We are at the end of the online course DipWSET4 – D1.
It were intense weeks with lots of posts, research, questions, wine tastings and group activities.
Many projects required a lot of effort!
In the first week of our course we needed to work alone on our vineyard establishment proposal. I choose for the wine area Bolgheri in Tuscany. This is my proposal I have submitted in the first week of our wine course.
I choose the territory of Bolgheri (Livorno) along the Etruscan coast, at the foot of the gentle Tuscan hills and a few miles from the sea.
The climate along the coast in Tuscany is more maritime than central Tuscany. The summers are dry, sunny and breezy. The weather is influenced by the sea. Temperatures in winter time are around 8-10 degrees, and reach rarely zero or less.
The sea and Apennine mountains moderate the temperatures in summer period. The driest months in Tuscany are July and August.
Bolgheri Rosso DOC
Bolgheri Rosso DOC is a blend of black grape varieties. The red wine can be made in different styles. I will plant the following grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Sangiovese.
The black grape varieties need sunlight and heat to ripen fully. The grapes do not ripen at the same time. Merlot ripens earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese for instance. The harvest of the grapes is spread out.
Vine training system black grape varieties: cane pruned (single guyot), cordon trained. The vine’s cane and shoots are tied to the trellis for light and air circulation. Summer pruning will hardly take place as the leaves protect the berries from sunburn in (warm) summer conditions.
The soil is calcareous and contains a mix of rocks. There is a good drainage, which is important for grape growing. The altitude of the vineyards are about 100 – 400 m above sea level and the slopes are facing southwest.
The wine is full bodied with ripe red and black fruits, medium-high tannin, high acidity and high alcohol. Long aftertaste.
Suited for aging.
Super Tuscan wines have gained popularity in Italy and abroad since the 20th century. Especially the red wines. The wines are prestigious and sometimes also very expensive.
The average price for this wine is Euro 25.00*.
*average price of Sylvia Italy’s Rosso wine – not available in my shop.
Bolgheri Rosato DOC
The black grape varieties used for the rosé are Syrah, Merlot and Sangiovese. This wine is a blend and pairs good with fish dishes. For example with the local cacciucco from Livorno.
Bolgheri Bianco DOC
For a white wine from the region I will plant Vermentino grapes. Vermentino is often vinified as a single variety but can also be blended with other white grape varieties such as Trebbiano Toscano.
The vine training system for the Vermentino grapes are cane pruned (guyot). The sea has a positive influence and gives Vermentino a mineral and aromatic character.
The Vermentino wine is an appetizer wine and pairs excellent with local fish dishes.
For both young wines the average price per bottle is Euro 13.00-15.00*.
*average price of Sylvia Italy’s Bianco wine – not available in my shop.
Super Tuscan wines are produced also in other places in Tuscany, but Bolgheri is the birthplace of this wonderful wine.
Peposo is a traditional Tuscan pepper beef stew. It is one of my favorite Italian dishes.
I know, I have many favourite dishes, but my peposo recipe brings you right away to Florence!
Peposo is rich in flavour. It really has a delicious spicy kick from the black pepper, hence the name “peposo”.
This -500 years- old dish is easy to make. Peposo is still popular across Tuscany. It originally comes from the village Impruneta, a small town in the Tuscan hills. The former name of the recipe is “Peposo alla Fornacina”, but today it is called “Peposo”.
Sylvia Italy’s peposo is made with beef chuck for stew, NO garlic*, whole black pepper corns, black powder pepper, salt, olive oil, tomato sauce to give the sauce a bit body, and red Tuscan wine: Rosso di Montepulciano DOC.
*Peposo without garlic tastes equally good. I eat onions and garlic, but sometimes I prefer avoiding it. I don’t like the bad breath and lingering aftertaste in my mouth.
Serves 2 people
- 300 g boneless beef chuck for stew
- a handful of black pepper corns
- black pepper powder
- 1/4 liter of red wine (Chianti or Rosso di Montepulciano)
- tomato sauce*
*The original recipe peposo is more likely not to be made with tomato sauce.
For gentle cooking, like stews, I always use my cast Creuset iron pot.
Heat the olive oil in a pot over a medium-high heat and brown the beef for a minute of 3. Add the red wine, salt, pepper and the tomato sauce.
