Sunday, July 31, 2016

Threshing celebrations at Renzo Marinai

Renzo Marinai is a fantastic little winery in the heart of Chianti Classico – in the renowned Conca d’Oro (Golden Valley) on the South side of Panzano village. The valley got its name in the olden days from the golden color it took in midsummer when the wheat was ready to be harvested. Today agriculture has turned to mainly grapes, dotted with olive groves - though in one particular farm the wheat is still grown in between the old olive trees.


When Renzo Marinai succeeded his father's farm, he turned it into one of the area’s best organic wineries, producing concentrated Chianti Classicos (available of course on Tuscanyinabottle.com
True to tradition Renzo decided to keep growing a local variety of wheat called Senatore Cappelli. 
In order to keep its integrity, the wheat which is harvested manually is subsequently stacked in the fields to dry for a couple of weeks after harvest, and then threshed in late July and sent off to a local pasta maker where it's turned into delicious pasta.

La festa della Battitura was a festive event in the Tuscan countryside of the past where the threshing culminated with a good party with lots of great local food & music. This is mainly a remnant of the past, but at Renzo Marinai the tradition is kept very much alive and is a renowned event for its uniqueness. This year we were lucky to participate and enjoyed some great wine, food & people. Here's a few photos of the day - hope you enjoy.

And remember, that we often visit the Renzo Marinai winery during our wine tours :)











video

Saturday, July 23, 2016

#wineforpeace

Hi guys.

This time it's a with rather a heavy heart reflecting on a rough time for our World.

Lately I, along with many others I'm sure, have started to feel that we are living in a particularly tough time. We wake up to check where the latest attack has been. It's not the first time that World events have started to turn ugly, but surely the atrocities get out to us faster than ever before, reporting way too many tragic & meaningless deaths...it's discerning, and most of us feel the same void and insecurity within us.

All I want, and I'm sure, you want too, is peace. But separation of countries, terrorism, civil wars will inevitably result in a regression that dooms us to be ripped apart. The eventual effects are unknown even to the experts.

All I know that every time a new attack happens, we receive cancellations from people who are afraid to travel and cancel their trips and wine tours. What a pity! Traveling in general and particularly to the wine makers in any country is one of the best ways of getting into contact with foreign cultures adding more understanding and comprehension of our common World.

And then there's the effects that will concern the wine market which by now had become quite global - just think that since the end of Apartheid we all can get South African wines! Now, Brexit was a real punch in the face - at least for us over on mainland Europe. I've never really considered drinking British wine, probably because it's hard to get ahold of anything non Italian in Italy - so no real boycotting happening here. The curious Italian wine consumer will perhaps not find a great difference in market mechanisms - but of course should other countries like France leave the EU, it would start to be more evident.

And I'm assuming the Algerian, Moroccan wines aren't very popular at the moment...

And who's drinking Syrian wine out there?!

Not even thinking of the Turkish wine industry's future...

All in all, it seems to me that we have developed our wine industry to a great level of global trade. Individually we have developed our palates to appreciate different wines of the World just as we enjoy eating foreign dishes...how sad life would be if we could only have access to our own area's wines (assuming we all live in a wine region).

WINE...it symbolises unity, respect and love. Lets pour our next glass with a greater consciousness than ever. Keep traveling to gain understanding and keep an open palate!
 #wineforpeace - use this hashtag on your social media to spread positive wine vibes!




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 www.grapeworldjourneys.com




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!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Relaxing escape in hidden Tuscany

You all know that Grape Tours is the best tour operator for wine tours in Tuscany, right?! (ha ha!)
Anyhow, can't just talk about ourselves, gets a little boring - need to give you some other great wine related tips, as well :)
So, happy to feature a short post about a friend's great initiative - a yoga and wine retreat in a beautiful castle in Southern Tuscany. Emily is British but like many of us loves the Italian hemisphere and is giving it a go with her yoga and sommelier background.
During the 4 days of complete relax, participants will get their WSET 1 certification (so learning basics about wine), wine & dine with the prestigious Sesti family in Montalcino, enjoy a spa day in Bagno Vignoni, do a butchery class - and something tells me, eat a lot of great meats, and much much more. For more info see Emily's page. If I didn't live here, I would want to do this myself!
Check out some pictures of Castello di Potentino - a hotel with a bit of history in the South of Tuscany.







