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12/14/2017

Arrivederci 2017!

Christmas holidays in Italy: time to relax for us and to start planning the next tourist season!

Our off-season:Olive picking
As you all left our region, beginning of November, we picked our olives at our olive little grove (pictures below) in Todi area. Despite the extreme heat of Summer 2017  - that many of you have "luckily experienced"  - and the lack of water, the quantity of olive was fine and the quality really exceptional!
Thanks to the high temperature, many insects and, in particular, the "fly of the olives" couldn't survive during Summer. Result: we gathered perfect fruits.
We're waiting for you in 2018 for a memorable bruschetta and a glass of Grechetto wine , don't miss it, eh! 


Ph. credits Loop events
Christmas in Todi
For this festive period LOOP Events, a local association, in cooperation with the Municipality, has set a very nice ice-skating rink in the main Piazza, already opened to locals and tourists. This year the rink is all around a beautiful Christmas tree in the centre of Piazza del Popolo, for a unique ice-path around the square.
Thanks to special lights and video mapping, the historic buildings are the screen for spectacular play of colour and effects.


10th yr anniversary
This year Leonardo and I, we celebrate the 10th year of Discovering Umbria, a project that has been able to face several international and national issues happened in this decade and to grow only thanks to YOU and your TRUST.

If you have already visited Umbria with us in the past years, contact us to get our Special 10yrs discount for you or for a friend of you....or both!

Grazie!
 
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Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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7/31/2017

WELCOME AUGUST! Mid-Late Summer events in Todi and Umbria

CULTURE, RELIGION and FOLKLORE

Todi Festival - 31st edition from August 26 to September 3, 2017
TODI

The most cultural and fancy event in town. Drama, Music, Concerts with international and national guest stars like the famous cantautore singer/writer Roberto Vecchioni or the art critic Vittorio Sgarbi with his show on Michelangelo.
Special happening this year: "Giardini Segreti" some private gardens located in one of the most beautiful areas of the old town, Valle Bassa, will be opened to host concerts accompanied by a glass of wine.

Festa di Santa Maria della Consolazione September 8, 2017
TODI

Religious and traditional festa in honor of Virgin Mary at the Church dedicated to Her: the Renaissance temple of Santa Maria della Consolazione, one of the masterpieces of Umbrian and Italian art.
Religious ceremonies, local market in front of the church and fireworks at 8.45PM.


FOOD and SPECIALITIES

Sagra della Lumaca - Snail food fest August 18-27, 2017
CANTALUPO DI BEVAGNA

Event dedicated to the tasty and succulent snails of Cantalupo, little village close the the stunning Medieval town of Bevagna with ancient recipes typical of the rural tradition. The unique menu attracts hundreds of food lovers every year. 

Sagra della Cipolla di Cannara - Onion Fest 37th Edition
Aug 30 - Sept 3 and Sept. 5-10, 2017
CANNARA
The special soil of the Umbrian valley, the ancient knowledge of cipollari, onion farmers, make the village of Cannara the most important place in Umbria for the cultivation of this vegetable.
To celebrate their special cipolla, onion, Cannara organizes every year this mouth watering food festival. The six local tavernas along the little alleys and in the cozy piazzas offer every evening an entire menu based on onions, from the starters to the sweets.


Primi d'Italia - September 28 - October 1, 2017
FOLIGNO

The first and unique festival in Italy to celebrate the first courses.
Pasta, the queen of the Italian tables, but also rice, soups, gnocchi, polenta together with top level food and ingredients from all over the Country are the protagonists of this long culinary marathon in the historic centre of Foligno.
Four days of tastings, cooking shows, meet up-s with famous Chefs to promote the Italian culture of "primo piatto".


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NEWS FROM THE VINEYARDS - first impressions on Vintage 2017 [to be]

Summer 2017 is very hot in Italy. It is a standard very dry and warm Mediterranean Summer, nothing new, except for the fact that we had also a very unusual dry Spring.
In general from January to March it is quite rainy and the quantity of rain is enough to face even the worst dry Summer.
This year, the days of rain were quite few and many areas in the Country are suffering for the drought.

What's happening to the Umbrian vines?
Many dry Summers have made great wines in the past. As an ancient sentence says "the vine needs to suffer", meaning that to produce an outstanding wine, the plant should be "stressed" in a certain way.
However, the "stress" should be always sustainable, otherwise, as for all the other living beings, it can be too much.

