Brunello in the Val d’Orcia
As you travel throughout Italy, it would be a mistake not to visit one of the most beautiful areas of Tuscany, the Val d’Orcia. With its endless rolling hills and small, picturesque towns, it’s easy to see why this area has been added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. With its warm, dry climate, it’s also the home of the famous Brunello wine, known as being one of the best wines in all of Italy.
At this family-owned and operated farm; the Ciacci Piccolomini Wine Estate, Brunello reigns supreme. Brunello wine is made entirely from Sangiovese grapes. The family owns three vineyards, all growing Sangiovese With such an exceptional variety, it’s no surprise that so much care is put into the production of their wines. During this excursion, you will experience views that are too beautiful not to drink to, as well as learning about how their wine is made. We will be touring their historical wine cellar, instead of their modern facility.
Imagine enjoying a glass of their delicious Brunello while taking in this stunning view. At this Montalcino winery, the breathtaking scenery of the Val d’Orcia might even rival the quality of the wines. Luckily, it was never a competition. Ciacci Piccolomini is a beautiful facility with history as rich as the valley it resides in. We are very fortunate to learn of their family’s hard work with every tour, as well as every sip of their wine that we take. If you ever attend a tour with them, you will truly be made to feel like one of the family, experiencing wonderful conversations, food, and wine.
Artisinal Cheeses of Podere il Casale
Your journey to Podere il Casale will open your eyes to the culinary joy of non-traditional cheeses and how they are produced. Sandra and Ulisse will welcome you to see their farm that is home to 150 sheep and 30 goats. Their animals live homeopathically so that no chemical residues will reside inside the cheese. This means that they are grazed on a broad variety of herbs and grasses. This makes the milk much more aromatic, so from year to year, the flavors may vary in a subtle fashion. Like all good things, the cheese is made carefully with the highest regard for flavor and aroma. The final product is a savory raw-milk cheese bursting with flavor. At their farm, you will taste their Pecorino and Caprino (goat cheeses) and delicious ricotta too in an informative and eye-opening lunch at the farm.
While the taste of goat cheese is totally unique, another special attribute is its texture. Nothing else can deliver the same impression of richness without all the fat and calories, and it’s this that distinguishes a goat milk cheese from cow milk versions.
Overall, artisanal foods involve serious craftsmen applying their personal trademark to centuries-old practices. They enjoy sharing the results of their labor with the public, showing their love for cheeses through simplicity, tradition, and elegance.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil; Italy’s Best Kept Secret.
What is so special about authentic Italian olive oil? Italian olive oil, especially oils that come from family businesses, are made following recipes that are centuries old and passed down from generations. Meet Federico and his family as they show their great passion and enthusiasm for extra virgin olive oil. This tour will give you a new perspective on this much loved (but little known) product – learn about the different nuances good quality extra virgin olive oils can and should have. After a stroll through their beautifully kept olive grove, we will sit down to a delicious home-made meal. You’ll then experience an extremely fun and informative olive oil tasting and pairing with Tania (A professional olive oil taster, the equivalent of a sommelier for wine). Every course is prepared with great love and care by Nonna Maria Pia and will be paired with a different extra-virgin olive oil (own production), including dessert!
After wine, olive oil is perhaps the most famous product from Italy. At Podere Ricavo, no chemicals are involved in the production of their olive oil. They strive to create olive oil as pure and healthy as it can be using traditional processes and newer methods alike. You will be treated to the purest flavor as the liquid gold is added to your gourmet treasures. When it’s time to say goodbye, Federico and Tania will send you home with olive oil that you can continue to enjoy from the comfort of your villa.
What some Americans don’t know is that their olive oil should actually taste very different. In fact, 44% of consumers in the US reported liking the rancidity, fustiness, mustiness and winey flavor in their olive oil, which is considered a defect in fresh olive oil. A good extra virgin olive oil should be fruity, bitter, and pungent. To many people’s surprise, olive oil should actually be a bit peppery. This is an indication of freshness, and should not be considered undesirable. On top of this, olive oil shouldn’t be heavy oil and is best when it’s a dry oil. All in all, a truly good olive oil will be homemade with a family recipe, that can only be found in Italy.
