This month I am joining the Italian Food, Wine and Travel group for the first time. Can you imagine a better subject for reflection?! Better yet, this month’s topic is Tuscany! #ItalianFWT is the brain child of Vino Travels, a fellow writer and lover of all things Italian. Please follow the hashtag to view all the great articles published today about Tuscany and each month on the second Saturday to learn more about Italy. Additionally, this topic is quite timely for me because my husband and I have never been to Tuscany and are planning our first visit this fall. I have used many different web sites to research Tuscany; so let’s begin by looking at the region.
From the web site Italia:
Tuscany is located in central Italy and stretches from the Apennines to the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Its landscape, artistic heritage and stand-out cities – first among them Florence – make Tuscany an unquestioned protagonist of international tourism. In this region, nature has many different facets, starting from the coast that alternates long and sandy beaches, like the Versilia beach, with rocky cliffs and steep headlands. The islands of the Tuscan Archipelago, surrounded by Mediterranean vegetation, a crystal-clear sea and rich seabeds, are peerless.
You can admire sceneries of uncontaminated nature in the Apuan Alps and in several protected areas, such as the Orbetello Lagoon, home to many species of migrant birds, including pink egrets. However, the most typical sceneries of the region are those that merge the beauty of nature with the millenary work of man. The amazing Gulf of Baratti and the sites of Vetulonia, Vulci and Pitigliano guard necropoli and vestiges of the Etruscan civilization, while Roselle and Cosa evoke memories from the Roman Age.
The region of Tuscany contains 10 provinces: Florence (the regional capital), Arezzo, Grosseto, Livorno, Lucca, Massa Carrara, Pisa, Pistoia, Prato and Siena. Each province has its own character with many great sites to see, food to eat and wine to drink. The three cities that stand out in Tuscany are Florence, Pisa and San Gimignano. Of course Florence, the birth place of the Renaissance, offers world class culture and art featuring Michelangelo’s David, as well as The Cathedral, Duomo, Santa Maria Novella; Palazzo Vecchio; and the Uffizi Gallery. In Pisa is the Leaning Tower and monuments that fill the Piazza dei Miracoli. When visiting Tuscany there are plenty of activities to balance with visiting museums and churches. For example, the coast offers an array of water sports, cycling throughout Tuscany is a great way to take in the region and there are many spas for relaxation after a few hours on a bike. Tuscany offers a full calendar of cultural events throughout the year so be sure to check out what’s going on as you plan your Tuscan vacation.
The Tuscan cuisine has rustic origins. The ingredients tend to be basic (vegetables, bread, and beans). The idea behind Tuscan food is “poor cooking.” Today, though the necessity of poor cooking is no longer required, much of Tuscany has maintained this style by choice. Like each region in Italy, Tuscan cuisine uses local ingredients with simple techniques to produce delicious food. Some popular Tuscan foods include: antipastas of crostini with chicken liver spread, affettati misti and panzella salad; vegetable soups such as Ribollita or with bread, lentils or beans; entrees of gnocchi with wild boar, Bistecca Fiorentina (grilled t-bone steak), an Melanzane alla Parmigiana (eggplant parmesan). For dessert Tuscans like biscotti and cake such as castagnaccio (chestnut cake) or buccellato (anise cake).
Tuscany is known by many as the best producing wine region in Italy. With over 200 Italian regions producing outstanding wine I cannot agree Tuscany is the best; rather, I will say Tuscany, like most of Italy, produces exceptionally good, food friendly wines. Chianti, Vino Nobile Montepulciano, Brunello di Montalcino are crafted from the Sangiovese grape. The white wine Vernaccia di San Gimignano is crafted from the Vernaccia grape. Tuscany is also known for the dessert wine Vin Santo, made from a variety of the region’s grapes. Tuscany has thirty-three Denominazioni di origine controllata (DOC) and nine Denominazioni di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG). Another popular wine from the Tuscan region was developed in the 1970’s as is known as “Super Tuscan.” Wine-searcher explains, “This useful but unofficial term emerged in the 1970s, to describe a particular set of high-quality Tuscan wines which were precluded from claiming DOC or DOCG status because they broke traditional Italian winemaking norms (foreign grape varieties were used, and the wines were often matured in small, new oak barrels). Several of these wines earned global recognition and astronomical price tags – hence ‘Super Tuscan’. This situation ultimately led to the creation of the IGT category, with its relatively relaxed production rules.”