At the moment our friends at our partnered wineries say that the harvest will be moved earlier [generally beginning of September] and it won't be probably as abundant as in the other years, but they are all quite sure that the quality could be good, even if it is too early to draw the sums, now.
Meanwhile, the winemakers are keeping their hard work, observing and studying what's going on every day in their vineyards, paying attention to each little detail to make sure that we all can fill - again and again - our glasses with the "nectar of the gods 2017", made in Umbria, of course!

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More information on the events listed:
http://www.todifestival.it/
http://www.festadellacipolla.com/
http://www.iprimiditalia.it/  

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3/29/2017

Wine in Etruria: Orvieto, an extraordinary journey back in time


The tufa flat rock of Orvieto from a vineyard
When they reached the Central Italy, in the sixth century B.C, the Etruscans noticed this isolated plateau of volcanic rock rising up over the plain of the river Paglia, a perfect place for a new settlement.
We don't know today how the Etruscan Orvieto – named at that time Velzna - looked like, milliennial layers of history have covered it, but we know how it worked from the underground: the Etruscans dug thousand caves in the tufa rock including ones used for a very sophisticated system of wine making.
The archaeologists have found several caves on three levels: on the first floor, the first room, the grapes were crushed. The juice reached the second level caves via terracotta pipes; here it fermented for a certain period. After that, the wine was moved to the third level for the maturing and preservation, thanks to the constant (“controlled” - as we say today) natural temperatures of the caves.
This smart vinification system on three levels - that takes advantage of the gravity force - is used today in many wineries to avoid to “stress” the fermented juice from a room to another as it could happen using electrical pumps.

[Copyright Museo Archeologico Nazionale - Orvieto]
An extraordinary document preserved in Orvieto on the importance of wine in the Etruscan civilization is the frescoes in he so-called Golini 1 tomb. On the walls of the tomb, some servants are painted in the act of preparing food and wine and bunches of grapes are clearly visible.
The prosperity of the Etruscan Velzna was certainly connected the production of wine: the great number of different types of cups found in these tombs clearly indicates how important it was. This fine pottery was used in the aristocratic banquets and it was imported directly from Athens, Greece. The high quality of the vases found in Orvieto is a proof of the power and opulence as well as the high cultural level of the citizens of Velzna in the 6th and 5th century B.C: they were wealthy enough to be able to buy the same expensive objects trendy in Athens, the cradle of arts and civilization in those times.

Etruscan Women and Wine
Differently from the Greek and Roman society, the role of the women was very “modern” in this civilization: in Etruria women also took part to the religious banquets involving wine. This custom was sharply criticized by the Roman historians and basically not accepted in the rest of the ancient world. The public participation to these ceremonies indicates that the Etruscan woman had much more freedom of action and that the role in this society was different and more active in comparison to the other contemporary civilizations who got in contact with them.

Skilled Farmers
The Etruscans were also the most skilled farmers in the Mediterranean basin in those times: they were the first who studied the cultivation of the vine, the grafts and layout of the vineyards.
They also started training the vine in the vite maritata (literally “wedded vine”) system, in which the vines were trained up and supported by a living tree rather than a stake as happened in ancient Greece. The trees such us poplar, oaks or olives, thanks to their roots, reduced the acidity of the soil, while the foliage favoured the pollination*.



If you like to learn more join our “Wine & the City” experience in Orvieto, from the ancient Etruscan caves to the floreal bouquet of modern Orvieto Classico. Contact us!


June 3-4 2017 Save the date! Orvieto Wine Show 2017 - 2nd edition
To enjoy Orvieto wines from the most important wineries in Orvieto wine area, together with other 700 high-end labels from all over Italy, there's Orvieto Wine Show, wine festival in the historic centre.
More info on: wineshoworvieto.com



[*Historic information from "Orvieto Caput Etruriae"; "Il Miracolo è fatto"]

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1/25/2017

Wine: a story of a migration

The history of the vine is a story of a migration from the Middle East, the cradle of wine, through three main paths: the first, via the Central-Western Europe; the second through our Alps; the third and probably the most important through the water, to our Peninsula from the thousand islands in the Mediterranean sea.

