Saturday, July 14, 2018

4 Best things to at St Jacobs Market, Ontario

It's Saturday and it's market time in a small town in Southwest Ontario, one hour and half outside of Toronto. St Jacobs holds a strong Mennonite heritage and indeed it is common to see Mennonites using traditional horses. Farming and tourism are two of the main economic activities. In particular, St. Jacobs Market, which takes place every Thursday and Saturday, is the main attraction of this little town of around 2.000 people.







I would reccomend going to the outdoor area for buying fresh vegetable and fruits (now the cherries are in season and are deliciuous). In the interior markets, I would reccomend eating at the area with local foods rather than the international stall, which had anything available in every other market.



Some of the things that I think you must try are:

1- Back Bacon, Egg and Cheese at Country Cravings. They make top burgers and back bacon at a very reasonable price. A must try.




2- Apple fritters with Ice Cream at The Fritters Co. 1/2 portion is enough for one person! Delicious fried and local apples with vanilla ice cream. Add some cinnanomon at the end and you are ready for a delicious snack!




3- Buy bacon to take away. Amazing quality at Stone Crock Meats and Cheese Stall.







4- Enjoy an espresso to end the meal before leaving the market.

 

Finally head back home with a car full of good foods at a great price. A great discovery, for locals and tourists alike.











Share:

Sunday, May 27, 2018

A Saturday at Saint Lawrence Market in Toronto

A beautiful day indeed. Going around the stalls at Saint Lawrence Market on a Saturday in Toronto with friends can be an incredible learning opportunity as you get to taste some delicious food in a rather large but well organized food market, which features some seatings too, and original street signs.






Having worked in Borough and Spitalfields markets in London, I truly appreciate the atmosphere that a market can give you: a sense of community, good food and peaceful atmosphere. As a sommelier, I love to smell the aromas of the different vegetables and herbs (thyme, oregano and basil among my favourite). Also, I love the smell of coffee and the espresso you can get in the lower floor is actually one of my favourite in Toronto, a city that can now offer really interesting coffee shops as alternatives to the large chains as Starbucks which are very common in North America. Having lived in Bordeaux, I appreciated the canele dessert at a pastry stall in the lower floor, though its price is high, especially compared to France where it originates. In fact, the prices at the market are not cheap, but quality has a price, especially in North America.







Whether you are visiting Toronto or living in it, like I do, a visit to the Saint Lawrence market on Saturdays should be on your to-do list. Around 5pm you can also find some discounted products!

A market with a strong history that dates back to more than two centuries ago, it is definitely one of my favourite spots in Toronto and one that is definitely a must for food lovers.












Share:

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Best Things to do in New York: A Foodie's Guide

Visiting New York City at the end of last month brought me back to 10 years ago, when I first came to North America. Turning almost 17, my visit to NYC was an enjoyable event that I shared it with other young international students. 

This year I went by myself, in part because of the volcanic wines conference (which I will discuss in an other post), in part because of my past fond memories of this beautiful city. 

First thing I realized: cost of living and accomodation are incredibly expensive, pretty much comparable to London. I stayed in the 'hipster' neighborhood of Williamsburg. A nice and relatively calm area to stay. Taking the subway to Manhattan is a must and there are many places to visit. Being there only a few days I would reccomend for sure walking around the High Line Park, former railway turned into a pedestrian walkway with lots of greenery and views on Manhattan. 


High Line Park: Signs of the old railway


In Lower Manhattan you can find Chelsea Market, featuring all sorts of restaurants and shops, including a wine shop with a wide variety and premium selection of fine wines. Walking around the market one realizes how much cosmopolitan food NYC offers. My sight was especially focused on the spice shop, with an incredible array of blends ranging from Italian to Southern Smoky Barbecue.


Spice Selection at Chelsea Market



Moving south, Ellis Island is worth a visit surely to learn more about the history of immigration in the US. Though, bear in mind that there might be a long waiting time to catch the boat that takes you there. Also, those of you interested in immigration history might want to go to the Temperament museum, which offers guided tours of houses where immigrants lived. I personally opted for the Native American Museum. A pleasant discovery, and it is free. It is not so much about the encounter and relationships between Natives and Europeans, but rather focuses on ancient civilizations across the Americas.

With regards to food and drinks, one has an incredible amount of options in NYC. For those who want to enjoy a nice cocktail (i.e. The Brooklyn, which I would reccomend) with a nice view, going to the The Standard Hotel High Line on the rooftop is definitely an experience worth doing. Live music will entertain you while you watch the stunning view and the beatutiful layout of the bar, which is open to everyone. 


Brooklyn Cocktail at The Standard Hotel High Line


Neapolitan Pizzeria Gino & Toto Sorbillo is a good place if you fancy traditional pizza made with high-quality ingredients. I particularly enjoyed the Calzone with Escarole. The wine selection is also good. I had a Greco di Tufo from Feudi di San Gregorio - mineral, fresh and with a lingering citrus finish - which paired well with the Calzone. For dessert, tiramisu, a classic that here will not disappoint you. 