Sunday, May 1, 2016

Maremma - touring a weekend to wine & dine!

Maremma is the huge territory to the South of Tuscany that usually only gets attention when the locals are yearning for a beach vacation during summer. Otherwise it's a vast area of farmland that easily gets overlooked as it isn't close to any of the famous art cities. And that's totally unfair, as it hosts an amazing history of Etruscans, offers spectacular natural beauty, fabulous rather non-touristy villages, rather decent and very good value wines, great meat & great fish, fresh locally grown veggies, fruits, and what not. As I don't want to venture too far into the food stuff, if that's your interest I would rather give you a link to Emiko's post of great places to go around the Argentario area of Maremma. We LOVE to eat, but as you know we love wine even MORE...
This part of Tuscany is a real mix of rough beautiful nature including nature resorts and fertile farmland alike, cheap resort-like beach camping sites, Medieval hilltop ghost towns where it's impossible to imagine any modern life exists. 
The Tuscans are generally thought be simple country people (by other Italians) and the Tuscans themselves consider the Maremma region as the "wild west" where the wild boar population outgrows the human! 

"OMNIA DURA SICCIS"
Latin gives such authority to clever sayings: "A non-drinkers life is sad". Maremma covers several important wine designations in Tuscany - all from the famous Super Tuscans area in the North in Bolgheri, inland the Sangiovese still reigns with the DOCG appellations Morellino di Scansano and Montecucco, coastal wines include the whites Vermentino & Ansonica. Climate is hot & dry, soil types vary from area to area but tend to be quite fertile, hence great for other crops than wine. But since it seemed like easy catch to make plentiful of concentrated wines in Maremma, it became the hot spot for many wineries in Northern Tuscany to purchase land (as it was also much cheaper than any other affirmed wine region in Tuscany). 

During our short week-end we visited 3 completely different areas; Monte Argentario (Ansonica grapes), Magliano, Marciano & Scansano for Morellino (Sangiovese grapes) & Pitigliano (Ciliegiolo grapes & various native white grapes). Wines have been tasted, territory's been covered & studied - we're getting more & more ready for our SUPER EXCITING Etruscan Coast - Drink like an Etruscan God - Fufluns Week Tour in 2017!

Every time we go on one of these weekends and it's worth sharing, I always feel the best possible way is to show you the areas in pictures. After all, pictures speak for themselves - so lots of pictures to follow underneath...

Places we ate: Da Caino (Montemerano), Braccio (beach - Porto Ercole), Fattoria di Magliano (Magliano)
Wineries visited: Antonio Camillo, Poderi di Capoduomo, Sassotondo
We stayed at: Fattoria di Magliano - stunning location and B&B (with a very good breakfast, might I add) and family style restaurant, great views & huge pool (and had it been warmer we would have been splashing it, but we'll be back!) - AND it's a winery, too - so plenty of wine to be tasted right there!
More info on Maremma: Great resource/blog to Maremma is Mapitout

Typical Maremma landscape


 A street from inside the borgo of Scansano

Magliano in Toscana
Fattoria di Magliano where we stayed
Visiting with Antonio Camillo


 After working years for Poggio Argentiera, he started on his own just a few years ago


Restaurant da Caino in the beautiful village Montemerano
 Let the tasting menu begin!




A legendary chef, Valeria Piccini

The trip goes to Monte Argentario


 Quite impressed with this white Ansonica aged in Acacia barrels


 Stefano is popping open the bottles...
Pitigliano - the city built on and out of Tufo stone
Sassotondo winery
 Frost last week has gotten to some of the plants :(
Carla 
 New friends
 Tufo cave served as wine cellar
 Ciliegiolo wine
 Tuscany lit by spring!

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