The first example of vines date probably back to 50 million years ago. The kind of vine that we have today, called scientifically vitis vinifera to 5000-6000 B.C.

The root of the Italian word vino, wine, comes from voin - from the old Indo-European language - mother of almost all the languages currently spoken in our continent,  showing once again that this great plant has its origin in Mesopotamia, the land between rivers, whose borders correspond in part to Iraq nowadays.

Some millennia (!) later, thanks to the Greeks, the Romans and here in Umbria the Etruscans, the wine spreads in the Mediterranean, winning the challenge for the most popular alcoholic drink, with other beverages derived from the fermentation of sugars, such as beer. Beer, infact, was loved by the Egyptians and it is considered by the archaeologist the national drink of this ancient civilization since 3000 B.C.

Between the 4th and 2th century B.C. the wines from Greece were widely imported in Italy and considered very hi-end products in that period, the very best available on the market. For this reason the adjective "Greek" for a wine became later an equivalent of excellence, even if not produced on the Hellenic soil, as for example the name of our Umbrian white "Grechetto".

During the Roman times and the conquest of Gallia, vine was widely cultivated in this province of Rome. Here in ancient France terracotta amphorae were gradually replaced by wooden barrels, easier to carry.

Following the collapse of the Roman Empire, England - where the Romans implanted the vine (probably the weather was milder in that area) - abandoned this cultivation and began importing from the neighbouring France.
In the Middle Ages the political relationships between the two countries deteriorated and the British started the import from Portugal (Port), Spain (Jerez) and Italy again, with Marsala in Sicily. In these areas they helped the developing of the so-called fortified wines, obtained adding alcohol or concentrate must to the wine to stop the fermentation process and to keep it more stable for the long journey through the seas.

During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, France became the main centre for wine production. Despite Italy lost the political leadership in Europe, wine making and vine growing never stopped in our Peninsula.
In that period in Umbria vineyards were protected by local town (Comune) laws, as for instance in Orvieto where in A.D. 1295 the Consuls named vineyards guardian whose task was to protect and control this important cultivation.
In Montefalco, in the monasteries, the friars started producing Sagrantino, the sacred wine for the holy celebrations, in its traditional sweet version, the passito, with the very same technique of drying the grapes used today by our winemakers.

In Europe viticulture was in danger in several times during its long history: in 1709 because if the extreme cold or between 1800 and 1900 when the invasion of phylloxera, insect that attacks the root of the European vine, destroyed a huge number of vineyards all over the continent.

The last century, until very recent times, is unquestionably dominated by France, whose long experience in producing high quality wines for its kings made its products the most well-known in terms of top quality all over the word for many decades.
Despite the huge fame of our neighbours and their main position on the global market, Italy in few years, starting from the 60's and then the 80's, was able to make incredible progresses in modern wine making and to became the most important competitor of France...or maybe is it the opposite, now?

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Would you like to know more on wine and its amazing history?
Follow our blog or...
book a wine tour with us in Umbria conducted by local certified Sommeliers

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12/27/2016

2017 belongs to us! Umbria proud and resilient

Dear Friends and Followers,

2016 has been a peculiar year for Umbria: in the first 9 months tourism has increased around the 4% [+3,96 arrivals*] in our region, data that clearly show the success of this destination, more and more in the international travellers' "bucket list". [*official data Regione Umbria www.regione.umbria.it]
At the same time 2016 has been also unforgettable for Umbria  for the dramatic earthquakes that have seriously damaged -on October 30th- the ancient town of Norcia and the Apennine villages, breaking our hearts.
These events, very tragic,  have caused very important problems to the economy of the other  99% of Umbria, untouched by the quake, but compromised by the misinformation by the media which have broadcast for weeks unreal news, showing devastation all over Central Italy, while the part affected was just a very small [although beautiful] area located on the  South-Eastern border of the region.


While most of the media exploited the tragedy, despite the pain for the loss of important monuments and their homes, "Norcini" [people from Norcia] have never left their home-town, keeping feeding their animals, re-opening their little factories of prosciutto and cured meat and their shops, when possible. A great example of resilience for all of us.
And that's not all. Few days ago on December 22th, the main part of the historic centre of the town has already been re-opened. All the damaged buildings have already been reinforced, all the ruins removed and the masterpieces of art secured in other regional museums.
Those who have visited our region and fell in love with it and the people, know very well how strong and proud Umbrians are. This positive attitude in these difficult events is just another evidence of the immense love and respect that we have for our Land. For our region and the other areas of Central Italy, an influx of tourism right now and in the upcoming tourist season 2017 would help the local economy and the fund rebuilding efforts to bring Norcia and the other places back to their original magnificence.

