Wednesday, June 22, 2016

When the going gets winey, the winos get going!

Often during tours, we talk about the matters of life. Do we love what we do, and if not can we change it. Sometimes I get a note from a past guest as it has just happened in these days, that our encounter during a tour was life-changing. This is so emotional to me, but I guess the realisation of what makes you happy is not as given as I personally thought it to be. I love to hear my guests' life stories, it's definitely what makes the difference in my days...and these wonderful human encounters and interactions are what I love the most about what I do, apart from the actual wine itself ;)

So we've decided to add value to our lives by being able to spend many more days with our guests, and by sharing what we love - the foods & wines - first of all of France and Italy, and thereafter let's explore the World together! Check us out, once in a while, for updates on upcoming journeys on our Grape World Journeys new site, which will feature shortly our trips in 2017 and subsequently further into time

Monday, June 13, 2016

Wine on the Tuscan Coast: Campiglia Marittima

Next year we're running a very special one week Fufluns Etruscan Coast wine tour, and we're prepping really well for it by visiting the areas and drinking a lot of wine from there (yeah, hard work but someone's gotta do it!)
Last weekend we were hanging out around Bolgheri and Suvereto and visited with very interesting Olivier, a Belgian transplant here in Tuscany, and his interesting project of winemaking on the coast of Tuscany. We met with Olivier in a little village bar, just because we would never have found his place on our own. He calls his winery Fuorimondo (meaning out-of-the-world) because in fact it's really tucked away and impossible to find! We climbed into Olivier's 4x4 and began the tour of the area. We started at the very top of the hill above the village of Campiglia Marittima with a splendid view over the coastline and the Tuscan archipelago, and with a beautiful variety of flora & fauna. 
Grapes grown are Sangiovese, Ciliegiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Alicante - and the wines range from fresh & simple to elaborate & complex. Olivier is extremely dedicated to organic growing and makes a point of stating so on his back labels (see below).
Here are some pictures to share our visit with Olivier - make sure to look out for his wines! Fuorimondo website

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Zucchini flowers or courgette blossoms

I'm don't normally do food posts, but I do love to eat and when there's something awesome that I think that my dear readers should try, I simply must share. This is one of the many dishes we prepared during a cooking wine tour earlier this week.

"Fiori di zucchini" would be the Italian words for them. They are in season right now in Italy and they are not only incredibly beautiful to look at, they are lovely to cook with, too.
You can use them in savoury tarts (try to make a ricotta and zucchini flan and decorate with zucchini flowers on top) they are excellent for stuffing (with e.g. ricotta/parmesan/etc) and bake in the oven, or simply fry them in a light batter. This is my absolute favorite, so I'll tell you how to do this the Tuscan way!

Get fresh zucchini flowers (specialised markets will have them, or grow them if you've got a green thumb) in spring. Pick off the little spiky greens that often stick to the flower towards the bottom and very gently remove the ovary inside (it's bitter-tasting). Wash in cold water and padd lightly with a towel to dry. Make a mix of white flower (we use the 00) and rice flower (becomes extra crunchy with rice flower), add a little cold water and stir. Add more water little by little and keep stirring so the batter becomes smooth. You need to go by eye till you get the right consistency which is close to that of crepes-dough. Sprinkle a little salt and then it's ready to use.
Heat up a pan with corn oil and wait till very hot. Then insert the zucchini flowers in the batter and fry them a few minutes on each side. Before taking out of the hot oil, make sure to turn them to let the oil drip out before placing them on paper and sprinkle with a little more salt.

Try a dry Tuscan white with this delicacy and make sure to eat while hot & crisp. Buon appetito!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A chaotic week in Florence

Last Wednesday my husband woke me up with a facebook feed picture of a collapsed Lungarno road next to our wine school. For a second I thought it was a photoshop joke, but only to realise it was all too real.

Last week was a black week for Florence. An underground water pipe broke, inundated the local neighbourhood Oltrarno with heigh waters and then during the same night caused an important river road to collapse. This all happened Wednesday morning one week ago, and people woke up to flooded houses, cellars or even worse, a car they could no longer use. The only lucky bit, was that no one was hurt - whereas had it happened during daytime plenty of people walked that stretch every day, with its beautiful view on the Ponte Vecchio and the Uffizi gallery. Now responsibilities need to be determined, and a long reconstruction time will start.

We, at the Tuscan Wine School were one of the places who tragically got hit by the initial flooding. We were full of water and mud and had no electricity or running water. A few things got damaged irrevocably. Classes were cancelled for the day and cleaning was organised. While electricity came back the same day, it took a few days for the water - so the situation wasn't the most pleasant for our wine students. Luckily, all were comprehensive of our situation - even if we were forced to drink wine out of plastic cups for a couple of days! Now, one week later, we're almost back to normal and knock-on-wood will have no other unpleasant surprises right in the peak of season!

Drinking good wine out of plastic glasses - oh well!