Calzone with Escarola



Tiramisu



For a great burger, go to Juanchi's in Williamsburg. Great selections of ingredients (I went for the grass-fed beef), craft beer, good price and a friendly service will make the experience one to remember. If you are craving for coffee, Birch is actually a great option. As an Italian, I was quite impressed with their espressos. Also, there is a cozy atmosphere and you will find a few branches in the city.


Walking around NYC is surely tiring, but an enriching experience. I remember having a nice and long walk around Lower Manhattan and enjoying the view at High Line Park at sunset time. Also, simply standing and watching Times Square, with its all commercials and infinite amount of people who come and go, made me realize why this place is nicknamed the "Crossroads of the World". Indeed, nearly 39 millions people visit Times Square every year. I am happy to be one of those this year as I found it extremely interesting from a cultural and anthropological standpoint.


Sunset view at High Line Park


I will be back to NYC soon. There is still a lot to see and discover but this second trip has definitely made me "hungry for more" as New York chef Anthony Bourdain would say.    

Share:

Saturday, January 20, 2018

It's Voting Time Guys!!

Hi guys,

I hope you are all doing great and enjoying good food and wine, in good company. As of me, I am back to a fantastic holiday in the Canary Islands and Sevilla. I will write more about my food, wine and travel experiences in future posts:) 

I am writing to you to inform you that this year too I have been selected for the Millesima Wine Blog Awards finals. What an honour and a pleasure. I could never think to be chosen once again, for an article that I really enjoyed writing, that is, my latest post on food and wine pairing in the volcanic island of El Hierro!

As you might already know from last year, my goal now is to try to get as many PUBLIC VOTES as possible to try to win the competition. So I invite you all to go to the link below and choose FoodTravelCulture!  The deadline is Janaury 29th, so very soon. So please vote now and share this link to friends, as well.

https://qlic.it/420249 



I promise in return to keep writing beautiful articles and posting videos on awesome places to visit, gastronomy and excellent wines!

Cheers,

Giuseppe
Share:

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Comida Herrena y Vinos Volcanicos : When the Pairing Goes Local in the Island of El Hierro

El Hierro is a small, unique island. The smallest of the Canary Islands, located in a remote corner of the world in the middle of the Atlantic, it has always been of interest to many European conquerors. 


This tiny volcanic island also features an interesting food and wine scenery, which recently has also been slightly changed with the arrival of immigrants working in resturaunts and coming from Venezuela, a country to which El Hierro has been in contact with for centuries, as many people from El Hierro moved to Venezuela until the 1960s. Now the opposite migration takes place. People are fleeing Venezuela due to political and economic instability, and finding peace and serenity in El Hierro, and other islands of the Canary Archipelago. Some plants from Venezuela are also found in El Hierro, like the Uva De Mar (sea's grape), which I found while hiking in the island.
While driving through the islands, one can notice vineyards in the volcanic soil, goats and sheep (whose milk is used to make an excellent cheese in the area of San Andres) and extinct volcanoes, facing the Atlantic Ocean, which is also the provider of good seafood that is used for the local cuisine.



Volcanic vineyards in El Hierro


In El Hierro wine has a strong tradition. It was an Englisman, John Hill, who planted the first vines here in the 16th century. The volcanic soil gives to the wine minerality, and also longevity. Some of the reds made are indeed ageworthy. Most of the vines planted today are of white grape varities such as Baboso Blanco and Vijariego, though some good reds are produced. They are often planted in steep slopes, up to 700 metres high. The main producing areas are El Pinar, Echedo and Valle del Golfo.

As a gastronome and sommelier, I often try to find wines that match well the food I am having. Of course, there is not a written and strict code for pairing food and wine. Yes, we are all different and with different preferences. Overall, however, we can say that dishes can be paired well by concordance (foods and wines with similar aroma charcteristics, like spiceness such that found in Lebanese red wines with Lebanese spicy foods) or opposition (foods and wines that are quite different and thus balance each other out, such a sweet Port wine with a salty blue cheese like Stilton).
One rule of thumb which I often tell my friends who ask me advice is that a LOCAL food and wine pairing is a good starting point. If we think that the concept that "eating local" is sustainable, clean and fair, then "eating and drinking local" is even more so. Furthermore, while travelling it makes even more sense. For example, while I was eating in restaurants in El Hierro, I was served local and fresh food, such as seafood and goat cheese.It made perfect sense to drink some local wines with it, and in the island I found three wineries that are worth mentioning: Tanajara, Bodega Frontera and Uwe.


Food and Wine Pairing in El Hierro: Local Cheese, Jamon and a bottle of Frontera Tinto



Tanajara, despite having had a rather good feedback from an international wine competition, is unfortunately closed down as I am writing, though one can still find their wines in the local supermarkets. For the price average of El Hierro wines which is around 7 euros on the shelves, these wines are more expensive (around 15 euros for the 2010 tinto) but of premium quality. The Bodega Frontera is a cooperative that makes wines with an excellent quality-price. I have met Rafael, the winemaker, last year and he told me that recently they have exported some wine to the USA, as well.