Todi and the rest of Umbria is completely ready for visitors. For this festive period our municipality in collaboration with local associations has set a very nice ice-skating rink in the main Piazza, already opened to locals and tourists.
This year there's also a web-cam on our historic centre, in case you'd like taking a look [link below] to our beautiful town in this special time of the year.

Regarding our company, all our wine&food tours are running as usual and we are ready to welcome you as always!


From the Green Heart of Italy, proud and resilient, our best wishes for a wonderful 2017!


Buon Anno!

Alessandra and Leonardo
The Discovering Umbria - sister&brother team

TODI WEBCAM - LIVE STREAMING 

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10/26/2016

Amaro and Piccante: the taste of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

For almost 10 years, in this blog, we have spilled rivers of ink to celebrate one of the top products of our Umbria: wine.
We also talked about another great product of our land, the extra virgin olive oil, but not enough.

At the very beginning of the new olive oil season 2016, just started in the region, it's time to make amends and to speak here and now - as we have done several times with wine -  about the taste and the aromas, the so called organoleptic qualities of olive oil, to pay homage to this extraordinary food, that makes us, Umbrians, so proud.


What does "extra virgin" means?
Probably wandering around the shelves of any supermarket abroad, you may have noticed different labels. Well, forget them: they do not exist because the only olive oil that you should buy is the "extra virgin."
Why? Because extra virgin is the only one that
is produced by a simple pressing of the olives. Other grades like “olive oil” are usually made using chemicals or other processes to extract the oil from the olives, or they are just bad extra virgin - like the one named "virgin", without the "extra" in front. In addition, extra virgin oil must meet certain laboratory tests and must taste like fresh olives without any negative tastes that professionals refer to as “defects".

Does extra virgin olive oil always mean high quality oil?
Well, this is a very crucial point. Beyond the label "extra virgin" there's an entire world of very different quality oils. As you can see from the supermarket shelves, you can find some bottles [in Italy] starting at 3,99 up to 12-16 Eur or more per liter in specialized food shops.
Why such a huge difference? The reasons are different and the origin of the olives plays a very important role: "bottled in Italy" is not enough to be a guarantee of quality.

Learn how to taste EVOO with us!
Our senses are the key: "Amaro" and "Piccante"
Despite the consumers are very often disoriented by tricky information like "first press" [there's no second press at all in modern extra virgin olive oil extraction!], Mother Nature gave us, all of us, a nose and a mouth.
The aroma and the taste of an extra virgin olive oil can tell all the important information about its quality to the consumer.
Nose:
In a high level EVOO from Umbria, you may immediately notice the smell of fresh-cut grass, green olive fruit, vegetable notes like fresh artichoke.
Mouth:
The two sensations that are prevalent in a high quality oil are basically two. In Italian we describe it as amaro and piccante. While the second, piccante, refers to a peppery sensation, detected in the throat, the first word amaro can be sometimes "lost in translation". Literally amaro means bitter and maybe in English this adjective could be perceived as negative, while referring to an olive oil, it is very positive. When we say bitter, we talk about a very pleasant bitterness that is associated more to a very dry and clean sensation of a fresh, fruity olive on our palate, very persistent.

Is high quality extra virgin olive oil good for our health? Why?
Yes, it definitely is. Differently from other oils like corn or sunflower, olive oil is the only one that comes from a fresh fruit.

Here the 5 reasons to have it every day:

1. It contains polyphenols, antioxidants that slow the aging of cells down
2. It helps to produce good cholesterol (HDL), which helps to keep the arteries clean
3. It is the only oil that is 100% digestible, supporting the digestive activity and renal function
4. It is a natural anti-inflammatory
5. Used every day it has anti-cancer properties


Interested in learning more? Join us in Umbria!

