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
Fomenting a wine revolution close to the Liberty Bell

Fomenting a wine revolution close to the Liberty Bell

Serious modern winemaking took root several decades ago in Pennsylvania, but a handful of small wineries just outside Philadelphia's western suburbs are expanding well beyond the presumed limits for Keystone State wine. This third post takes a quick look at three wineries a short drive from Philadelphia. One challenges conventional thinking about Italian grapes for Eastern Seaboard winemaking. Nestled in a suburban neighborhood, another proves that “backyard winery” is not just a California phenomenon. And yet another is systematically proving that Pennsylvania can produce wines that age beautifully into a voluptuous maturity. Vineyards speak for themselves at Vox Vineti Ed Lazzerini refers to Vox Vineti (Latin for “voice of the vineyard”) as a nano-winery because it produces 200-300 cases per year. But the vines are...Read More
Fine wines in horse-and-buggy Lancaster County

Fine wines in horse-and-buggy Lancaster County

While you're as likely to get stuck behind a horse-drawn buggy as a tractor on Lancaster County's rural roads, the region is more than straw-hat and gray-bonnet country these days. Historic dairy and row crop farming is giving way to vineyards and hop yards as farm wineries and craft breweries pop up in Pennsylvania Dutch country. Traditionally, this has been a region of fruit winemaking, followed at the end of the 20th century by a reliance on French-American hybrid grapes. Slowly but surely, wineries focused on traditional European wine grapes have begun to prove that Lancaster County is fertile soil indeed for well-made classic wines. In the quest to look at the future of Pennsylvania winemaking, I was able to visit a pair of very...Read More
Pennsylvania wine begins to hit its stride

Pennsylvania wine begins to hit its stride

William Penn must be smiling somewhere. With more optimism than horticultural knowhow, the Quaker son of an English admiral planted a Philadelphia vineyard of French wine grapes in 1683. They soon died off, and what wine Pennsylvania made until the 20th century was largely vinted from native labrusca grapes. There are accounts that some Pennsylvania wine was well-received in London in the 1760s, but the correspondent might have been merely polite. There's no longer any need to cut Pennsylvania wine special slack. I spent part of a week in September touring nine outstanding wineries in eastern Pennsylviania. While these nine represent just 3 percent of the Keystone State's wineries, they demonstrate that Pennsylvania has the potential to make major league wines that can compete with...Read More
Pan de Muerto: sustenance for Día de los Muertos

Pan de Muerto: sustenance for Día de los Muertos

We don't need to be convinced that food plays a central role in people's lives and cultures that goes way beyond the basic need for sustenance. But if we did need proof, Mexico's Day of the Dead observances would be Exhibit A. On November 1, families decorate the graves of their lost loved ones with marigold flowers. It's a custom, several women told us, that brings them close to their loved ones and makes them feel contento (content). The bright orange flowers almost cover the gravestones and their pungent aroma fills the air. We've really never seen anything else quite like it. As we looked more closely, we realized that families also leave personal belongings and mementos that their loved ones had enjoyed in life....Read More
An appetite for Day of the Dead in Michoacán

An appetite for Day of the Dead in Michoacán

Thanks to the many Mexican families who have settled in the United States, we have had a good introduction to Day of the Dead observances. In recent years, we've even caught some stateside glimpses of both the pageantry and the solemnity of the occasion. Last fall we decided to go to the roots of this holiday that blends All Souls' and All Saints' days in the Christian calendar with pre-Columbian ceremonies connecting the worlds of the living and the dead. The lakeside mountain community of Pátzcuaro is the most celebrated spot in Mexico for Day of the Dead ceremonies. It is one of what the Mexicans call the pueblas mágicas (magic towns). We joined the throngs who flocked there at the end of October and...Read More