Uwe is a small winery managed by a German guy from Baveria. I have met him today at the local market in the town of Frontera. He told me that is making use of indigenous grapes mostly, like the red Negramoll. Uwe also told me about the local tradition of making the so-called "Vino de Pata", an artisanal wine made by a mix of red and white grapes (or in some cases, like in Uwe's 2010 Vino de Pata, just white grapes) pressed by feet. The 2010 I tried from Uwe was sherry-style, dry, with almonds notes and aromas of almonds and marzipan, clear signs of oxidiation. I found the "Vino de Pata" also in a bar in EL Pinar called Chachi, which offered it at room temperatures along with tapas. Here in El Hierro this wine is considered the drink for everyday and is very food-friendly. When aged, it can give rise to some interesting tertiary aromas. When young, it is easy drinking and fruity.



Uwe and I at the Frontera Market

Vino de Pata at Bar Chachi


In the restaurants of of El Hierro, one mostly finds the wines from bodega Frontera and some are excellent for food pairing. I have tried the Blanco Seco which features citrus and tangerine notes along with a pleasant minerality and long lenght. I paired it with the the local "Pez Peto", the wahoo fish, and it was a great pairing. This volcanic wine gave a feeling of saltiness which paired by concordance with the salty fish. The wine also reminded of a white which I tried from the Greek island of Santorini, which is also volcanic.



Blanco Seco with Seafood

Another pairing that I have enjoyed was the Frontera Blanco Seco with a local and fresh goat cheese from San Andres, which has a quite delicate flavour, perfect with a white and fresh white. Instead, the same cheese but smoked (ahumado, as they say here) paired well by concordance with the red Tinto from Bodega Frontera. Indeed, the smokiness of the cheese was great when matched with the peppery and spicy notes of the wine. Also, it was very good with the fatty Jamon which had salty and meaty flavours, balanced out by the minerality of the wine.

Blanco Seco with Goat Cheese and Honey

In short, while in El Hierro, doing just like locals is a good idea when it comes to food and wine paring. Having local food and wines proved to be one of the best experiences I had in this tiny island, which has a lot to offer from an eno-gastronomic point of view. Given the limited wine production, one has to travel to EL Hierro to enjoy these volcanic wines, preferably along with some local cheese, jamon and fish.
El Hierro is a slow island, the capital of tranquility, and it is the ideal place for fully enjoying food and wine pairing, the local way.
Share:

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A Brief of History of Pizza

Pizza is one of the most popular dishes in the world and comes in many forms. For example, one could find pizza with pineapple, French fries, würstel or bacon. The globalization of pizza has caused a homogenization and standardization of the production process, which has changed a lot during the last few decades. The industrialization of pizza has also led to the loss of knowledge about traditional pizza making. Therefore, there is the urgent need to safeguard the technique and skills of the Pizzaiuolo internationally. In this regard, the intervention of UNESCO is fundamental to preserve this ancient tradition. 


THE ORIGIN OF THE TERM "PIZZA"

The origin of the term “pizza” is debateable. It may derive from the Greek word “plax”, indicating a flat or flattened surface. Some scholars argue that it derives from the Latin verb “pinsere”, meaning to crush or grind. Indeed, during Roman times, the bakers were called Pistores ("Pasta and Pizza", La Cecla, 2007).

Modern pizza, which featured tomatoes, was born in Naples in the 18th century and, at that time, there were two main types of pizza: Margherita and Marinara. The former is made mozzarella, basil and tomatoes; the latter with garlic, oregano and tomatoes. 

Pizza used to be eaten by poor people on the streets during weekdays. At that time, it was not well seen by the middle classes and by those coming from outside of Naples ("Pizza: A Global History". Helstoski, 2008).

Pizza Margherita

Photo by the author taken at "Napoli on the Road" pizza truck in London


FAMOUS PIZZA CITATIONS

The Tuscan writer Carlo Collodi, famous for his book The Adventures of Pinocchio, described pizza in the following way: “The blackened aspect of the toasted crust, the whitish sheen of garlic and anchovy, the greenish yellow tint of the oil and fried herbs, and the bits of red from the tomato here and there give pizza the appearance of complicated filth that matches the dirt of the vendor” (cited in Helstoski). 

In 1831, Samuel Morse, the inventor of the telegraph, defined pizza as“a species of most nauseating cake covered over with slices of pomodoro or tomatoes, and sprinkled with little fish and black pepper and I know not what ingredients” (cited in Helstoski). In fact, in its infancy, pizza was a sort of popular “fast-food”.

PIZZA A OTTO

This is confirmed by the fact that in Naples there was the “pizza a otto” customary system, which allowed people who could not afford to pay for pizza immediately to reimburse the merchant eight days later. The first pizza kitchens were created between the late 17th and early 18th century in Naples. They were places were “the dough was worked and cooked and passers-by could buy a pizza” (La Cecla).

THE FIRST PIZZERIAS AND PIZZA MARGHERITA

One of the first pizzerias was “Zi Ciccio”, which dates back to 1727. Other famous historic pizzerias of Naples include Capasso, Port’Alba, Da Pietro, Ntuono, Da Michele and Sorbillo.