Our extra virgin olive oil tours run all year round not only during the period of the new oil (mid October - beginning of December).
The olive oil farms and mills we cooperate with offer tasting all year round and visits to the olive groves to learn all the secrets of this great product directly from the producers in person.
Thanks to special stainless steel tanks that preserve the oil from the natural oxidation process, you'll have always the opportunity to taste the amaro and piccante, together with the fresh cut grass and artichokes aroma. It's not a promise, it's a guarantee!

If you are so lucky to be here in Umbria in the month of November, we are cooperating with the local cultural association Brumalia in the organization of an itinerant course in different olive oil mills in the area of Orvieto, during this special period of olive picking and pressing! Contact us for further information!























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5/13/2016

Todi Fiorita 2016 - Flowerpower in the historic centre

From next Friday 20 to Sunday May 22, 2016 Todi Fiorita, flower and gardening exhibition - organized by the local association Verdetodi and the City Hall of Todi - is back in town!
The event -  ninth edition - is hosting more than fifty exhibitors: farmers, growers, keepers of rare seeds, exterior and interior designers, gardeners, craftsmen, small producers of excellent food and natural cosmetics. 
The event is taking place in the historic center of Todi: Piazza del Popolo, Piazza Garibaldi, San Fortunato's steps, Oberdan Gardens. 

The flower and gardening fair is opening on Friday 20 at 4pm, Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 from 9.30am to 8pm

The programme also includes concerts and art events among the beautiful colours and scents:


Friday MAY 20

4pm –  Opening
Portici Comunali - Vaults of the Municipal buildings

4pm-8pm  –  Finestre aperte su Todi - Open windows on Todi
Painting exhibition by G. Bagli
Bar del Teatro - Theatre bar

5pm –  Live music by Duo Acustico Babacar
Portici Comunali

Saturday MAY 21

9am-8pm  –  Finestre aperte su Todi - Open windows on Todi
Painting exhibition by G. Bagli
Bar del Teatro - Theatre bar

10am  –  Meet up with the American painter Caridad Barragan
Giardini Oberdan

3.30pm – Il mio Fiore: drop-in drawing workshop by Caridad Barragan
Giardini Oberdan

5pm –  Il giardino di Jacopone - Jacopone's garden
Musical and drama show on Jacopone da Todi, friar and poet born in Todi in the Middle Ages.
Following visit to Palazzo Pongelli Gardens and tasting of a local speciality: coratella d'agnello.
Booking required. Info: Todiguide.com cell.     3894246262 – info@todiguide.com
Cloister of San Fortunato - Chiesa di Sant’Ilario – Palazzo Pongelli

6pm -  Live music in Piazza del Popolo by Duo Acustico Babacar

Sunday MAY 22

9am-8pm  –  Finestre aperte su Todi - Open windows on Todi
Painting exhibition by G. Bagli
Bar del Teatro - Theatre bar

3.30pm – Il mio Fiore: drop-in drawing workshop by Caridad Barragan
Giardini Oberdan

5pm  – From Bizet to Morricone through Carlo della Giacoma – Concert
Ensamble Crispolti-Carlo della Giacoma 

Conductor M° Claudio Baffoni
San Fortunato's steps



This ninth edition is devoted to the Biodiversity and the preservation of the Umbrian environment with an area [Vaults of the Municipal Buildings and Piazza Garibaldi] dedicated to ancient tree and fruit varieties, ancient legumes and rare seeds saved from the exinction.


More information [in Italian]: www.todifiorita.it

Official hashtag: #todifiorita

 










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2/08/2016

Umbria: a "plain air" painter's heaven

We are very happy to host a new guest post&interview to our friend Caridad Barragan.
Caridad is a professional painter originally from Southern California, now living and working in Umbria.

Caridad, tell us where are you from and why you “dropped” in Umbria
I’m originally from Anaheim in Southern California, which is where Disneyland is. Like the majority of Americans, my parents are immigrants. My father is from Mexico City and my mother is from Havana. I’ve been living in Italy since 1991. Initially I was living in Veneto, but after 15 years in that cold, damp and foggy Italian province I needed a change of scenery. A dear sculpture friend of mine from Los Angeles was visiting me in the summer of 2005 and invited me down to Porchiano del Monte, a small medieval hamlet perched on a hill overlooking the Tiber Valley. It was love at first sight: the endless views unto the Tuscan and Lazio hills, the peace and tranquillity of the landscape and people living there. And don’t get me talking about the food and wine!So basically after my daughter had finished her elementary school we packed our things into a nice big van and made the trip south.

