Honoring the past, Rocca di Montemassi aims for the future

Honoring the past, Rocca di Montemassi aims for the future

About 20 minutes southeast by car from the marvelous stone town of Massa Marittima with its 13th century Romanesque cathedral (above left), the Rocca di Montemassi estate celebrates the Maremma farming heritage all the way back to the Etruscans. It is only a short distance from Rocca di Frassinello (see previous post) but its style is lovingly retro. The Zonin family—famed for winemaking in the Veneto, Piedmont, Friuli, Tuscany, Lombardy, Sicily, and Puglia—purchased the land in 1999. Vines of Sangiovese, Vermentino, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, and Petit Verdot cover about 15 hectares (37 acres) of the 20 hectare (49 acre) farm. “Farm” is the operative word. Not only do the Zonins produce wine here, they also keep pigs and Maremma cattle, a...Read More
Rocca di Frassinello balances Bolgheri and Scansano

Rocca di Frassinello balances Bolgheri and Scansano

Draw a line on the map between Bolgheri and Scansano, and Gavorrano is right at the mid-point. Featuring soils comparable to those found in Chianti and Montalcino, the home of Rocca di Frassinello (Località Giuncarico Scalo, Gavorrano; +39.0566.88400; roccadifrassinello.it) has one significant difference. Ambient temperatures range 4–6°C warmer, allowing grapes to mature three to four weeks earlier. That climatic difference also suits Bordelais grapes better than other regions of Tuscany, making a Franco-Italian collaboration seem inevitable. The wines hint at Scansano's traditions with Bolgheri's innovations. Seeking to replicate his extraordinary success of Castellare di Castellina in Chianti in the 1970s, Paolo Panerai joined forces with Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) in a grand experiment to harness Panerai's expertise with Sangiovese with the Rothschild mastery of...Read More
Il Fiorino crafts wine-friendly pecorino cheeses

Il Fiorino crafts wine-friendly pecorino cheeses

Pecorino cheese production in the Maremma dates from at least the Middle Ages, but the modern story of Maremma Pecorino dates from the 1957 founding of Caseificio Il Fiorino (Loc. Paiolaio, Roccalbegna; +39 0564 989 059; caseificioilfiorino.it/english.htm#pascoli; open for sales Mon-Sat 9am-1pm and 3-7pm). Duilio Fiorini (usually referred to in hushed tones as Il Fondatore) started the operation, now run by his daughter Angela and her husband Simone with about two dozen staff. Maremma wines practically beg for a cheese plate of mellow, supple cheeses. Il Fiorino fills the bill with a range of sheep's milk cheeses that range from a quivering ricotta to nutty, long-aged wheels. The Pecorino Toscano cheeses are a world apart from the crumbly, sharp, and very salty Pecorino Romano commonly...Read More
Emerging winery points to Maremma’s future

Emerging winery points to Maremma’s future

You can't quite see the ocean from the winery at Fattoria di Magliano (Località Sterpeti 10, Magliano; +39 0564 593 040; fattoriadimagliano.it). But if you turn southwest and close your eyes, you can smell the salt air rising from the coast 10 miles away. That maritime influence combines with well-drained soils to produce intensely flavored grapes. Founded in 1997 by footwear magnate Agostino Lenci, the winery embodies the expanding possibilities of the Maremma. While the traditional varietals of the region, Sangiovese and Vermentino, represent 80 percent of the vineyards, the winery also has extensive plantings of Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as significant amounts of Petit Verdot and Merlot. From the outset, the winery embraced French grapes and technique as a complement...Read More
Da Caino Ristorante celebrates rich tastes of Maremma

Da Caino Ristorante celebrates rich tastes of Maremma

Finding the minuscule mountain hamlet of Montemerano is no mean feat—although the front desk staff of the nearby luxurious Saturnia spa resort can literally draw you a map. Once you get there over a series of winding country roads, you'll have to park in the flat space below the village. Walk up the narrow stone streets to find the glowing open door of Da Caino Ristorante (Via Canonica, 3; +39 0564 692 817; dacaino.it). It's worth every scintilla of the effort. Chef Valeria Piccini (left) is a tireless and inventive champion of Maremma cuisine, which she interprets in an elegant modern style. A chemist by training, she is a self-taught chef who took over the kitchen of Da Caino family restaurant from her mother-in-law in...Read More
Wine from a stone: Sassotondo thrives on tufo