By the end of the 19th century, pizza became popular also among aristocrats. One of the most influential pizza enthusiasts was the Queen Margherita of Savoy. According to some accounts, the Queen visited Naples in 1889 and Neapolitan Pizzaiuolo Raffaele Esposito was asked to prepare three different kinds of pizza. The Queen chose the pizza topped with tomato, basil and mozzarella as her favourite. This particular pizza, soon to become known as “Pizza Margherita”, represented Italy quite well, as the colors of the ingredients (green, white and red), were the same of the Italian flag.

The origins of the “Pizza Marinara”, on the other hand, are humble. According to legend, hungry Neapolitan Marinari (i.e. sailors) ate for breakfast a type of pizza that eventually took their name.

Pizza Marinara

Photo by the autor taken at "Napoli on the Road" pizza truck in London


PIZZA AND EMIGRATION

During the course of the 20th century, Italian migration led to the spread of pizza worldwide, especially to North America (e.g. in Montreal, as shown in the video at the end of this post!). 

Given the simplicity of this dish, Italian migrants could easily replicate it in foreign countries introducing new ingredients and adding new flavours. 

In the United States, pizza became a very popular fast food. Many pizza outlets gained success in the second half of the century and pizza quickly became a global and cosmopolitan dish, no longer synonymous with Neapolitan food and culture. In fact, it adapted to the cultures where it was introduced. 

THE GLOBALIZATION OF PIZZA

Pizza quickly became a ready-to eat meal as frozen pizzas allowed consumers to prepare it quickly and enjoy it at home. So, the preparation and consumption of pizza has changed dramatically in the last century. 

Many pizzerias now make use of electric oven, instead of wood-fired oven, also due to legal restrictions that forbid the construction of new wood-fired ovens. Also, consumers often eat pizza far away from the place of production. In the last few decades, however, there have been several efforts to promote and safeguard traditional Neapolitan pizza.

PROTECTION OF THE NEAPOLITAN PIZZA

In 1984, the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN) was created with the purpose of promoting and preserving the traditional way of making pizza, which involves artisanal work by the Pizzaioulo and the use of wood-fired oven. This association created a disciplinary that sets rules on how the traditional Neapolitan pizza is made and asked for its legal protection from the European Union (EU).

In 2009, Neapolitan pizza became a TSG (Traditional Speciality Guaranteed) product according to the PGS (Protected Geographical Status) framework adopted by the EU law to protect traditional food products. 

In 2011, another association named Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani lobbied the Italian ministry of agricultural, food and forestry policies to have “The Traditional Art of Naples’s Pizzaiuoli” in the UNESCO’s representative list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity to raise awareness about this ancient tradition worldwide.

On December 7th, as we have seen in the previous post, the traditional art of the Neapolitan pizzaiuolo has been finally included in the list, also thanks to campaign #pizzaunesco.



P.S. A few years ago I have had the chance of interviewing a pizziauolo who came from the province of Avellino (Italy) to Montreal (Canada) after World War II. From his insight, we can understand the way he adapted the Neapolitan tradition to the local culture to develop a successful business.





Share:

Friday, December 8, 2017

From History to Heritage: The Art of Neapolitan Pizzaiuolo Becomes UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage

Yesterday the art of Neapolitan Pizzaiuolo has become recognized as UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage in the latest meeting of the organization in Jeju, South Korea. After years of being left on a waiting list, this candidature has finally become accepted after a long and seemingly never ending process, which saw also the participation of a worldwide petition (#pizzaunesco) that has obtained two million signatures: a noteworthy achievement. I have been researching on the topic of pizza as Unesco's heritage since 2014, for my thesis of Master at the University of Gastronomic Sciences, which I then presented at an international conference on food heritage at an international conference at the Sorbonne University of Paris in 2015. 

Let's have a look at what happened historically with the candidature from the missed opportunity in 2011 to the official recognition and victory in 2017.  

#PizzaUnesco and Neapolitan Pizzaiuolo Davide Civitiello in London




#PizzaUnesco in London


THE CANDIDATURE


In 2011, Italy’s decision to include “The Traditional Art of Naples’ Pizzaiuoli” in the list of candidates for UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage was featured in newspapers such as the British “The Guardian” and the Canadian “The Globe and Mail”. Coldiretti, the most important Italian association representing Italian farmers, supported the application and noted that the traditional way of making Neapolitan pizza was in risk of extinction and that many pizzerias in Italy made use of imported cheap ingredients from China (Kington, 2011).


The Italian ministry of agriculture Giancarlo Galan was in favour of the candidature and asked for more collaboration from the Neapolitan authorities. He noted that the tourism department and the municipality of Naples did not reply to the various requests made by the ministry of agriculture to prepare the candidature for Neapolitan pizza making. So, he was deeply disappointed by the lack of administrative support at the local level (“Galan: ‘Pizza nel Patrimonio UNESCO, ma Comune e Provincia Assenti’”, 2010).


