Today was the olive oil and wine tasting day. Four of us headed out at 9:45am for a preliminary wine tasting. We needed to buy wine for the next 5 nights dinners and so my Dad, my brother-in-law, my brother and I went to one of the nearby wine farms for a tasting. The owner’s wife did the tasting for us. They produce 2 million bottles a year (which is a massive amount). There are strict wine laws in Italy about what you can put on the label depending on what grapes you use and how long the wine is matured in oak barrels. You can (for instance) only put ‘Reserva’ on the bottle if it has been matured for at least 2 years. You can only use the word ‘Chianti’ if 80% of the grapes used are Sangiovese. We are staying near Rufina which is one of the Chianti regions and so if they meet the requirements the bottles must be marked ‘Chianti Rufina’. Rufina is the smallest region in Italy that produces the Chianti wines. After we had tasted and indicated that we wanted to buy so said the price varies by whether it was for private consumption or not and whether we wanted a receipt or not. You can see how this country works – not too dissimilar to Greece it seems.
We then waited down in Rufina for the rest of the family to pick us up. They were picked up at the Estate by two large taxi’s that seated 18. We didn’t want to spend the day wine tasting and then drive ourselves afterwards. Not only would that not be a good thing given the state of the roads, I also couldn’t imagine it would be a good experience getting arrested for drinking & driving in Italy.
It was about a 40 minute drive to Castello del Trebbio. That was where we were going to do the olive oil tasting, wine tasting and also have lunch. It is a Castle built in the 12th century. You can only imagine the history in a place like that. It is lived in by the owners of the castle and wine estate which apparently is quite rare these days as you can imagine a castle is a not a great place to live in the winter. We were given some of the history of the Castle and its owners which included a famous Italy family called ‘Pazzi’. They tried to assassinate the Medici brothers and only managed to kill the one and the other escaped and then took immediately revenge on the Pazzi family and ended up hanging them all in Florence.
The Pazzi coat of arms (which is still over the main entrance) was designed by Donatello. That piece must be worth quite a bit by itself. Inside they also had a painting by Raphael. There is another copy of the same painting and the other copy is found in the Louvre in Paris. The painting must be worth a reasonable amount and so that immediately got some of the family members plotting about how it could be stolen. We had a brief tour of the Castle and then we were taken down into the cellars where they showed us the oak barrels and then into the dungeon which still has the original hooks and clasps used for tying up prisoners.
We then went to do an Olive Oil tasting. They explained what makes a good olive oil and how you can discern a good one from a bad one. The guide taught us that you should never use anything else but Extra Virgin Olive Oil and nothing else and it should always be in a dark coloured bottle as light affects the oil. Anything else is actually bad for your health and not good. Italians use olive oil for cooking all the time and the guide said that on average a family uses 1 litre per week (to which we all gasped and she laughed and said that is always the reaction she gets and she can’t understand why we think that is odd). We all tried the olive oil and my Dad almost coughed himself to death when he tried the first one. While she had told us what to look out for, in the end none of us could really tell the difference between the 3 and we realised we were rubbish olive oil tasters.
She then moved onto the wine and that we didn’t need much instruction on. We tasted their Chianti Rufina and then Chianti Rufina Reserva was what was served with the lunch. Lunch was a typical Mediterranean lunch of salad, bruschetta, salami, cheese, pasta with tomato, tuna & olives and a tomato and bread dish. All of it was excellent (as has been the case with every meal).
It was the hottest day in Tuscany this year and when we got back to Rufina the temperature was reading 42 on the car (in the shade). Fortunately the Estate is on the hills above Rufina and it is 5 degrees cooler up on the hills (i.e. 37 at the Estate). Still pretty hot and so most people spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool or in their rooms have a short siesta before dinner. Dinner this evening was (fortunately) slightly lighter with salami with figs, bresaola with rocket & Parmesan, bruschetta with tomato and then gnocchi with a mince sauce. Dessert (note spelling Rachel) was pannacotta with chocolate sauce. Again excellent as we have come to expect and no one could say they went away hungry.
After dinner the ‘older’ folks shared some thoughts about the past and the things they didn’t have when they were growing up and the things they did. My Uncle (Bill) told us how they used to play in the storm water drains as kids and my Dad told us how they blew up the corner of the street while trying to eradicate some snakes. You just realise how stupid you can be as kids and how God has preserved us all despite our stupidity sometimes. The end result is a family reunion of 33 people!
Until tomorrow …
P, H, S, L, M, O, C