Italian Wine News: Dispatch from Montalcino
Wine Director Charles Scicolone is on vacation this week but look for his piece on Brunello next week.
Vino and I Trulli’s Operation Manager Jim Hutchinson and Marketing Director Jeremy Parzen have been traveling in Italy talking to producers, tasting recent vintages, and sourcing new wines (old and young).
After a quick stop in Firenze for lunch, where they ate at the Cibreo Teatro del Sale (the “Theater of Salt,” a hybrid of a performance space and restaurant, where classics of Fiorentina cuisine are paried with a side of “living theater,” see address and tel. below), they went to visit winemakers Bartolini-Badelli (Chianti Colli Fiorentini), Villa di Vetrice (Chianti Rufina), and Travignoli (Chianti Rufina).
At Travignoli (see photo above), they tasted the recently bottled 2004 Chianti Rufina and spoke to winemaker Count Giovanni Busi about the vintage. “The combination of good weather with cool temperatures,” said Giovanni, “allowed the fruit in Chianti Rufina to ripen slowly and powerfully. The result was one of the best vintages of my wines in the last ten years.” Although the wine has been in bottle only a few weeks, all agreed that it is already drinking wonderfully.
From Chianti Rufina, they traveled to Chianti Classico where they tasted Carobbio (look for more on Carobbio in the weeks to come) and ate the famed Tuscan trattoria “La Padellina” where the colorful and often foul-mouthed proprietor is known for his ability to quote from Dante’s Commedia extemporaneously. On the menu? Penne with Pheasant Ragu and Antica Fornacina, a classic dish of the Chiantigiana — veal stewed in red wine and tomato until melt-in-your-mouth tender (see address and tel. below(.
Next on the itinerary was Montalcino, known for its production of long-lived Brunello. Besides tasting and meeting with producers, they made a visit to nearby Montecucco where Prosciutto di Cinghiale (wild boar Prosciutto) and artisanal Pecorino were gladfully sampled.
See Jim’s piece on Pecorino and accompanying photograph below and look for more news from their trip in upcoming issues of the Vino and I Trulli Newsletter.
Teatro del Sale is located in downtown Firenze, a few blocks from the Arno, tel. 055 2001492, Via dei Macci 118R. Please note that non-residents need to buy a 5 Euro membership fee. The meal costs 15 Euro and is served family style (wine included).
La Padellina is located in Strada in Chianti (FI), tel. 011 39 055 858388, Corso del Popolo 54.
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Happy Valentine’s Day!
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Come join us at Vino this Friday (5:30-7:30) and Saturday (4:30-6:30) for our FREE weekly tasting. This week we’re featuring wines from the Italian coast.
Charles and the Vino staff will be pouring the following wines (among others):*
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A Visit to Caseificio Codispoti (Montecucco)
Antonio and his son Nicola Codispoti work a small farm and sheep’s milk dairy in a shallow, narrow valley in Montecucco, southeast of Montalcino in Tuscany. Their specialty is the local pecorino, which they make in the basement of their house on a hill above their family’s land. Their property sits in a grove at the end of a long dirt track, their endeavor announced by a hand-painted sign out on the road. According to Antonio, who is in his eighties, the recipe for good pecorino is simple. You raise good sheep on good land, feed them properly with a combination of forage and grain, milk them regularly and let that milk, with as little intervention as possible, become great cheese.
We met him one afternoon as he chugged up the hill from his lower pastures on an old tractor. Nicola had said that his father had gone down the hill to fetch a newborn lamb. As Antonio made his way up the steep incline, followed by a shifting column of sheep, one animal in particular kept particularly close. As the tractor passed, mama sheep bleating and skittery, we noticed the lamb, hanging by its bound front legs from the back of the machine. The tractor stopped, Nicola’s wife untied the lamb and took it to the barn, its mother retreated, and we went about our way.
Nicola took us to the small cheese-making facility, three rooms, two for production and one for aging. He had fifteen wheels resting on boards. The younger were the color of milk fat, slightly yellow and gave easily to slight pressure from the thumb. The mature wheels, some as old as ten months had formed a grey crust and were hard to the touch. We were told that the production cycle ran from December through August with the richest cheeses produced in the spring when the grass is new and the fields are full of flowers.
After touring the cheese-making plant we headed to Nicola’s apartment to taste. Before a crackling fire we sampled young and old. Used to Pecorino Toscano with piquancy, we were surprised at how sweet the cheese was. Nicola explained, as his father did, that their style was a fortuitous combination of land, animal and skill.
We had been invited to visit Montecucco by a young Ligurian transplant named Mattia. Our initial interest had been in tasting the local wines in hopes of finding something interesting for export. Montecucco is a sprawling, crescent-shaped collection of low hills in the province of Grossetto, southwest of Montalcino. Its main variety is Sangiovese but, as is the case in much of Italy, the non-native Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are widely used. While there were some interesting bottles, our survey was unsuccessful. We were lucky however that Mattia had other interests as well.
–Jim Hutchinson, Operations Manager, Vino and I Trulli
To read more about Caseificio Codispoti, please visit www.saporisemplici.it.
Comments? Jim would love to hear from you. Please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.