The Italian ministry of tourism Michela Brambilla stressed the importance of preserving the tradition: “To propose a candidature to UNESCO means identifying a symbol in which all Italians identify. Surely this is the case of Pizza, not the same can be said about the Palio di Siena”(Torriani, 2012, own translation).

The traditional art of Naples’ Pizzaiuoli seemed like the ideal candidature, although there was some scepticism because the Mediterranean diet had just been inscribed in the ICH list.

The candidature focused on the figure of the Pizzaioulo: his work by hand, the longlasting rising of the dough, the use of wood-fired oven and the use of natural yeast, without use of chemical agents. The major association that supported the candidature was the Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani, whose aim is to protect the figure of the Pizzaiuolo internationally.


The president of the association, Sergio Miccù, said that the inscription of “The Traditional Art of Naples’ Pizzaiuoli” would have raised the visibility of traditional pizza making internationally and favoured the development of tourism in Naples. He also observed that we live in a world where everything can be copied and it is all highly mechanized. Pizza, which was born as a popular fast- food, was easily imitated in the various countries of the world where it was introduced. So pizzas today often have very little to do with the Neapolitan tradition (Miccù, S. personal communication, February 10, 2014).

Given that traditional Neapolitan pizzamaking can only done by hand, it should be considered an art, which has been passed down from one generation to the next. Furthermore, Miccù noted that pizza represents a very important part of Neapolitan culture and identity: “Quando dici Napoli, dici Pizza. Quando dici Pizza, dici Napoli (When you say Naples, you say Pizza. When you say Pizza, you say Naples)”. In fact, Neapolitans eat pizza very frequently and consider it the most representative dish of the city.

The community of Neapolitans was deeply disappointed by the decision of the Italian Commission for UNESCO to choose Cremona’s traditional violin craftsmanship instead of the traditional art of Naples’ Pizzaiuoli in 2011, also given the international popularity of pizza. Rosario Lopa, president of the committee for the protection, promotion and valorization of Neapolitan pizza said: “A vital opportunity for the development and valorization of the gastronomy was lost, both for the image of the city and for new occupational opportunities” (Torriani, 2012, own translation). In another interview, he also noted that Neapolitan associations and institutions did not cooperate well in the making of the proposal. Indeed, there were divisions and disagreements within the community of Neapolitans involved in the UNESCO candidature (“Pizza Patrimonio dell’Umanita’: L’UNESCO dice ‘No’”, 2012).

#PIZZAUNESCO

As I explained during my presentation at pizza chain RossoPomodoro in London during the #PizzaUnesco tour in 2015, recognizing this tradition can help preserve this ancient tradition, which could disappear due to the expansion of global, mass-produced and cheap pizza. Also, Unesco's safeguarding can ensure that the traditional art is promoted around the world and that the figure of the Pizzaiuolo gains international reputation.

#PizzaUnesco Tour in London in 2015


The international petition to have the traditional art of Neapolitan pizzaiuolo being recognized by UNESCO has achieved notoriety thanks to the hard work put by the Fondazione Univerde (led by Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio), Coldiretti (Italy's largest farmers' association), the associations of pizza makers and the many pizza ambassadors around the world that have supported the application. It was definitely a crucial development that has significantly helped to have the candidature being finally recognized at the Jeju Meeting of 2017.


Myself at Coldiretti Stand for the #PizzaUnesco Petition in 2015

CONSIDERATIONS ON GASTRONOMIC HERITAGE

The addition of gastronomy to the UNESCO's intangible culture heritage list list can be seen both as a positive development and a problematic one. The fact that since 2010 there have been an increasing number of culinary practices recognized by the UNESCO is clearly a good step towards safeguarding gastronomic heritage. However, commercial interests should not override the purpose of the convention, which is safeguarding intangible cultural heritage.

The traditional art of Naples’ Pizzaiuoli is a gastronomic tradition that represents intangible cultural heritage has been righlty included in the representative list of ICH of humanity. Instead, vague and broadly defined food practices should not be included because they merely reflect the political and economic interests of the countries, but they do not have special symbolic and cultural meaning for the communities to which they are associated.

CONCLUSION


The inscription of a gastronomic tradition in UNESCO’s representative list fosters economic development, so it is not surprising that there is a lot of lobbying involved in the nomination of food traditions. However, there should be a greater focus on the cultural importance given to the gastronomic traditions by the local communities. By setting clear criteria for enlisting food traditions and empowering the local communities, UNESCO can make major improvements in the way gastronomic heritage is identified and protected.

The fact that the traditional art of the Neapolitan Pizzaiuolo, which so much represents the identity and culture of Naples and is an important part of the Italian cultural heritage, has been included in the UNESCO list is an crucial step in the right direction. Our hope is that this cultural recognition will not used for merely making profits by large chains and putting UNESCO logos outside pizzerias, but rather defend, promote and preserve this cultural tradition, which is in risk of extinction due to the popularity and development worlwide of fast-food pizza chains.

To read about the inscription of the traditional art of Neapolitan Pizzaiuolo into the ICH list check out UNESCO's website.

