A Travellerspoint blog

October 7th

Sangiovasie Vendemmia

24 °C

This morning John, Ugo and I headed in with Larry and Stephanie to see them off at the train station. It was a real bummer to see them go as we had all had so much fun together!!! We were going to have a coffee together but the next connecting train to Rome arrived soon after buying their tickets so we said our sad goodbye's and waved them off. After a coffee at the bar, we headed to Trequanda to pick up some shoes that Ugo had dropped into a shop for repair. Here is a picture of a Cyprus tree growing out of the castle wall in Trequanda.
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We got home at just before lunch time. After lunch we all headed out to begin the Sangiovese vendemmia, red grape harvest. There were 5 of us as two of Barbara and Ugo`s friends from Australia had come to stay and helped with the harvest. We began by filtering out the moldy, raisoned and other crappy grapes, but then as we wanted it done before nightfall, we just grabbed them all. We all went hard and managed to pick all the red grapes before darkness set in.
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Posted by classique 23:28 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

October 6th

Day trip and farewell dinner

semi-overcast 25 °C

Larry, Stephanie, John and I jumped into the fourby (4x4) and hit the road with James in toe on his motorbike. As this was Larry and Stephanie's last day I had organized to borrow the 4wd and visit a few of the olive groves and vineyards in the surrounding area. First we went to our neighbors and tasted his olive oil and bought a couple of bottles. We then headed in the direction of a Hexagonal winery we had seen in our past travels. On the way we stopped in at a new style of olive grove. We arrived at the main gate of the house and buzzed, the gate opened up and in we went. After John, who knows a lot of Italian, spoke with the owner for a few minutes we were headed on a tour of the grove.
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The owner knew a bit of English and took us around explaining the reasoning behind his setup. It is the only olive grove of its type in Tuscany and it is made this way so that in the future they will be able to pick the olives using the same machine that is used to pick grapes on the commercial vineyards. Currently, the standard way to pick olives is by hand, so it is a huge labor force job and takes a lot of time. He also explained the different types of olives he had, i.e. eating olives and olives for oil. Along the way we watched as a stray kitten that had turned up less then a week before followed us and played with the owners puppy.
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As we headed back toward the house he explained the anti oxidants and other good things, that I just cannot remember, that are contained in fresh olive oil. He then took us into his show room and sat us down for a lesson in olive oil. We were given plastic shot glasses and a small amount of good olive oil. We cupped the oil in our hands, one warming the oil at the bottom whilst the other hand sealed the top, and swirled the oil in the glass for a minute or so. Then we lifted the glass to our noses, lifted our hand off and had a sniff of the oil. The oil smelt like freshly mown grass. This is one of a few smells proving good olive oil. We then sipped a little and told him what we tasted. There was a burning sensation in the back of my throat that tasted of pepper. This was because the olives had been harvested when they were still very green. When the olives are harvested changes the pepperiness and flavor of the oil. Olives soak up the smell of anything they are close to. He told us a story of how he once went tasting olive oil with other professionals and was asked his opinion on a freshly pressed oil. After tasting it he advised them that it tasted like horse. They all laughed at him, then tasted the oil and to their surprise they found the same thing. It had turned out that the people who had harvested that particular batch, when it threatened to rain, had stored the crates of olives next to their stables out of the weather. We ate a piece of freshly baked bread in between each tasting to clean out palette. We then tasted a commercial oil from Spain which just tasted oily and had no real taste. There were many other factors which he explained to us which I just cannot remember. Then as we concluded the lesson he popped open a bottle of wine and we all had a glass. Hmmm, we'll just pretend that it was after midday.
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After purchasing some oil and thanking him profusely we hit the road. After finding a pechorino cheese shop closed we headed back to a petrol station so James could fill up his ever draining motorcycle tank. By this stage it was moving on towards lunch time and I was hoping to buy an Italian hat from Montepulciano. As the afternoon siesta, where all the shops closed for a few hours, was coming on quickly we headed straight for Montepulciano. We arrived in good time, parked up and headed to the shop where John had bought his hat from. It turned out that the style of hat i wanted had sold out so we headed up the the main drag and bought panini's for lunch stopping in at other hat shops as we looked for a good place to get lunch from. We took James up to the Piazza at the top of the hill to show him where they had filmed a scene from a twilight movie. As we headed back down the hill we came upon chestnut trees aplenty. We filled our pockets and shirts with as many as we could carry and wandered back to the car. We unloaded our bounty, piled in and left Montepulciano in our rear view mirrors. We pulled into the hexagonal winery which turned out to be in the middle of a full scale harvest. After asking around we managed to get a tour of the winery and cellars as shown below.
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This is the most impressive winery i have seen yet. The cellar was three or four floors underground and absolutely huge! Ahhh... Dreams are free!!!!
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After a taste test and purchasing of a bottle of wine we hit the road again with Montalcino in our sights. It took a heap longer then i thought it would to get there. We eventually we arrived an hour or so later and headed through what we thought was the main street. We eventually ended up at an old castle and headed in. One of the main rooms had been changed into a wine tasting room. We asked for directions to a specific winery that John wanted to see and found out that there were piles of wineries all around. As we headed back toward the car we located a gelateria, which we headed into and I purchased a panna cota gelato which was a flavor explosion. We decided to see see if we could find a hat for me, found another shopping street and checked every store along the way. We eventually found a store which had the exact hat I wanted and only one in stock. It fit perfectly and John bargained the shop keeper down from 20 to 15 euros. I left the shop feeling pretty ecstatic and came across this awesome wine shop. After perusing the selection of wines we all went in and bought a 9 euro sample glass of a 98 point wine so John, who is studying wine, could see what it tasted like. We all had a sip but heres a pick of John swirling it.
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We decided not to bother with the other winery we had been hunting for and headed home. Ugo then called most of the restaurants in the area to find that they were either booked out or closed for a month or so. Eventually we found that a nice little restaurant in the next town was still open so we headed there to give Larry and Stephanie a farewell dinner.
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Then to finish up the evening Larry roasted one of the chestnuts we had gathered and after a long roasting and a taste we found that they were horse-nuts or buckeyes instead.