Tell us more about your work. What’s it like being a professional painter in Umbria?

Umbria is a creative person’s dream! I have friends that are writers, journalists, singers and musicians that have all chosen to live here year round or for some months at a time. There’s a genuineness to the people, landscape and even the air that you breathe that sets the region apart. I often say to my foreign friends that I live in a place that doesn’t exist anymore. It seems as if time has stopped. It’s a place where people actually have the time for the simple and essential things such as cultivating the veggie patch, producing ones own wine & extra virgin olive oil or simply chatting with your neighbor. And ohhh, the landscape! When the weather warms up, Umbria is a plein air painter’s heaven. The light itself is so particular as are the colors of the ever-changing seasons.

Is there anything you found particularly challenging in your profession here? 

"Vineyards" by C.Barragan
Once I decided to move down here from the north, I immediately realized that job opportunities would be a challenge. I knew internet was going to play a fundamental role in creating my livelihood. After having settled down, I decided to begin selling my still life & Umbrian landscape paintings online through Etsy. It has been a learning experience and professional challenge but I find it fascinating to be living in such a tiny town and selling my Umbrian wares in countries such as Japan, Australia & the US.  

Do you have any advice for tourists who want to visit Umbria?  

copyright C.Barragan
Umbria is so rich in history, art, architecture, culinary traditions and natural beauty. It’s got something for everybody. It’s not very well known to the masses which means they’ll be able to take it in slowly and thoroughly. I advise to spend at least 10 days in the region. Why not make Todi your homebase? It’s conveniently located smack in the middle of the region and close to the major cities like Orvieto, Perugia, Assisi and Montefalco but also surrounded by small charming hamlets that come to life during various local summer festivals. 


If you had to paint your last painting on Umbria, what would you choose?


copyright C.Barragan
What a question!I think I would paint a late summer sunset from the walls of Porchiano del Monte. It’s an absolutely breathtaking view and each sunset has its own beauty. The elderly in town always gravitate toward the walls when the sun starts going down. I personally prefer to take a nice fresh Grechetto and sip it as I watch this daily miracle pass. You’ve got to come and see it for yourself. Better yet, let me take you!

What are your future plans here?


Well besides organizing my cool Travel Sketchbook Workshops in Todi where we can have fun sketching and discovering corners and niches of the town, this year I’m launching an innovative service in Italy: Live Event Painting for luxury destination weddings and celebrations. I’m really looking forward to capturing the magic and feel of a wedding celebration on canvas right before the public’s eyes. 2016 is going to be awesome!




You can reach Caridad Barragan also on:








 
 

 
 

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12/30/2015

Merry Sagrantino 2015: in the Court of the King

It is not the first time I write on Sagrantino wine on this blog.
I think that in several years of blogging and touring wineries with travelers, the amount of ink and words that I've poured on this topic is really huge.
Sagrantino, like all the other complex wines of Italy, is always a surprise, there's always something new to know, to think about, to meditate on, each time it is in my glass.

The occasion came once again thanks to the invitation by Consorzio Tutela Vini Montefalco, association of wine makers of Montefalco wine area, for the annual event Merry Sagrantino, organized by Consorzio for the promotion of the wines and food from this territory.
Merry Sagrantino - now at its fourth edition - takes place every year the week before Christmas in Montefalco and it is a way to celebrate the festivities and/with this special wine.
The event is growing year by year: last time I took part to it we were in the beautiful headquarters of Consorzio, this year in the stunning Sala del Comune, the ancient main hall inside the building of Montefalco municipality.