P.S. In the following post I will have a look in depth at the history of pizza. So, stay tuned!

#pizzaunesco

Share:

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Volcanic Interview #5: Eva Cartwright

Eva Cartwright, importer of Hungarian wines in UK and owner of the Somlo wine shop, tells us about her #govolcanic project, Hungarian wines and the potential of the volcanic wines business. 

 

When did you become interested in volcanic wines?


I was born and raised in one of the most characteristic volcanic wine regions of Hungary, Somlo. I have a wineshop/winebar here. Having had the honour to be John Szabo MS’s local guide on Somlo during his research for his book on Volcanic wines in 2014, the idea of developing this niche further started to form in me. In 2015 it crystallised into #govolcanic - a project collective name, also a summarising hashtag I invented. I started to develop a UK sales- project for the wines I have already been working with - extending the niche to my entire country - then hopefully next year to Central European Region also.

What kinds of styles of wines do you import?


The main governing factor is volcanic soil. Quality over quantity and uniqueness in terms of varietal, style, region is also a common characteristic across the portfolio. These latter criteria also allow for some wines not necessarily or strictly only from a volcanic vineyard of a predominantly volcanic region. These are sometimes to either contrast their lava-based fellow wines or to show a geological feature equally unique to the volcanic background. For example I have an Eger kékfrankos that is from a volcanic region but this particular wine is from a 100% limestone plot. I also have Raspi wines from Sopron from such a singular and unique schiss-based growing area that some wines from here; display more minerality than the most brutal lava-based ones.

Do you see a growing interest in London for volcanic wines?


Absolutely. People love it. The appeal is extremely and unusually wide, too. Finally a wine-niche that can interest the husband who is ready to try something unique after years of the same Chablis, the wife who is amazed by the visual scenery of these ancient extinct volcanoes and already plans her next family holiday there, and also the kids who are fascinated by the science behind the concept and can be kept entertained for hours with rock-samples alone. Also the over-hyped hospitality sector of London is desperate for new and unique ideas, tastes and hidden treasures. I can confidently say that - thanks to John’s book-launch timing also - #govolcanic is an absolute hit, in the right place, at the right time.

Why did you decide to focus on Hungarian volcanic wines?


I am from a volcano - pretty much predestines my inclination. Also, I am totally and utterly in love with Somlo and its wines - I literally feel sick if I have to be away too long from them. I believe with a passion that Somlo is one of the world’s most unique terroirs. Once you taste wines from this tiny, mere 400 hectares small hill, you will be able to pick them out from a 1000 others. The people, the view, the almost entirely indigenous grapewine population all adds to the magic of this place.

Do you plan to extend your portfolio to other volcanic wine regions ?


Yes. I plan to go over the border of current Hungary next year. My slogan already says : “..from the ancient vineyards of Old Hungary” - under old Hungary I mean the country of the Austro - Hungarian Empire and the centuries before, up until the end of WW I, when our country was broken up and shrunk to its current area.

For info about the UK based import company check out  https://www.witnessmountainwines.uk/
For info on the Hungarian wine shop click here http://somloi.hu/en/index/
Share:

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sapori Soavi: A Special Foodie Day in the City

Living in Soave, the small town in the Veneto region that makes some of the world's best white wines, I often come across festivals and events that are food or wine related.




While going for a coffee this morning I have seen a whole range of producers and artists in the main street (via Roma), and all offering interesting products to the tourists and locals alike for the local event "Sapori Soavi" (ie. meaning both pleasing flavours and taste of Soave, thus playing with the words). 

Cheese and wine are two of my favorite products and I could not resist to buy wines (a Recioto - the sweet wine- and a Soave) when I found the stand of the family Casarotto, which recently won an award for their Soave at the Merano Wine Festival.  I have met Celeste Casarotto in Merano indeed, and I was really moved by his passion for his job and his genuine and authentic character. 



At the cheese stand I have found a farm from the Lessinia area making outstanding cheese of different styles. I have tried the one whole milk and the one with rosemary, which was divine. Heated a little bit on a frying pan it gives its best. I really pleasant discovery, with the herbal character being a very good fit and not overpowering the flavor of the cheese itself.  I look forward trying it with the Soave wine by Casarotto.






Moving to the "artists' section" I have met really nice people working in traditional way and making hand-crafted objects that are no longer common nowadays. I am glad the traditions are being kept alive and hopefully the new generations will keep those running.





To sum up, today Soave was filled with good food and nice people. That's all you need to have a beautiful day really! 