Posted by classique 12:47 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

October 5th

Distillation & Vodka

semi-overcast 28 °C

This afternoon Larry and I decided to distill a concoction of water, sugar, rotting fruit and yeast that we had brewing for a week or two in my room. Unfortunately we didn't have any brewers yeast at the time so we added in some bread yeast to get the action happening. Needless to say, my room smelled like fresh bread throughout the fermentation process. The reason we added fermenting fruit, i.e. 1 watermelon, 5 banana's and a punnet of berries, was through a hope of a higher sugar/alcohol percentage. We found Ugo's copper still and washed it with a bit of caustic soda. We then filtered the fruit out of the mix and poured the remainder of the mix into the still. We unhooked the gas bottle from my room and hooked it up to the burner of the still. We fired it up and set the gas burner to high. We threw out the first 50ml or so to ensure that we wouldn't get any methanol in the mix. We turned on the hose and put it into the cooling tank with the water running out and down the driveway. Larry, the master of distillation, did a quick first distillation and we stopped when the thermostat reached 94 Celsius. We dumped the remainder from the still out, rinsed it and put the liquid from the first distillation back into the still to begin the second distillation. In the end we triple distilled the vodka and ended up with about 1.5 litres. We rinsed out the still, and headed upstairs for dinner. After dinner the shot glasses were brought out to taste test our concoction. Lol, it definitely was high in alcohol content but tasted like rotten water melon! A couple of days later we added a punnet of strawberries which turned the alcohol pink and gave it more of a strawberry taste.
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Posted by classique 12:08 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

October 4th

Vendemmia (grape harvest)