The beautiful ceiling at Sala del Comune
Merry Sagrantino is  a very interesting guided tasting, open not only to wine specialists, but to anyone: winelovers, tourists and local people. Always lead by a collegue certified sommelier, this year we had on our glasses six wines produced in this Umbrian terroir: a white and the five reds Sagrantino based, of course.
It's not be news that this area is famous for its red wines production, in which Sagrantino grape - the indigenous local variety - rules.
In the Court of King Sagrantino there are also white varieties like Trebbiano Spoletino, another local grape that has been cultivated here for centuries, originally in the ancient way of training the vine called vite maritata, a very old practice of cultivation  - used even by the Romans -  of training vines to grow up along living tree trunks. Rare examples are still visible in some vineyards in this wine area, as the one we had the fortune to see in "flesh and blood" in  Castel Ritaldi a couple of years ago.
Grown in the valley facing Spoleto, this kind of Trebbiano, fruity and mineral, could become the next white star of this territory. Some important labels started a very interesting production some years ago and now other wineries are making new experiments.
Following Trebbiano refreshing entry, we went on with a Montefalco Rosso and a very pleasant Montefalco Rosso Riserva, to end with two Sagrantino-s dry and one sweet.
Given for granted that nothing in wine is permanent, wine is something "alive", that changes and can change in the years, as well as the perception and ideas we have on it, I can say that year after year, tasting after tasting, sip after sip of this unique, very complex and powerful wine, I came to two undiscutable axioms on Sagrantino [drum roll!]:

Beautiful Montefalco adorned for Christmas
Sagrantino Axiom 1: give it time. Be patient. Let it breath.
The power of the tannins of this wine demands patience, patience in waiting for years, before opening the bottle. According to the regulation of production Sagrantino needs to be aged in barrels [and refined in bottle] for a minimun of 37 months and this is mandatory. But the very best,  the top Sagrantino-s I've ever tasted were much older. The tannins that in young ones can be too astringent, in older Sagrantino become very elegant, refined and sofisticated, sometimes an incredible surprise for a wine that is often considerated too powerful.
Patience also means "let it breath". I'm not a fan of the decanter, not at all of those electronic weird gadgets that promise to "oxigenate" your wine in few seconds...be careful! They only stress the wine, especially the old vintages.
Just remember to be patient, once again, opening the bottle at least 1 hour, better if more, before your dinner.

Sagrantino Axiom 2: give it food; proper food.
I ended the sentence above with the word "dinner". Sagrantino requires foods, because it is not a "middle-class guy", but a King that gives its specific rules. Like important red wines of Italy, for example Amarone, it needs food that can "resist" to its complexity and tannins. Saying "cheese", infact, it is not enough, you need an aged or even ultra-aged cheese for the old vintages. Same for "meat". A simple veal steak is not enough. The King loves game, of course, and wild boar, hare and everything is included in this list, it's fine.

Glory and Honor to the King, always.


A special thank to Consorzio Tutela Vini Montefalco

24 h to New Year's Eve and Celebrations: ALWAYS DRINK RESPONSIBLY

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10/27/2015

EXPO 2015: "Feeding the planet" or just a Big Show?

At the end of this week, on the 31st October, the Universal Exhibition 2015 held in Milano, EXPO2015 is going to close its gates forever.

Opened last May 1st, during this six-month period, Milano has become a global showcase where more than 140 participating countries have shown the best of their technology to offer - according to the organizers - "a concrete answer to a vital need: being able to guarantee healthy, safe and sufficient food for everyone, while respecting the Planet and its equilibrium".

History
Pavilion Zero was a "must do" to understand the theme
The very first edition of the Universal Exhibition was in 1851 in London, during the Industrial Revolution, a perfect time to show "the most ambitious successes that man has achieved over time, an occasion to share technologies, innovation and discoveries. It was also a moment to bring to life architectural projects or artistic movements, like the Eiffel tower which was built in Paris when the city hosted the Exposition in 1889".

Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life
The core theme of Expo Milano 2015, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life has the aim to provide an opportunity to reflect upon, and try to find solutions, to the contradictions of our world. There are still the hungry - approximately 870 million people were undernourished -  and, on the other, there are those who die from aliments linked to poor nutrition or too much food - approximately 2.8 million deaths from diseases related to obesity or to being overweight in the same period. Above all, about 1.3 billion tons of foods are wasted every year.

My visit
Although I've heard many rumors and read many articles and blog posts on the several contradictions of EXPO 2015 in the realization and promotion of the core theme; Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life  - basically the importance of Food in human civilization in the past, present and, above all, future- was too crucial for my work to miss it.
In addition the last time that the Universal Exhibition was held in Italy was in 1906! An opportunity that happens very rarely in our Country.
Therefore, as soon as my working season has slowed down, I jumped to Milano [13th and 14th October 2015, at the beginning of the week, trying to avoid the following problems]


The long infinite queues
One of the most important complain I've heard about EXPO 2015 was the long infinite queues anywhere. This was partially true. The most famous pavilions like the Italian, Japanese, Swiss, and several other ones, were really "off-limits". In particular the Italian one had more than 4 hours of queue at 10AM, at the opening time! Not the Italian wine pavilion, that at 11.AM was almost deserted.