Wine from a stone: Sassotondo thrives on tufo

Stone cities, stone Etruscan tombs, and vineyards bursting from soil of broken stone. The slightly porous gray rock known in Italian as “tufo” (“tuff” in English) consists of compressed ash from a long-extinct volcano. It is the stone that pokes through the ground throughout the highlands of the eastern Maremma. The monumental medieval cities of Pitigliano (above) and Sovana are either carved from tufo or built from blocks of it. Near Sovano, Etruscans left impressive tombs carved into a tufo hillside. Winemaker Carla Benini embraces the red volcanic soils, crafting wines of surprising depth from some of the grapes indigenous to this corner of the Maremma. She and her husband, documentary filmmaker Edoardo Ventimiglia, settled on this land outside Sovana in 1990 and have spent...Read More
Maremma Toscana DOC: Tuscany’s next great wines

Maremma Toscana DOC: Tuscany’s next great wines

Every wine lover knows Tuscany. Most of us cut our teeth on Chianti Classico, grew up to relish Brunello and Barolo, and pad our birthday wish lists with Bolghieri's “Super Tuscans.” But while everyone seems to know Tuscany, until recently only the Tuscans seemed to know the southwestern coastal region of the Maremma. That's changed in a big way, as some of Italy's most powerful family wine empires have taken a stake in the Maremma in the last few decades. Even local winemakers refer to the Maremma as the “California of Italy.” They continue to respect tradition, but they also prize innovation. Of Tuscany's patchwork of 40 DOCs, or named wine regions, none is more dynamic than the Maremma Toscana DOC (www.consorziovinimaremma.it/en/), established in 2011....Read More
Cook on the dark side with ‘Ferrandi Chocolate’

Cook on the dark side with ‘Ferrandi Chocolate’

As the gift-giving season approaches, we've found the perfect pick for aspirational cooks who love chocolate. (And who doesn't?) Ferrandi Paris (www.ferrandi-paris.com/) is coming up on its centennial in 2020. That's 100 years as one of top culinary schools in France. Two years ago, the school issued its pâtisserie cook book for cooks who want to know everything possible about making French pastry. This year's English translation of Ferrandi Chocolate (Flammarion, Paris, $35 US, $47 Canadian) does the same for chocolate, chocolate confections, and chocolate desserts. (The French version appeared simultaneously in France.) This book is more than a compendium of chocolate recipes and techniques. It's one of the most straightforward, easily understood guides to building skills and techniques to work with chocolate. While the...Read More
Chefs and growers jointly hail the versatile cranberry

Chefs and growers jointly hail the versatile cranberry

The motto of HungryTravelers is “bringing the taste of travel back home,” but sometimes we don't have to go very far for extraordinary flavor. The Ocean Spray Cooperative (oceanspray.com) is headquartered just 50 miles south-southeast from our home in Cambridge, Mass., but its 700-plus members in North and South America represent a world of flavor. They grow 80 percent of the globe's cranberries. Similarly, Puritan & Company restaurant is a 13-minute walk from home. Chef-owner Will Gilson champions New England cuisine, so it was logical that the restaurant host a debut dinner by the Cranberry Chef Collective last week. The CCC connects chefs to the member farmers of the cranberry cooperative. Ocean Spray estimates that more than 100 billion cranberries will be consumed this holiday...Read More
Chicken Pastis: Liquor cabinet cookery

Chicken Pastis: Liquor cabinet cookery

As most of our readers have already surmised, we are first and foremost wine drinkers. But we are also travelers, and sometimes the taste of place comes from a headier libation. Over the years, we have accumulated a liquor cabinet of spirits, apertifs, cordials, and what David's father used to call “snorts.” (When the last of the sipping whiskey was gone on a Sunday afternoon and the stores were all closed, he'd invariably go to the mixer cabinet and announce, “Let's have a snort!” Sometimes that meant an evening of Drambuie or anisette, but too sweet was better than dry.) Some of the bottles shown above are more than mere snorts. They make excellent sippers by themselves. It's just that we don't sit around sipping...Read More