sunny 25 °C

John and I got up early to get the destemmer cleaning finalised quickly before getting into the harvest. As Barbara had arrived home yesterday we awaited Ugo and Barbara's final verdict on the Grape harvest. When Ugo came out he had pretty much decided that the harvest should be held off for another week or so. After discussing with Barbara the fact that Larry and Stephanie had come specifically to assist with the harvest we headed out to the vineyard to taste the sweetness of the grapes. In the end Ugo decided to hold off on the red, sangiovasie, grapes and harvest the white, malvasia, grapes. We loaded up the tractor with the crates and picking baskets and headed out into the new vineyard. We cut the grape clusters off the vines, cut off any moldy and raisened grapes that were obvious and placed the rest of the cluster into the picking basket for further sorting later. When the picking basket was full we took it to the end of the row and emptied it into a crate. The crates were then taken by tractor back to the house where, after the harvest was completed, we did a final sort through and threw out any moldy, raisened, and unripe grapes... oh and any spiders.
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The good grapes where then put back into clean crates and the rest were thrown into the compost. When we had eventually finished sorting through the grapes we poured them into the hopper of the destemmer which bashed the grapes off the stems and pumped the grape skins, body, seeds and juice into a plastic fermentation tub, and the stems into a crate. When all the grapes been processed we cleaned the equipment again and Ugo added the yeast and additives to the white wine mix for fermentation. Just after lunch James, a English fellow from Manchester, rode in on his motorcycle to begin his 3 week stint.

Posted by classique 11:19 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

October 2nd

Vendemmia preperation and Arezzo antique markets

sunny 25 °C

After a quick discussion last night John and I decided to do the Arezzo trip on Saturday. Another quick chat with Larry and Stephanie settled the matter. John and I got up really early to get a head start final stages of cleaning. We grabbed all the picking baskets and bins and took them to the well, boiled water added the caustic soda and began scrubbing. Within an hour they were all washed, rinsed, re-rinsed and set out to dry. We then set our attention back to cleaning the destemmer.
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by about 11am we decided that we could finish the rest of the destemmer on Monday before the harvest so we popped the destemmer under cover, had a quick shower and headed to Sinalunga to pick up some lunch. We arrived just as a vineyard suplies shop that john wanted to check out was closing. We headed in and checked out their supplies. As john was purchasing some gear we headed over to a butcher and decided what panini's we wanted to get. As soon as John turned up we ordered the panini's which consisted of ciabatta, prosciutto and mozzarella. With our 2 euro panini's in hand we jumped back into the 4x4 and drove to Arezzo eating our panini's on the way. We arrived into Arezzo at about 1:30 and headed to the markets. We walked into an area which was showcasing Italian delicacies including truffles so we stopped and had a taste. It was strong but is really good used sparsely with a good pasta.
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We spent the next few hours wandering up and down the streets and side streets of Arezzo checking out the antiquities on offer. Here are some pictures of my favorites and a few more.
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At every 2 hour interval we would head back to the car and buy another ticket to allow us another 2 hours of parking. After our second such trip we headed to the Arezzo Colosseum which is in far worse shape then the one in Rome.
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We then headed to the top of Arezzo to check out a castle which turned out was currently under renovation so therefore it was closed. We also went for a wander into the Arezzo Duomo.
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By this time we were getting rather hungry so we headed to the car, bought our last parking ticket and began a search for somewhere to eat. We found a place that looked open but as it turned out was preparing for dinner. It was also booked out! Some restaurants in Italy will take bookings all day and once they have filled each table with one booking are booked out. Even if that person is a no show or they are due 2 hours after opening, the table is still kept for them and them alone. We asked for a recommendation and headed to the suggested restaurant which turned out not to be open either. We managed to make a booking and headed to the wine bar next store where we bought a nice bottle of red wine and some appetizers. We had a wonderful dinner and headed home. As we got to Lucignano there was a big bang on my door as though i had hit something. With shock i looked across to see a few boys take off through the park that i was driving past. We pulled in and grabbed a park. John and I headed off through the park and eventually found a group of 4 young boys hiding at an abandoned building. John grabbed 2 of them and told them in Italian that we were taking them to the cabineri (the Italian Police). Instantly the ratted out their mates who we grabbed instead. We marched off up the hill with the offenders in front of us. As we were heading up the hill they confessed hoping we would let them off which we didn't. By this stage both John and I were really struggling not to break out in sheer laughter. It was decided that when we got to the top of the hill we would buy them a gellato and let them off with a warning, however as we were walking through the park the parents of one of the boys came up and asked us what was wrong. We stated that nothing was wrong but that we were just buying them a gellato. This didn't work however as the parents must have seen the chain of events as they had unfolded. One of the kids burst into tears, his parents were very nice and offered to pay for damages, but I explained that thankfully no damage had been caused. I think the ring leader of the group really didn't learn much from the experience but his mate who was tagging along really did. John and I purchased a gellato, we all piled back into the 4x4 and headed home.

Posted by classique 08:16 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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