Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Mastering the wine @ the Tuscan Wine School

What fun it is when we are asked to set up a special tasting for someone. It usually means you have people come who are already excited by wine and then our task becomes quite easy; to present, serve and discuss (and maybe taste a bit ourselves!).

Today we did a Master Class for 20 Australians (wine lovers/wine makers) and we cracked open 20 lovely wines, diverse in typology, from cheaper to very expensive wines. And we had the story of the wines reveal themselves inside the glasses. It was definitely magical!
Great wines amongst which were the favorites: San Polino Brunello 2007, Bruno di Rocca 2000, Sassicaia 2009 and Vigna d'Alceo 2008 (100 points!)...

And then, to change completely subject, don't forget that this is the time to order your new fresh olive oil 2013! The site is - we need orders in by Nov 25th if you would like to receive them for xmas!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Amalfi coast wine tour

Just home from a long week-end at the Amalfi coast. Finally, after 18 yrs in the country, I get around to organizing a trip with Pierre and the boys. Organizing is a big word, perhaps, as the boys are in an age that it's hard to organize any grown up activity, so we left the details to last so that we could have a look at how to spend the days after having understood the terrain of the area (e.g. strollers didn't allow us to hike or climb up in the villages). In fact, I surprised myself so much by not planning far ahead for a winery visit that I feebly researched some on the highway down there and hooked up with Vigne di Raito for my bday - Sat 2nd of November (an otherwise depressing day in Italy as people go to the graveyards to remember the dead on this day).

But back to day one when we were driving to the Amalfi from Tuscany. First of all, it's much further than I had originally thought. So as I was a bit bored, I looked up info on the area and of course stumbled into Rick Steves' valuable words on the first page of the google search about Amalfi. I read it out loud to my husband who was driving and we found it quite amusing that Rick's advice was not to visit the much appraised island of Capri. I had heard that you can see it and die (!) - and furthermore I had the idea that there would be many a restaurant featuring the Caprese salad - hence the word.
So, ignoring Rick completely, our first day was entirely wasted on going the 1 hour (beyond) boat ride from Amalfi to Capri (and back), starting at 9.30 and heading back at 3.30 pm. You arrive in Capri around 11 and even if the boat ride is pretty, it is looong and your initial excitement fades quickly. Upon arrival you immediately discover that the port is a tourist trap with cafes and taxi drivers waiting to suck your money out of you. So you quickly must figure out that you need to take the funicular to arrive to the top of the village where the views and fashionable shops are.

It dawns upon you that either you hike the island (if you are a hiker or in the condition to hike) or you are enclosed in a large tourist trap. Our first stop was a beer for 8 euro a piece. Only beaten by an equally expensive beer a few yrs ago by the tower of Pisa. It's funny how you feel even more ripped off when you live here and know the price of things. After a 20 euro boat ride (each way) the reward was a bit disappointing!
I'll let the rest of my thoughts about Capri condense into a few words: I was not impressed. Only great thing was that we hit a great place for lunch. Actually it's a bakery/gelateria, but you can eat there. It's called Buonocore - everything was absolutely delicious. And not a rip off! So thanks to this little place we felt saved from a complete waste of a day.

Next day absolutely had to be better, and luckily it was. It's always a positive experience when you hit a farm, I think. You get to meet someone from the area who knows it from the inside and who can give you a personalized non-touristy perspective. For me it's even better because I love the subject of wine, but I would say it's great for anyone as you get to feel the terrain in peace and away from the crowds, enjoying exclusive views and products from the area.

Vietri sul Mare is the first village from Salerno that makes up the long and windy Amalfi coast line. It's particularly famous for its ceramics, in fact the village is packed with colorful ceramic outlets. Raito is a little village atop and gives a beautiful vista over the Salerno bay. The roads to get there don't fit normal cars. All cars around there wear the signs of wars against stone walls and crazy turns up mountain roads.

The slopes here are grown to Aglianico - a famous red grape of the area of Campania in general, and to Piedirosso, a varietal that can be used to soften the Aglianico a bit and to give it a lighter character (above is Piedirosso which is trained in "pergola"). There were a few grapes left on the vine to our sons' delight and from being bored with the situation they lighted up and ended up enjoying maybe even more than us!

 When you see the slopes you realize the amount of work that goes into tending to the grapes in such a place. It's very rocky, vines are on steep terraced slopes, this year they suffered from the same dampness that we experienced up here in Tuscany. No irrigation is used and the farm is even organic.

The wines were delightful and so was our hostess and owner Patrizia. Along with the tasting of 4 wines come local produce as olive oil, cheeses and more... This day was by far better than the touristy Capri. We relaxed, talked and enjoyed every moment. Do the same!

Our visit to the Amalfi coast this time only included the Southern coast line as we had just 2 days. Next time it'll be the Northern side with Sorrento, Pompei, and, who knows, maybe we could find a local Limoncello producer to visit?!