Cover the pot, lower the heat and cook the peposo for approximately 3 hours. Check it often and give it a stir occasionally. It is important that the meat remains covered in wine and adding water if necessary.
It says that cooking longer than needed doesn’t mean tender meat, but personally I prefer cooking it long.
When the peposo is ready, the meat should be tender (I love it when the meat is falling apart..yummy) and the red wine should have reduced to a sauce.
Season with more pepper if desired and serve warm on traditionally sliced bread (preferably Tuscan bread without salt) or polenta.
Weekly market every Thursday in Montepulciano
A visit to the local market is a very characteristic experience in Montepulciano.
It is a typical Italian market with fresh fish, salumi, prosciutto, olives, different types of pecorino cheeses, cod, mozzarella di bufala, roast chicken as well as kitchen utensils, clothes and shoes.
There is always something for everyone!
The weekly market is from 8 am till 1 pm. Address: Piazza Pietro Nenni in Montepulciano.
Two market stalls every Tuesday and Friday in Montepulciano
Every week on Tuesday and Friday morning is a small outdoor market in the “Via Marino Cappelli” in front of the BCC Bank. The two market stalls sell fresh fruit, vegetables and fish.
The fish market vendor offer a wide range of fresh fish and seafood: salmon, tune, calamari, squid, cuttlefish and prawns for instance. In addition to the fresh fish you’ll find all kinds of fried fish and fried vegetables such as “fiori di zucca”. Fiori di zucca are blossoms stuffed with ricotta cheese. It’s really worth a try!
This small market is mostly frequented by locals.
Why going to the market?
I love to buy local produce at the market. I like knowing where the food I eat comes from and supporting local farmers. It is good for the environment and it benefits the local economy.
The food is super fresh compared to the grocery store foods. The market stalls showcase their locally fresh (seasonal) fruits and vegetables. The vendors are more than friendly and they will always choose the best pieces of fruit and vegetables for you.
Every week I go the market in Montepulciano. I often do my shopping at my favorite market stalls. Barra Francesco from Foiano della Chiana (AR) is the best stallholder to buy fresh mozzarella and burrata.
They have a small market stall, not only for cheese, but they sell also other delicacies from Southern Italy. It is a real family owned businesses where mother, father and son are all involved.
Mozzarella di bufala is a traditionally soft cheese produced in the region Campania. Mozzarella is a ball of fresh cheese and has a better texture, richness and overall flavor than the mozzarella cheese from a grocery store.
The family Barra also sells delicious olives, anchovies, taralli (typical snack from Puglia), taralli napoletani, different kinds of cheeses and dried tasty sausages.
Tuscany is rich in traditional, mainly pork based, dishes. For instance “porchetta”. This is a roasted pork with fennel, bay leaves and pepper. It is a real specialty from Umbria and Southern Tuscany.
Many locals eat a porchetta sandwich for lunch.
Furthermore the bistecca Fiorentina is a famous meat dish in central Italy.
Every day I try to cook fresh. I do not always have the time for that, but I find it important to eat fresh and healthy. The dishes I prepare are mostly seasonal.
Autumn is coming and at the moment you can find a big offer of funghi porcini at the market. So what do we eat tonight? Pappardelle ai funghi porcini!
Biking in Montepulciano – Tuscany
The region Tuscany is a land of cyclists, it offers a variety of itineraries. Biking is one of the best ways to explore more of this wonderful wine region!
Montepulciano is a scenic hilltop town. It stands on a limestone hill. This area is the right place for road and dirt road cycling routes, but good fitness is required.
The best period for cycling Tuscany on bike are from March to October. Riding in the summer can be hot, but you can bike early in the morning, avoiding the heat of the day. Many find it’s a great time to relax and plan their day.
If you are planning about cycling in Tuscany, the most important biking needs are a good bike (MTB or race), a helmet and a repair kit. Cycling with a helmet is really recommended!
- Piazza Grande
- Sylvia by bike
Bike itineraries to Pienza
There are amazing bike routes from Montepulciano to Pienza. The trail types are mostly asphalt and dirt roads. You ride along the hills overlooking the amazing views of Val d’Orcia.
Most of the trails are suitable for advanced – experienced riders. They are quite challenging but definitely worth it!
- Val d’Orcia
1) Mountain bike route Montepulciano – Pienza
This is a gravel road and a road itinerary. Ideal for MTB, not for tour or racing bikes. You’ll bike through hills, valleys, olive groves and vineyards. This is a spectaculair itinerary for experienced mountainbikers.
