cacio ubriaco, or ‘drunk cheese’, a pecorino aged in immersion in the Sangiovese grapes of Montalcino, and the truffle of the local Crete Senesi territory began to be used. Some curious experiments were made, such as the cheese aged in terracotta olive oil containers, the one aged in straw and the one with Presura rennet, the Val d’Orcia artichoke that was used in the Middle Ages.
Today the Caseificio dei Barbi continues its centuries-old tradition of cheeses made only from sheep’s milk thanks to the hand of the young Sardinian cheesemakers Salvatore Soddu and Angela Zizzi and is specialized in small 330 g single-serving pecorino cheeses refined according to recovered traditions: we age them in olive paste, in walnut leaves, treated with tomato, with extra virgin olive oil, aged with maturation in the ziro (the Siena terracotta jar), up to the drunken ones with Sangiovese wine aging, those with truffles and with the most typical pepper of Montalcino. A medium and long seasoning type is also made; from December fresh ricotta is available again, also with truffles, and by reservation also raviggiolo. All the products of the Caseificio dei Barbi are labeled with the colors of the wine labels of the Fattoria dei Barbi.
Dairy Store Hours
Monday – Friday 9:00-13:00
In the afternoon by appointment by contacting via whatsapp +39 348 381 5014