Most people know the Italians are good at making leather products and wine (among other things) so it stands to reason that when my family and I took a trip to Montalcino, those two things were on my mind.
Montalcino is located in the Val d'Orcia portion of Tuscany about 29 miles from Sienna. Settled during the Etruscan times, it was named after the "holm oak" which used to cover it's terrain. Montalcino was known for it's tanneries and high quality leather goods before it fell on hard times. It's economic boost was enhanced due to the production of Brunello di Montalcino, the long-aging, luscious, red wine made from "Sangiovese Grosso" grapes. Brunello di Montalcino was the first wine to be designated as DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita). Today, there are over 200 producers of Brunello di Montalcino (aka "the little brown one" in reference to the color of the grape). In addition, Montalcino also produces Rosso di Montalcino and many lovely Super Tuscans among other wines.
I discovered while doing my research that there are clones of the Sangiovese grape which make up the different types of wine (i.e Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti, Nobile di Montepulciano, etc.). To be honest, I could not find a definitive answer as to exactly how many clones are in existence. I read anywhere from a whopping 650 "presumed" clones, to about 100 or so nationally recognized clones, to as little as 12 types of strains. Regardless of the type of clone, Sangiovese is characteristically known as a quality grape that has the ability to age at least 10 years.
It was incredibly cold as I walked through this beautiful, little town - amazed at the number of Enotecas that lined the streets. I couldn't help but be excited at the thought of 1,000's upons 1,000's of bottles of wine surrounding me! I stopped in two shops (below is Enoteca di Piazza), was given generous tastings at both, and piled the car with cases of wine.
Hungry from the shopping extravaganza, my family and I headed to "Taverna del Grappolo Blu." A restaurant which came highly recommended from several reading sources as well as my tour guide from "Banfi." This is a cozy niche run by Luciano and Maria Pia. It's tucked in a small alley and offers authentic, rustic food. I ordered "Pinci al Ragu di Carne," a house specialty made of a meat sauce and hand-rolled pasta. The "Pinci" looked sort of like a cross between spaetzle and thick spaghetti. To say it was delicious is an understatement. It tasted so warm and comforting after a day out in the cold. After the extensive Brunello tasting earlier in the day, Rosso di Montalcino was the perfect choice to accompany this meal.
All trips I take are for different reasons but this particular trip had a purpose - to buy regional wines that stood out and begged to come home with me. That was easy to accomplish. And if you're wondering about the boots...that was also easy to accomplish. As a matter of fact, even my husband purchased some fashion-forward models.
For pictures, information on wine purchasing and Taverna del Grappolo Blu, see the website http://www.deepredcellar.com