Distance 27 km.
- Val d’Orcia
- Val d’Orcia
2) Road cycling route Montepulciano – Pienza
Explore this amazing cycle route to Pienza! The start and arrival point is Montepulciano. From here you start the bike tour among the hills of the Val di Chiana valley. Passing Montichiello you’ll see the very best of the iconic Val d’Orcia valley.
Panoramic roads lead you the Renaissance village Pienza. Once you’ve passed Pienza you take the road back to Montepulciano.
Distance 38 km.
3) Road cycling route Montepulciano – Acquaviva – Montepulciano Stazione
This itinerary is almost my daily bike exercise. It is a short ride from the historic centre of Montepulciano to Acquaviva, Valiano and Montepulciano Stazione.
Montepulciano, Acquaviva and Valiano are hilly villages. The biking route around Montepulciano Stazione is primarily flat.
After leaving Montepulciano this road passes the villages of Acquaviva and Valiano. Once you reach Valiano you turn back the way up to Montepulciano Stazione and Montepulciano.
In the countryside of Montepulciano you can see the hospital of Nottola.
Distance 27.6 km.
4) Road cycling route Montepulciano – Chianciano – Montallese – Montepulciano Stazione
It is a nice panoramic ride, it has not many up and downs. Starting in Montepulciano you follow the signs direction Chianciano and Chiusi.
Chiusi is the former Etruscan city in the province of Siena.
Along the road to Chiusi you pass my favorite pizza restaurant “Jamaica”. Jamaica is close to the discotheque La Bussola In. The pizza’s at Jamaica are huge and delicious!
Turning left you take the downhill road to Montallese. When arriving in Montallese turn right and you take the dirt road – cycle path to Lago di Montepulciano (Lake Montepulciano). This path is also called “Il sentiero della Bonifica.”
Sentiero della Bonifica
From there you follow the dirt road to Valiano, Montepulciano Stazione and then the road back to Montepulciano. Cycling uphill to Montepulciano is not easy. The road is not very steep but it is long. For this track you need a reasonable fitness.
Distance 53 km.
During the Easter holidays the whole of Italy was classified “red” from 3 – 5 April. In a red zone it is prohibited to leave your hometown except for work and health reasons.
Over the Easter period we were allowed to visit friends and families in their homes with a maximum of two visitors at a time.
Tuscany will remain under the heaviest restrictions until April 20, as I read in a newspaper. The infections are not declining.
Last Saturday I went for a bike ride and pizza dinner with my friends. It’s been weeks since we met. We’re not seeing each other often these days because we do not live in the same municipality. I live in Montepulciano. My friends have a house in Montallese and in Chiusi. Two towns in Tuscany.
Pizza is a social food. A food for family and friends. I never make a frozen pizza at home. For me a pizza is to be eaten at a pizzeria. It must be eaten immediately after it comes out of pizza oven and must be made by an expert!
Our friend in Montallese has recently installed a wood fired pizza oven in his garage. He prepared for us a variety of pizzas. Gianfranco is an Italian pizza chef!
I had a great dinner and I really enjoyed the pizzas. It has been a long time since I have had a so good pizza. Too long…
- Pizza with spinach
- Pizza with truffle
- Pizza with anchovies
- Pizza with wurstel
The nationwide curfew from 10 PM till 5 AM is still active. In Italy we usually eat late, around 8 – 9 PM. With the current rules we eat a little earlier.
Online wine tasting
I have celebrated Easter at my home in Montepulciano.
I’ve had a fabulous evening with American people. Together we’ve tasted -virtually- some nice Tuscan wines from the winery Gattavecchi.
For more information visit the page A Taste of Tuscany!
Online wine tasting
Pasquetta was spent on running, foods and friends. We were allowed to travel.
I went to Chiusi for a 12 km run and a lunch.
Friends from Chiusi – Tuscany
A typical Tuscan Easter food is “ciaccia di Pasqua”. In Umbria they call it “torta di Pasqua”. It’s a pizza filled with cheese. La ciaccia di Pasqua is perfect for your Easter picnic.
la ciaccia di Pasqua and capocollo
Normally we eat the ciaccia with capocollo. Super delicious!
ciaccia di Pasqua
Last but not least there was a tiramisù to conclude our Pasquetta lunch.