Saturday, October 27

In search of Brunello

When I first met Mr K, he would take me on wonderfully romantic, relaxed dates to the fantastic La Disfida Enoteca in Sydney's Italian capital, Haberfield. Sharing a very simple, divine Napolitan style pizza, Mr K would get all misty eyed over his other two loves (apart from me) - the pizzas in Napoli and Brunello wines. The pizzas at La Disfida and at another fantastic resturant a little further up the road, Napoli in Bocca, were about the closest Mr K could come too, outside of his beloved Napoli.

Unfortunately, a Brunello wine was a little harder to get our hands upon. Nonetheless, Mr K would often tell me about the the time he ventured down from the rolling hills of his Tuscan holiday and stepped into a very small, almost bookish little wine bar in Florence and sampled the delights of his very first earthy and complex Brunello. Never forgetting a detail - especially a nostalgic and somewhat romantic one, on our recent trip back to Tuscany, I arranged a surprise adventure for Mr K - a trip to Montalcino, the home of Brunello wines.

The fields below Montalcino




Wanting to ensure Mr K had a day off from driving our hire car, a sexy Fiat 500 (I should add that my driving and Italian roads are probably not the best combination for Mr K - he would not have enjoyed the wine at the prospect!!), I booked our day trip to Montalcino with Italy and Wine. After a slightly chaotic start - our guide thought we were being picked up in Sienna, not Florence - and had driven halfway there before he got the call that we were actually in Florence, we eventually met up with the charming Matteo and set out for the day.

Our guide, Matteo


We had a rather hairy, Italian autostrada experience from Florence to Sienna, then Matteo's car set upon the winding, twisting roads that led to Montalcino. We passed fields showing the early summer, bright yellow bloom of sunflowers and row upon row of lovingly cared for grape vines. Although young, Matteo was passionate about Italian wines and culture. Our trip to Montalcino, was relaxed and fun - like meeting up with a friend who lives overseas. Matteo was knowledgeable about Italian wine and his conversation was peppered with great tips on where to eat, family recipes and lots about history and everyday Italian culture.

The Jasmine at Le Potazzine


Our first stop with Matteo was at Le Potazzine, a very professional and polished estate in Montalcino, which still offered lots of classic rustic Tuscan charm. The first thing to hit you when arriving at the estate was the thick, sweet smell of Jasmine, it's oils being released under the hot, hot, Tuscan sun. After a few moments appreciating the jasmine, Matteo took us into the cool of the cellars - explaining the complex art of how a Brunello is born.



Next, came the tasting and meeting the wine maker, Guiseppe Gorelli. First we tried the 2010 Rosso di Montalcino and then the 2007 Brunello. Sometimes known as the "baby Brunello" the Rosso di Montalcino, was lighter and a little fresher than its big brother, the Brunello. It is also made from 100% Sangiovese grown in the Montalcino region. However, the wine is required to spend only six months aging in oak and 1 year total aging before release. The rosso di Montalcino had an elegant palate and lots of bright, vibrant red fruit flavours. Le Potazzine's Brunello lived up to all of Mr K's hopes and memories of Brunello wines. It was simply divine. The wine was not big or overpowring, it was subtle but complex offering plums, dark cherries, orange blossom, licorice and mocha - a wine to celebrate a very special occasion and a very special meal. Matteo's suggestions included wild boar stew, the classic bistecca florentina - a hard cheese or even dark chocolate.

The time at La Potazzine flew by and it was quickly time for lunch. From the estate, we headed into the main town of Montalcino.



In the town, the Gorelli family of Le Potazzine also have a stylish and elegant resturant, Vineria Le Potazzine. Our lunch had been arranged in advance by Matteo, and we were warmly greeted and given an outdoor table, under the shade of large umbrellas, which looked onto the main piazza. Like most European cultures, Italians often find the real pleasure of wine to be found when it is accompanied with food. At Vineria Le Potazzine, our Italian wine education continued in authentic style. The first course to arrive, along with a rosso di Montalcino, was a light and extremely refreshing panzanella.


With summer just around the corner here in Australia - this is really a perfect dish for those days when it is so hot that you barely feel like eating - but you do need a little something. It also makes the perfect starter or very, very fresh first course. Practical too, it can be made a few hours in advance. Over lunch Matteo kindly shared his recipe for panzanella.

Panzanella

500g stale Tuscan bread*

2-3 very ripe summer tomatoes

1 red onion

1 handful of basil

1-2 stalks of celery

Tuscan olive oil

Good Italian White wine vinegar

Salt and pepper

1. Cut the bread into slices and put in a bowl with cold water for half an hour; it must be well soaked. Then carefully drain and wring out all the water from the bread.

2. In a large bowl, break up the bread, add the tomatoes, onion and celery - all very finely chopped. Then add the basil leaves, torn.

