Odds are you have not heard of Morellino di Scansano (a very drinkable red wine from the Maremma region of SW Tuscany) nor of Nero d’Avola (a great red from Sicily, particularly the western region around Trapani and Marsala). And I could win money betting you’ve not heard a peep about Nerello Mascalese (a characteristic red from Sicily). These are all comfortably drinkable red wines. None of these names are the popular types you’ll find in guides to Italian food and drink — not Chianti Riserva, Rosso di Montalcino, Brunello, etc. Nope – these are just great local wines you can discover here, the first two in Siena. The Nerello I’ve only seen in Sicily. All have good color and body and have about 12.5 to 13% alcohol content. Prices can be as low as 5 Euros for a 1.5 liter bottle IN SICILY, but more likely 4.50 to 6.00 Euros a 750ml bottle here in Siena. With some looking around you should find the first two for sale at some specialty shops in north America. Try them — you are in for a treat. A note on the grapes. The Morellino (“dark hair”) is a localized variety of the Sangiovese grape, the main grape used in Chianti wines. To my taste, Morellino is less astringent and easier on the palate than many Chiantis. The Nero’Avola is, I believe, an ancient local cultivar found only in Sicily. And the Nerello….well, that remains a Sicilian mystery for now, but if you can find it, it is a nice drinking wine.
Italian wines imported to north America are not usually cheap, certainly not good ones. This is also true here in Italy. The high value of the Euro vs. the Dollar is one reason, but even without that, well-known wines can be quite costly here. There is not really a decent Brunello di Montalcino to be found in Siena for less than 24 Euros, about $30.00 US, and up (way up). Lower cost Chiantis and generic Sangiovese reds can be much less, but quite variable in quality. One little known option is to ask at the local deli for Vino da Tavola, table wine. Not all delis have this – but it is worth asking. If they sell wine this way, the clerk will disappear into the back room and return a few moments later. You will take home a liter of very drinkable red in a screw top bottle for about 3.00 Euros. “Una bottiglia di vino da tavola con tappo per favore….”
Italy is famous for its biscotti, cantucci and so many other delictables. However, the cookies in the supermarkets are not bad either. While browsing for just the right thing the other day we found what we wanted, a package of Galleti con granelli di zucchero (Mulino Bianco brand). These are just shortbread type cookies sprinkled with large sugar crystals. But they are pretty good ones, with less fat than is typical in cookies in north America. What was pleasantly mind-boggling was this — on the side of the box, nicely written out for the customer, was a note to this effect: “like these cookies? Here is the recipe, you can make them at home…” and it gave the full recipe. A great counter-capitalist touch. Grazie to Mulino Bianco!
- Italy in Mind
- The Palio of Siena
- The Bay of Naples
- Rome and its Ancient Port, Ostia Antica
- A Wolf, a Walk and Many Wildflowers
- Visiting the Contrada of Val di Montone
- St. Catherine of Siena
- An Adventure in Murlo
- A Walk in the Montagnola Senese
- Discover these! Little known Italian Red Wines
- Table Wine, Vino da Tavola….