Terralsole Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2004: The first thing that struck me about this wine was the beautiful label; the second was its color of intense garnet with violet highlights and an orange rim. After an hour decant it opened with a sultry aroma of black and red fruit, espresso, tobacco and cassis with a touch of smoky earthiness that is very pleasing. This medium body, smooth wine had great structure with well-balanced acidity and flavors of black berries, black cherries, black currants, cranberries, black pepper, toasted oak, spice and dusty earth. It was delicious! It had a dry lingering finish that left my mouth watering for another sip. This wine made an excellent food wine but also sipped beautifully as a meditation wine! This wine was crafted from 100% Sangiovese Grosso hand-picked grapes that were aged for 28 months in 600 liters French oak tonneaux then bottled aged a minimum of 6 more months in a special air conditioned area of the cellar. It contained 14% alcohol. This wine received Four Stars from Decanter Magazine, 91 pts from Wine Spectator and 90pts from Wine Enthusiasts. Terralsole Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2004 is available at Total Wine for $54.99; Wine.com for $94.99 and many other retailers listed on Wine-Searcher for an average price of $54. The wine was delicious and for a 11 year old wine had plenty of zest and body. I believe this wine could continue to age 10 more years with proper cellaring. I am a HUGE fan of Brunellos and this wine did not disappoint. I recommend this wine!
I paired this wine with affettati misti (Italian dried meats of Prosciutto di Parma, Salami and Capocollo) as an appetizer and Pappa Al Pomodoro, a traditional Tuscan soup, as an entry. The recipe I used was created by Ina Garten and as expected it was delicious! This recipe was quick and easy yet packed a punch of Tuscan flavor. Additionally, it paired beautifully with the Brunello for a warm and cozy winter dinner. I highly recommend the soup paired with the wine! Furthermore, the Terralsole Brunello di Montalcino would pair well each of the traditional Tuscan dishes mentioned above as well as steak, lamb and hearty Italian dishes such as lasagna.
From the Terralsole web site:
TERRALSOLE ‘Land towards the sun’
We are a family owned winery in Montalcino, southern Tuscany producing award-winning Brunello di Montalcino and a collection of excellent, estate grown I.G.T. Supertuscans.
Terralsole is the perfect winery to visit on your Tuscan vacation:
Built with Guests in mind, we welcome visitors and are pleased to offer cellar tours, wine tastings and sales. Our international team can accommodate groups in Italian, English, French, German and Swiss German. A reservation is kindly requested, however, you may always call to inquire about last minute visits and tastings. Upon advanced request, we are happy to prepare a variety of foods to accompany our wines from simple local cheeses and cold cuts, to full lunch and dinner. We can also arrange cooking classes specializing in local, Tuscan cuisine. With 8 estate wines to choose from in most vintages, we offer many combinations of wines to suite every taste and welcome your personalized menus and wine pairings. From wine aficionados to beginners who wish to learn more about wine and how it is made, contact us to arrange the perfect visit for your group.
Furthermore, to complete your Tuscan winery experience Terralsole offers overnight accommodations at either their winery or their vineyards. Yes, I am making note of this for my fall vacation! It seems to me Terralsole was a great wine for me to select not only because it was delicious but also because the winery is quintessentially Tuscan! I encourage you to visit the Terralsole web site to learn more about this majestic winery, view their entire portfolio of wines and book your visit!
If you are a Brunello lover like me I encourage you to visit the Consorzio Del Vino Brunello Di Montalcino web site to learn more about this beautiful varietal!
Our Tuscan journey doesn’t stop here. Join all the #ItalianFWT bloggers as they share with you their experience through the region of Tuscany.
Vino Travels – The clones and wines of sangiovese in Tuscany
Cooking Chat – Tuscan beef stew and wine pairing
Food Wine Click – In Tuscany, red wine pairs with fish
Curious Appetite – Tuscan baked goods and secret bakeries in Florence
Flavourful Tuscany – Tuscany: the cult of wines and the dining pleasure
Enofylz – A Taste of the Tuscany coast
Girls Gotta Drink – What is up with the Chianti Classico black rooster?
Italophilia – Castello di Poppiano
Orna O’Reilly – Five days on Elba
Please join us next month on Saturday March 7th as we travel to the region of Trentino-Alto Adige in the northeastern part of Italy in the Dolomite mountains. For additional Italian related blogs on the food, wine and travel of Italy stay tuned to #ItalianFWT on Twitter throughout the month.
My Song Selection: I was immediately struck by the Terralsole web site because as soon as the URL opened it was playing a beautiful song. However, their web site did not indicate in any way what song was playing; therefore, I Shazamed the song, Polka by French pianists Katie and Marielle Labeque. However, this was not the only music on the Terralsole web site. Athena Tergis Bollag, wife of winemaker Mario Bollag, is a professional musician, touring the world as a successful Irish fiddle player. Therefore, the song I have selected to pair with this article is A Performance of Athena Tergis Bollag performing with the Dublin Philharmonic. Enjoy!
Get your own bottle of Tuscan wine, pair it with awesome Tuscan food and let me know what song you would pair with it. Cheers!