When I started this blog, I decided to call it Chestnuts and Truffles because these are the two major local products here in this corner of Tuscany. In fact the name Marrone di Caprese Michelangelo, (marrone being a cultivated chestnut) is protected in Italy with a DOP status. I could easily have called it Chestnuts and Mushrooms, or Chestnuts and Wild Boar, because those things are in abundance here too: but I also had in mind a signature soup recipe that I developed a while back and which I am going to share with you today.
Assisi in Umbria is famous as the birthplace of Saint Francis, the Dr Dolittle of the Catholic Church, and the Patron Saint of Italy. It’s a perfect central Italian hill town where the modern suburbs have been confined to the plain below leaving the town itself its ancient aspect.
The plain is sheltered by Monte Subasio which rises to 1,290m and this has created almost perfect conditions for growing vines. And it is indeed home to Saio, one of the largest grape producers in Assisi and producers of one of my favourite wines.
Last week was the fifth anniversary of my friend Steph’s wine shop, Ottimi Vini. It’s an excellent achievement bearing in mind the economic situation in the last five years and the challenges of being an English girl, in Italy, selling Italian wine. However, through hard work, determination, and an encyclopedic knowledge of wine, she’s made it and now has one of the most well-known and popular enoteche in the town of Sansepolcro.
Five-hundred and fifty odd years since the first Renaissance, Italy is in the grip of another. This time, the rebirth is in the wine industry where, particularly here in Tuscany, producers are rediscovering old grapes and old techniques to produce some truly amazing bottles.
Couple this movement with a younger generation of passionate and talented vignerons and you have a marriage made in the vineyard. Finally, after many years of relative disappointment, Tuscany’s unique and ideal terroir and climate are being exploited to their best potential.
In the last two weeks I was really fortunate to have been invited to visit some vineyards by my friends at Ottimi Vini, an incredible wine shop in Sansepolcro. This week we were in the Montalcino region, famous for it’s stately wine Brunello. Made, like most Tuscan red wine, from Sangiovese grapes, Brunello is blessed with a unique combination of terroir and breezes blown in from the sea about 50 miles away, which has made it one of the most sought after of Italian wines.
Once famous for basic wines produced in novelty bottles wrapped in straw, in recent years Tuscany has become known for producing a large number of excellent quality red wines, dubbed the Super Tuscans. Unfortunately for me, it has not been so diligent in producing white wines. However, all that is changing with a new wave of wineries producing wines from little known autochthonous grapes which include some excellent whites.