Sunday, October 30, 2011


I'm SO excited! Our olive oil is being made in these days and the labels will be printed in the coming week. So basically our Olivoglio should be ready by the end of this upcoming week.
For anyone coming to Tuscany this time of year Montisi in southern Siena has a lovely olive oil festival with colorful street vendors and olive oil floating onto toasted bread for the visitors.
Anyway, no need for long scribblings this time around - I would be happy if you have a look at my little video of the process filmed yesterday morning.

PS. In the video I forgot to say that the yield from 100 kilos of olive oil is about 15 liters of olive oil!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Vernaccia di San Gimignano - Tuscany's only DOCG white wine

Vernaccia is a white grape varietal from Tuscany protagonist in the Italian denomination system as it starred in the country's very first DOC in 1966. The region is San Gimignano, a town notorious for its history and beauty and consequently it has become a tourist destination in Tuscany.

The town itself contains one too many souvenir shop but the hundreds of thousands of tourists that flock to the town keep them alive. What few people may notice coming to the town is the Vernaccia wine (even if sold in most of the shops). Right at the highest point of town you'll find the Vernaccia wine museum (providing you can climb to the top) consisting of a few rooms dedicated to the exposition of this ancient wine and the products produced by all the different wineries in the region. Here it's possible to taste the widest varietal of Vernaccias in town.

Even if Vernaccia is a medium aromatic varietal (so not as aromatic as for instance a Riesling or a Sauvignon), this grape which apparently is related to the French Grenache Blanc is slowly gaining more notoriety nationally as it is being interpreted better and better by the serious producers of the region. The best Vernaccia's are fresh when young, and develop more complex flavors when aged. You may also find a reserve version which is barrel aged and undergoes malolactic (usually) and consequently is spicy and buttery with less freshness and more depth.

In the 1990'ies Vernaccia di San Gimignano was "promoted" to DOCG which makes it Tuscany's only white DOCG (there are now 10 red DOCG). And various wineries are gaining fame for this white varietal - as for example Mattia Barzaghi, a young and very nice wine producer who we visited yesterday. Look our for his wines as they represent some of San Gimignano's best! (soon available on the wine list of the Tuscan Wine School in Siena!)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Introducing our own brand of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

I have to share a joke with you which I first heard the other week:
A Tuscan kitchen chef asks his eager students at a cooking class: "tell me what does extra virgin olive oil really mean"? There is a bit of embarrassing shuffling around as no one wants to say the wrong thing... The chef continues to answer by himself and exclaims: "It's logical! It's the oil that comes from the ugliest olives!!!" 

Of course, the reality is completely the opposite and many a joke has been cracked about the word Virgin in the olive oil context. In my classes and on my tours I often ask the question "what is extra virgin olive oil?" and I'm baffled that, in fact, not a lot of people realize what exactly it is and what the differences could be between the different qualities of oil - in fact, I myself believe it is quite ambiguous all together because there are a wide range of olive oils that can classify as extra virgin and there is just as huge a range of qualities between great and mediocre ones in that same classification.

What I’m trying to say is, maybe there's something wrong with the classification system?!
So, let’s see…to be an extra virgin olive oil there are 3 requirements that have to be met: 
1) mechanical press (as opposed to chemical) 
2) oleic acidity content less than 0,8% (0,1% being excellent quality and 0,8% quite scarce), and 
3) Taste: no defects should be present and it should be fruity
So all in all the requirements are quite average and suit the big industries very well. 

But what about the small producers of really excellent olive oils, who take extra care of taking their olives down from the trees un-bruised, who take the olives to the mill within a few days of picking (the fresher the better), and who get a "cold pressing" done as opposed to a more economically interesting warm press?

There is just no official commercial category in which these olive oil makers can make themselves noted, if not because of passionate consumers who go and seek them out and try to spread the word (which is what I’m trying to do here). These oils are not just super-delicious but they are also extra healthy because of the vitamins and antioxidants that they still contain. But they are hard to get because made only by the smaller producers and in limited quantities (for the few lucky who know about them), so not exported in large quantities to other countries nor availble on larger supermarket shelves....

In Tuscany we like to claim our fame to the World's best olive oil. Maybe a bit pretentious…but there's something about it... The climate is just right for a late harvest in November when it is cooler and because of our long growing season the varietals of olives are small and lean - but the flavor that we get is fresh and spicy. 

So now you may ask yourselves, why am I so passionate about this argument (wasn't I supposed to be a wino)?! Well, to tell you the truth I had no clue what olive oil really was before I settled here. Since then, a World of flavors have revealed themselves, and the most choking difference to me was the one that I find in olive oils. And once the understanding for this wonderful product comes across, there is just no going back. My food deserves the very best olive oil!

Ok, this little write-up got a bit longer than I intended it to. The point of it all, I have searched out my favorite olive oil and it will be available not just here but you can order it online on the site that I’m slowly writing for it. By the end of October we’ll be ready for Xmas orders – so you can start planning who to give this unique present to.

If I've opened up your curiosity about the olive oil stuff, read on in this very interesting article from the New Yorker in 2007: Slippery Business.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Sì, Oui, YES!

Exhausted and with a bad cold, I'm now relaxing after a wonderful but stressful weekend with family and friends from multiple countries. 
Saturday was the day. We got married by a civil ceremony in the town hall of Colle di Val d'Elsa by the mayor who is also a professor of Oenology at the University of Siena, so very appropriate for us!
What an emotion it was to say yes for a life-time to the person you love! "Sì, Oui, Yes" in the 3 languages that we speak...
Later the Prosecco Cartizze bottles popped and we had a light lunch and then it was off to the party where we were to meet with everyone invited. Our dear friends Ilaria and Matteo from Officina della Cucina Popolare in Colle donated the whole organization of the evening as a wedding gift (thank you!) and arranged for live cooking an unforgettable evening all together. So we could just enjoy the perfect settings with a beautiful San Gimignano in the background and the wonderful guests who had come from close and far to celebrate us.
I would like to extend a big thank you to all the guests who contributed to a delightful evening, and in particular to my sisters who made my heart melt with their songs....