Share:

Saturday, October 28, 2017

An Indigenous Grape In Risk of Extinction: 10 Key Facts About the Saccola Grape Variety

A few days ago I have been harvesting the saccola grape in the Illasi valley, in the Veneto region, in a volcanic hillside area at 600 metres of altitude and discovered many things about this unique volcanic grape. Only a few plots of this grape are left and the Consortium Lessini Durello is involved in a project aimed at identifying and evaluating the potential of this rare grape variety. Let's have a look at 10 key facts about saccola:





1. It is an extremely rare red grape variety

2. Historically present in the Durello area

3. Climate: temperate humid climate with rather hot summers

4. Certain historical data regarding its origin date back to 800's

5. Terroir: hill and low mountains

6. Soils of volcanic origin

7. Taste profile: aromas of mulberry and raspberry

8. It has great ageing potential

9. Large and round grapes.

10. Nowadays vineyards are found sporadically and semi-abandoned




This grape can lead to long-lasting and very good wines, so it would be a shame if producers no longer invest on it. I know there are some drawbacks (i.e. productivity and manual labour). Indeed, harvesting this grape on steep slopes, I have noticed how hard it is to work the vineyards. Also, its low yield led many local producers in the past to rather focus on international varieties as merlot. However, being an important part of the local viticultural heritage, it is important to avoid its extinction and the work being carried out by the local community and the consortium is of vital importance. Hopefully in the next years we will see Saccola wines being appreciated and sold even outside the Veneto region.
Share:

Sunday, October 15, 2017

#Harvest2017: Experiencing the Harvest in Soave and Sharing it on Instagram

Instagram is the social media par excellence dedicated to the sharing of multimedia material. Compared to all the others (Facebook, Snapchat etc.) it is the most used channel to express emotions and sensations with photos and videos of short duration.


Although the owner is the same as Facebook – the American billionaire Mark Zuckerberg – Instagram is different for the focus on the images, offering also the possibilities to share "stories", videos that remain online for 24 hours. From a personal experience, I can assure you that, thanks to Instagram, this year I was able to share the harvest in Soave and also the good moments often spent along my friend Fabien Laine (expert on Food & Wine videomaking). In fact, it was a unique experience, which allowed me to better understand how social media work.




With the help of a drone we went to the discovery of the hills of Soave and the valley where they make Durello. We tried some excellent Durello made with traditional method, nothing close to the cheap sparkling wine present in the supermarkets. 

The drone is actually a nice "toy", which has the advantage of exalting, at a glance, unique landscapes. But those who drive it must be careful not to lose sight of it because, otherwise, the cost of professional equipment is around 1000 euros and even beyond. 

This was my first harvest. I had a lot of fun, but at the same time I understood the hard work behind it: sweat, team spirit and a lot of passion. I could see and appreciate all this at the Mainente winery in the centre of Soave. Davide showed us the process of production of the Recioto di Soave, obtained by drying up the grapes. 



It was also exciting to visit the Gini winery, where the family management, the know-how acquired and the beauty of the old vineyards on a steep hillside are an exceptional combination. We tasted in the vineyards the "Vecchie Vigne 2014": an experience at 0 KM that has no price.  



The “Festa dell’Uva” (grapes’ feast) in the cities Soave and Monteforte-probably less known outside Veneto’s borders- are very engaging events during which experts examine with precision the quality of the grapes determining the winners of the harvest in progress. 


Un post condiviso da Giuseppe De Cesare (@foodtravelculture) in data:

Going back to the theme of social media, I must add that for a wine blogger the use of hashtags, the interest expressed by the followers for wine and the quality of the photos are the most important elements of the success of a post on Instagram. We must above all know how to convey the feelings of living a unique moment, like the harvest, which must be communicated in all its intrinsic beauty and vivacity. Through the images one can try to give an idea of what happens, but obviously my suggestion to everyone is to live it firsthand, just to "breathe" the wine, to use the words of the winemaker Luigi Moio.



Un post condiviso da Giuseppe De Cesare (@foodtravelculture) in data:

For example, a video published on Instagram and shot at the Cantina Fornaro, managed by the young Damiano-who showed the first winemaking processes- offers a clear and concrete idea of how wine is made. It is therefore very useful material also from an educational point of view. 






This harvest has not been easy: some producers have seen a loss of up to 40% of their harvest. Going around the Soave vineyards, I have understood the difficulties that producers must constantly face, including the problems of constant drought and frost, which cause major losses. So, while in some areas the grapes were perfect, in other vineyards nearby there were few grapes and of low quality, mainly because of the drought. At Cantina Del Castello, where I actually did the harvest and were I was welcomed by a wonderful staff, they were lucky enough to have among the best grapes of this year. Excellent quality, despite the difficult year. 

In volcanic territories of higher altitudes, such as that of Sandro De Bruno, the frost was devastating. During a visit to his vineyards, held with other members of the Italian Sommelier Association (AIS), I understood how much passion there is behind the work of the producers and how difficult vintages like this are dealt with so much sacrifice and hard work to preserve quality. Fortunately, we still have many producers that, like Sandro, make volcanic wines of high quality. Wines that are savory, fresh and mineral. Definitely, they are in my top 5 of volcanic wines!




