After a summer spent in drinking wine and visiting some local vineyards, I was thinking to stop for a while, trying to understand the evolutions that Romagna winemakers are following and also considering to approach a developing trend that goes towards a more natural production of both wine and food, notwithstanding the market rules.
Back to wine, at its first edition, was the right chance to meet a selected group of producers coming from all over Italy, who share the same philosophy: respect the land and leave something good to the next generation; produce in a different way, far from the standardization of tastes and using the traditional methods, recovering the old habits.
Back to Wine: Faenza, the town of ethic producers
My two days were full of suggestions. These are the classical events where you meet little producers that are not present in other most known wine fairs. My story telling will give you an overview about what I discovered in Romagna and what I earned talking with other Italian food producers.
Gregorio Rotolo: from Abruzzo with the love of cheese
I approach his stand while he’s talking with other people, he see me and offer me the first of many other tiny pieces of cheese. You can immediately understand that his cheeses are bearing his passion. The thing that every morning make him go and care about the herd of sheep, cows and goats, giving him the milk to produce those gorgeous masterpieces.
Scanno is a little borough in the National Park of Abruzzo, where bears and wolves share the land with men since ages. Milk, flour, vegetal coal, sea salt and a technical knowledge that come from generations before, mixed with love and passion. These are the natural ingredients that create the unbelievable taste I will never forget.
The ancient grains: Hostaria and Corte Cappelletta in Mantua
Antonio and Nicola: two young guys who love tradition but, especially, their birth land. Two examples of how agriculture can be a profitable way of living and an economic resource to develop a territory.
The Hostaria of Antonio is one of the many restaurants of Castel D’Ario, a little borough near Mantova. It’s the place of rice but Antonio is an original guy. He loves ancient grains and bread. He uses Gentil Rosso and many more. His bread smells as the one I could eat at my grandmother’s place when I was young, even if it is not hot. “What is this spicy I taste?, I ask. It’s pepper! “. What a weird idea, but just taste it with a local salami, made with pigs that pasture free (first time I heard this!) and then you will see. “Where are you buying the flour? You see that guy over there? He is Nicola, go and talk to him.
Nicola and his girl friend started from an old “Cascina” in 2014, a traditional building where the peasants families (who worked for the land owner) used to live. The idea was to preserve, collect and produce: ancient grains created by Nazareno Strampelli (a man who really anticipate the green revolution working in the 40’s to create a grain that could resist and feed more and more people), traditional local animals breeds (geese, hen, turkeys for example) and barley grain.
The Ardito comes from an original seed (not one which comes from a seeds bank) and it was considered one of the best to produce pasta. As any others dismissed in the 60’s to leave place to the more easy common grain. It’s a story of courage of two wise people. What an inspiration!
The Ferrara caviar of Maria Cristina Maresi
An ancient tradition dated back to the XVIth century, when the chef of Duke Alfonso I d’Este, Cristoforo Messisbugo, tried to prepare the eggs of sturgeon in the oven, instead that salt them. The recipe, written in the book of Messisbugo, used a fish that was common in the Pò river
This tradition passed over ages and arrived in the 30’, where Benvenuta Ascoli, a jewish girl, used to prepare and sell it in her shop. The last passage was from her to Giuseppina Bottoni. Maria Cristina was one of her student. She knew about the recipe and convinced Giuseppina to teach her secret. The Pò river is not full of sturgeons as before and the fishing is forbidden. Maria Cristina selected the fish from a Northern Italy breeding that created a semi natural conditions in order to obtain a high quality product. Do not expect a Russian style caviar but a more elegant and precious local food, to use as it is on bread or on a simple dish of hand made pasta.
Birrificio non retorico: the history of Andrea and Giorgio
“It’s a words game: all the names of our beers are figures of speech”. Born in April 2016, the project is a very courageous one. An idea of beer which is soft and elegant. They do not follow trends, they have their own clear idea, that came from a deep study and a confrontation with other producers, not necessarily Italian.
The result is a set of beers, each one with their own personality and with a special smell, not a strong one, like you could imagine, but a delicate one. Their beers can be combined with a lot of different foods, even with a Sacher! Last but not least, they use Italian hops!
Fondo San Giuseppe: the white soul of Brisighella
A secluded spot, behind the natural amphitheater of the gypsum vein of Brisighella, at the border between Tuscany and Romagna, the Fondo San Giuseppe is the project of Stefano and MariaGrazia. In 2008 they found this place, exactly what they searched for: an untouched place where the vineyard and the forest live together. They are called the white soul of Brisighella because they mainly produce white wines. “The former owner already worked with biological systems so we decided to keep on working in that way”, says MariaGrazia.
“We also found a bunch of varieties of grapes we did not know and we are trying to understand how to get the best of them. Our vineyard is 400 mt on the sea level, the ground is calcareous and sandy, perfect for Albana and Terebbiano”, continues MariaGrazia. The two Albana (one conserved in cement and the other in French barrels) I tasted were an elegant and sophisticated version of a wine that usually has clear scents and smells. With Albana they got the Slow wine title in 2008, with their first production. Ca Bianca, their Sangiovese, is a promise. They first produced it this year, but for sure it is a wine to buy and leave it for some years.
Disclosure: I would like to thank all the producers mentioned in this post. They dedicated me their time and their attention, explaining me their history and their philosophy. I also thank the organization of Back to wine for the kindness and the logistic help.