3. Dress with the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, mix gently and let it rest in the fridge for a few hours.

4. When serving, you can decorate with basil leaves, or in the case of Le Potazzine, some halved cucumber slices.

* Tuscan bread contains absolutley no salt. For an more authentic style panzanella visit an Italian bakery to find a similar "pane toscano".

After our panzanella, a huge antipasto plate was next to arrive at the table to accompany the rest of the Rosso di Montalcino. In true Italian style our meal was also accompanied by a thick, green and peppery olive oil - local, of course. With olive oil running in his Hellenic veins, Mr K was beginning to look like he had died and gone to heaven.

Next, Matteo suggested a second course to match the Brunello di Montalcino, pici with sugo di cinghiale. Pici is a very tasty, fresh pasta that comes in the shape of large, thick spaghetti. It tradionally comes from the area around Sienna and at Vineria Le Potazzine it came with a rich and intensely garlic flavoured tomato and wild boar sauce. It was heavenly!
By this stage - we were all nearly bursting, but Matteo, for the purposes of our wine education, very generously insisted that we try a very special vinsanto from Montepulciano along with some crispy, almond scented homemade biscotti. The vinsanto was very viscose and syrupy with strong notes of almond and orange blossom and a slight hint of honeysuckle on the finish. The almond flavours of the biscotti enhanced the aromas of the vinsanto perfectly.

Lingering over the vinsanto, Matteo gave us lots of tips for great resturants near to where we were staying at Il Poggetto. Then it was time to head to our next stop, Il Cocco estate, also in Montalcino. At Il Cocco, we were again very warmly greeted by the winemaker, Giacomo Bindi, his brother and their adorable German Shepard.

Giacomo first took us into the cellar, to try a new Rose' wine, which had recently been released as a trial. Over the rose', Giiacomo told us of the history of the estate which had been in his family for many generations. In recent history the estate had been tenanted out to local farmers, but Giacomo's grandfather had always had the dream of making wine. Giacomo and his brothers have made their Grandfather's dream a reality, establishing Il Cocco, a biodynamic winery.

After enjoying the light and refreshing rose', Giacomo then poured us a very generous glass of the estate's Rosso di Montalcino and then led us out into the vines, where he explained more about the biodynamic processes of making wine. The Il Cocco Rosso di Montalcino was fresh and vibrant, tasting of red berries but it also had the earthy flavours that come with a 100% sangiovese. We also sampled, straight from the tree a very old variety of Tuscan cherries, which were a warm yellow color but tasted like an intense red summer cherry. It was a good introduction for what was to come when we tasted the Brunello.

Il Cocco's Brunello offered expressions of plums, cherries and black pepper. It was very smooth and seemed to be slightly lighter than the Brunello we had tried earlier in the day. While we savoured the Brunello, Giacomo also showed us how his wines were cellared, bottled and labeled - each wine coming with its on special number authenticating its DOCG status.

We absolutley loved our visit to Il Cocco. It had a wondefully friendly and inviting feel and it was so exciting to see a group of young brothers passionate about wine, biodynamic production and keeping Italian wine traditions alive. Il Cocco also offers accomodation, so if you are ever heading towards Montalcino - you may wish to investigate staying with Giacomo and his family on the estate.

The visit to Il Cocco was the end of our wine tasting for the day and we returned to Florence, with Matteo. We were a little jovial and very content, so much more knowledgeable about Brunello and the wines of Montalcino. Italy and Wine also offer tours of Chianti and other Tuscan wine areas - however, going with the less trodden path and experiencing the delicious flavours of both the wine and food at Le Potazzine and meeting Giacomo and his family was a wonderful experience and one we would highly recommend. You finish the day with the happy feeling of making many new friends and the comforting thought that the future of Italian wine making is in very, very safe hands.

A few days after our adventure in Montalcino, we headed into Florence and found the little wine bar that Mr K had visited a number of years ago. While the wine bar remained the same, Mr K launched himself - and all of his new found knowledge about the wines of Montalcino into negotiating the wine menu. The little bar was charming and the range of wines on offer was excellent. If you find yourself in Florence without the time to venture into Tuscan wine estates - then this is a great way to whet your appetite for a future visit.



Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina

Piazza Pitti, 16

50125 Firenze (FI)

Italia

+39 005 212 704

www.pittigolaecantina.com

Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina is open daily from 1pm to Midnight.




Italy and Wine

www.italyandwine.net




Il Cocco

www.ilcocco.it




Le Potazzine

www.lepotazzine.it



2 comments:

  1. What an absolutely beautiful place. And what a romantic and thoughtful gesture for Mr K! Lovely...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Another beautiful post showing a wonderful destination. And, oh my, those almond biscotti!

    ReplyDelete

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