Italian wine Pavilion
This was probably due to the fact that for many people tasting wine in the morning is a little bit weird. Tasting wine is very different than drinking wine: you don't need to drink all the glass, just a couple of sips can give you an idea of the quality of a wine.
I enjoyed a lot this pavilion where I could taste more than a couple of top level wines I've never had the opportunity to drink [10 Euros for 3 tastings of wine, not so bad if you are able to find what you want among around 3500 different ones from all over the Peninsula!].
Not far from the Italian pavilion, there was Franciacorta, one of the most important regions of Italy for the production of great spumante [the Champagne-style wine, produced in Italy and called Metodo Classico wines]. Here I could taste an amazing Riserva from 2006, at 12 Eur/glass. Not so bad, for the very special edition and label.

My stop at the Umbrian wines
The long queues pushed me to change the priorities in my tour: I decided to get into the pavilions that had less crowds. In this way I could visit countries which I didn't know, like Turkmenistan, Belarus, Moldova, Angola, Slovenia and many others. In particular, I enjoyed a lot the Slovenian one, which really made me think to spend a vacation in this beautiful and very close Country.
Another area that was almost empty was the Clusters where different communities where brought together, not by geographical area, but by a common theme and food group: rice, fruits and legumes, cereals and tubers etc. Among the 9 themes, I loved in particular the Coffee one where I could drink a pleasant coffee from Guatemala [free offer], and the Bio-Mediterrean one where I tasted the very first extra virgin olive oil of the new season: a "just-pressed" evoo from Sicily [pressed at EXPO 2015 thanks to a portable mini-olive press].

Food 
As the core theme was Food, with capital F, I've heard that many people were disappointed about the quality of the food itself and the price. I have to say, that, yes, in general the cost of the food was more expensive than in a kiosk or a restaurant outside the event, especially the street food, in my opinion.
Personally I've planned to eat only international and ethnic food, using also this opportunity to have something different than Umbrian or Italian. Living in a beautiful, although very little region, it is quite hard to have something that differs from a torta al testo or porchetta, here.

My favourite food experiences at EXPO2015




At EXPO 2015 I had 2 main meals and both ok for the quality/price ratio. One in particular, was really good: the national Eritrean dish zighinì [a sort of beef stew with legumes and mushrooms with a very unique mix of local spices] that for family reasons I've tasted many times in other occasions and restaurants. The cost: 10.50 Euro. For the second meal, we were more traditional, in a certain way, choosing Argentina and its famous grilled meat. For a big plate of different grilled meat plus 2 beers and 2 empanadas [an Argentinian version of the Italian calzone, thin bread stuffed with meat and cheese]: 39 Euros to share in two people.
A nice experience was at the French pavilion. The French that they always know how to do it better, have brought to Milan an authentic boulangerie, baking "on site" tons and tons of baguette breads and croissants.
In particular I had one of their pain au chocolat, still hot, very good similar to the ones tasted in a [big] pastry shop in the heart of Paris: 2.50 Euros.
Then, not bad was the apple strudel at the Austrian pavilion for Euro 5 [even if I definitely had better ones in their Country].

Feeding the planet or just a big show?
Personally I enjoyed my time at EXPO 2015 a lot. It was my very first few-days break after an intense Summer of work, I was there basically only to have fun and my professional "enrichment" from this experience was not a priority.
EXPO Milano was both for me: a way to reflect once again on the contradictions of modern word about food and, especially, food waste, and for the same reasons, a big, expensive show, where food was at the very same time "the victim and the torturer". The reflection on the huge number of people who are still very far from the basic food needs, together with the huge availability and offer of "all-you-can-eat" to the wealthy EXPO visitor.
And...no. I really don't know, I can't say how many people in the crowds and infinite queues have really caught - under the colored neon lights and the Tree of Life's las-vegas-like-show - the utmost importance of the original message : being able to guarantee healthy, safe and sufficient food for everyone, while respecting the Planet.


Resources:
Official EXPO2015 website
Bureau international des Exposition










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