Why Foodies Are in Pursuit of the White Truffle
There’s a reason why white truffles are so special. They are nearly exclusive to select areas of Italy and can only be found in the wild from October to December by truffle hunters and their specially trained dogs. After a full day looking for truffles, a fortunate hunter will only find a few truffles varying in weight and quality. From here, white truffles are taken to be sold immediately. White truffles begin losing their flavor from the very moment they are harvested, and some truffles even expire within a week. Truffles past their prime will not only be less expensive but almost completely void of flavor. That’s why having a fresh truffle on your plate in New York will be more expensive than the same truffle offered at the source. To have that truffle fresh, it had to undergo a speedy journey. Although white truffles are only potent for a short window of time, they compensate in flavor and texture. White truffles have an earthy and musky flavor with hints of garlic. A truffle properly handled will be shaved over your plate because this gives the fullest flavor and aroma.
Because of the white truffle’s incredible price, a fortune can be made off of fakes. The white delicacy costs between $2,400 to more than $6,000 per pound. Although, it’s exceptionally rare to discover a truffle that weighs more than a couple of ounces. The white truffle is one of the most expensive substances in the world. “Beware of imposters, the rarity and expense of the true white truffle means imposters are rife. Chances are, if you’ve tasted white truffle, you’ve been eating chemically enhanced tuber borchii — an inferior Italian truffle similar in appearance but incomparable in taste.”(Maureen O’Hare, CNN Travel June 26th, 2017) Tuber borchii is known as the ‘whiteish truffle’ for its uncanny resemblance to the white truffle. “The second-rate truffle is sprayed with a harsh artificial aroma that mimics the smell and taste. “When I go into the restaurant and I get that smell I don’t eat the truffle dish,” says Massimo.” (Maureen O’Hare, CNN Travel June 26th, 2017)
Unfortunately, the truffle oil you have on the top shelf of your pantry is no exception to this truth. Most truffle oils are made with synthetic flavor that only mimics the real taste of white truffles. “When you eat the pasta with the truffle oil you don’t taste it with your mouth, you taste it with your nose. The gentle, earthy taste of Italian white truffle is too subtle to be preserved in oil or cheese or meat. That’s because the essence of truffle, as modern diners know it, didn’t quite go mainstream until a much cheaper substitute was developed; 2,4-dithiapentane is a chemical reproduction that smells eerily similar to the real stuff. It’s unclear when this synthetic truffle taste and smell was invented, but David Patterson, writer for the New York Times, alludes to having known of its use in the 1990s.” (Maureen O’Hare, CNN Travel June 26th, 2017)In fact, manufacturers only have to include small amounts of truffle to say that their oils are made from truffles, even as little as a gram for a large bottle.
In reality, something as special as the truffle can only be experienced at the source. Truffles can only grow under delicate and precise conditions, and finding them is a difficult process. All in all, a true foodie should know not to trust every label with ‘truffle’ in the name. I have saved the most important reason until last. If you’ve ever got your hands on a really fresh white truffle you will know that the flavor is like nothing else in this world. When people say they don’t get what all the fuss is about, I suspect they’ve been duped with a fake. The only thing comparable to a white truffle is another white truffle.
In the month of November, a well-known truffle festival is held in San Giovanni d’Asso, close to Montalcino in SE Tuscany. This festival has taken place every second and third weekend of November since 1985. Because of tradition, like many Italian celebrations, it includes processions with the townspeople dressed in period costumes with other events unique to specific Italian festivals.
Since the White Truffle grows in rougher terrains and is harder to find and tends to be more physically demanding, it requires a good level of fitness and suitable clothing. Spring and Summer truffles grow in clearings and are easier to find, thus posing less of a challenge (long pants and sturdy walking shoes are still a requirement). Join Paolo and his dog and spend a few hours in the woods for this very unique outing. During your truffle hunt, you will be given a complete explanation of truffles, how they reproduce, and what their ideal habitat is.
JOIN US FOR A CONVERSATION…
We would like to offer you an opportunity to meet the locals like Paolo. More importantly, we offer you conversations with them about the relationship they have with the land, their craft, and how they express and honor the generations that came before them.
The Crowds Are Gone– Celebrate Tuscan Food & Wine in Autumn All-Inclusive Food & Wine Tour
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Positano – The Pearl of the Amalfi Coast!
“Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there, and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.” -John Steinbeck
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