Cheers to all of you and, in particular to the producers of Soave. In the next post I will talk about Saccola, an indigenous grape variety from the Veneto region which I have been harvesting in the last few days!
Share:

#Harvest2017: A Soave Esperienze di una Vendemmia Condivisa su Instagram


Instagram e’ il social media per eccellenza dedicato alla condivisione di materiale multimediale. Rispetto a tutti gli altri ( facebook, snapchat etc.) e' il canale piu' usato per esprimere emozioni e sensazioni con foto e video di breve durata. Sebbene il proprietario sia lo stesso di Facebook – il miliardario americano Mark Zuckenberg – Instagram si differenzia per il focus sulle immagini offrendo in piu’ la possibilita’ di inserire le “stories”, video che rimangono online per 24 ore. A livello di esperienza personale posso assicurare che, proprio grazie a Instagram, quest'anno ho potuto condividere appieno la vendemmia a Soave e anche i bei momenti trascorsi in compagnia dell' amico Fabien Laine (esperto di videomaking sul food & wine). In effetti e' stata un'esperienza unica, che mi ha permesso di capire meglio come funzionano i social media. 






Con l'aiuto di un drone siamo andati alla scoperta delle colline del Soave e della zona del Durello. Quest'ultima produce, in particolare, un ottimo spumante con metodo tradizionale, da non confondere con alcune bottiglie a prezzi "stracciati" presenti nei supermercati. Il drone e’ in realta'un bel “giocattolo”, che ha il vantaggio di esaltare, in un colpo d'occhio, paesaggi unici. Ma chi lo guida deve fare attenzione a non perderlo mai di vista poiche’, in caso contrario, il costo di apparecchi professionali si aggira sui 1000 euro e oltre. 

Questa e' stata la mia prima vendemmia. Mi sono divertito molto, ma allo stesso tempo ho capito bene il lavoro duro che c’e’ dietro: sudore, spirito di squadra e tanta passione. Ho potuto vedere e apprezzare tutto questo alla cantina Mainente che ci ha ospitato. Davide ci ha mostrato il processo di produzione del Recioto di Soave, ottenuto con l’appassimento delle uve.






Entusiasmante e' stata anche la visita alla cantina Gini, dove la gestione familiare, il know-how acquisito e lo spettacolo delle vecchie vigne in forte pendnza collinare rappresentano un connubio eccezionale. Proprio tra i vigneti abbiamo degustato il “Vecchie Vigne 2014”: un'esperienza a "Km 0" che non ha prezzo. 






Le feste dell’uva di Soave e Monteforte - probabilmente meno conosciute al di fuori dei confini veneti - sono manifestazioni molto coinvolgenti nelle quali esperti viticoltori esaminano con perizia la qualita’ delle uve determinando i vincitori della vendemmia in corso. 



Un post condiviso da Giuseppe De Cesare (@foodtravelculture) in data:

Tornando al tema dei social media, devo aggiungere che per un wine blogger l’uso degli hashtags, l’interesse espresso dai followers per il vino e la qualita’ delle foto costituiscono gli elementi piu’ importanti della buona riuscita di una condivisione su Instagram. Bisogna soprattutto saper trasmettere la sensazione di vivere un momento assolutamente unico, come la vendemmia, che va comunicata in tutta la sua intrinseca bellezza e vivacita’. Attraverso le immagini si puo’ tentare di dare un’idea di cio’ che accade, ma ovviamente l’invito da fare a tutti e’ di viverla in prima persona, proprio per “respirare” il vino, per usare le parole dell'enologo Luigi Moio. 




Ad esempio, un video pubblicato su Instagram e girato presso la cantina Fornaro, gestita dal giovane Damiano -che ha mostrato i primi processi di vinificazione – offre un' idea chiara e concreta di come si fa il vino. Si tratta quindi di materiale molto utile anche da un punto di vista didattico.





Questa vendemmia non e’ stata facile: alcuni produttori hanno visto perdere anche il 40% del loro raccolto. Facendo un giro per i vigneti di Soave ho capito le difficoltà che i produttori devono costantemente affrontare, inclusi i problemi legati a costante siccita’ e gelate, che causano grosse perdite. Cosi' mentre in alcune zone le uve erano perfette, in altre vigne poco distanti si producevano poche uve e di bassa qualita’, soprattutto a causa della siccita’. Presso la Cantina Del Castello, dove ho fatto la vendemmia e dove sono stato accolto da un staff davvero formidabile, sono stati fortunati perche' hanno avuto tra le migliori uve di quest'anno. Qualita' eccellente, infatti, nonostante un'annata difficile.    

In territori vulcanici di piu' alta quota, come quello di Sandro De Bruno, sono state le gelate ad essere devastanti. Durante la visita nei suoi vigneti, svoltasi con altri membri dell’associazione italiana sommelier (AIS), ho capito quanta passione c’e’ dietro il lavoro dei produttori e come annate difficili come questa vengano affrontate con tanto sacrificio e la volonta’ di preservare sempre la qualita'. Per fortuna abbiamo ancora tanti viticultori che, come lui, producono vini vulcanici di elevata qualita’ e grande bevibilita’. Vini che rimangono sapidi, freschi e minerali: sicuramente nella mia top 5 di volcanic wines! 




Salute a tutti e voi e, in particolare ai produttori di Soave!

P.S. Nel prossimo post parlero' invece della Saccola, vitigno autoctono del Veneto che ho raccolto proprio qualche giorno fa!
Share: