Tuscany, Italy

by Elizabeth Cooper in Wine & Beer

While making our way around Tuscany our ‘home base’ for those few days was Fattoria Casabianca (http://www.fattoriacasabianca.it/), a quaint agrotourismo outside the picturesque town of Caschina in Murlo. Casabianco is a family owned farm/vineyard/winery that produces a line of Chiantis in and around the foothills of Montalcino.

This evocative, timeless landscape hosts five 13th century farmhouses, which have been restored with careful consideration to their original architectural flair. Spread over 654 hectares, the farm boasts a natural habitat for wild boar, rabbit, deer and many other species, as well as a young herd of Chianini cattle. The vineyards are farmed using integrated pest management, which yields low environmental impact and steady progress toward complete biodynamic viticulture. As I mentioned in my previous blog, the idea of the Agroturismo is to be a completely self-sustained working farm, vineyard, winery and holiday spot. The wines of Casabianca are long time staples in the wine department; but one of the “winery only” varietals was a true standout. Rest assured we are making every effort to bring it to you: Casabianca Chianti Colli Senesi – this is a blend of 80% Sangiovese and the remaining 20% a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Canaiolo and Colorino. It’s just what you want from Chianti, soft red cherry and currant fruit with supple tannins and a hint of leather and smoke. This wine ages briefly in seasoned barriques.

Casabianca Chianti Riserva – Here is a much more intense version of the above, with dark berry fruit, notes of vanilla and spice box and still some leather and smoky character. These wines age in some new French barrique up to six months, so have a much firmer structure and hence added length.

Casabianca Chianti Riserva Belsedere – this is 100% Sangiovese from the single vineyard of Belsedere. The nose is met by intense aromas of red and dark berry fruits, spicy notes, licorice and sweet tobacco. Structurally the wine has almost juicy tannins (great acid structure has your palate begging for more) with a long toasted mocha finish, surely from the 18 months in French barrique.

Loccareto – what a spectacular surprise this wine presented! 100% Canaiolo, a true rarity, from the Pian di Rocca vineyard. This wine spends 12 months in second-use French barrique, giving it a delicate note of vanilla and yielding a structure that holds the wine together; but never overwhelms. There is at first bright cherry and black currant aromas that quickly give way to violets and freesia – the palate holds the mouth-watering fruit and finishes with a hint of roasted herb and vanilla. This was the perfect wine on its own and paired beautifully with our meal – house made pastas with Cinghale and wild mushrooms.

Alas, we made our final push to Rome. I know it is not an area visited for wine; but what a spectacular place for food….and wine! While we certainly enjoyed several wonderful meals over the course of the couple days we spent – two really stood out: Lunch at ROSCIOLI ANTICO FORN, Via dei Giubbonari, 2, ROMA, Tel. 06-6875287. This is a Trattoria, very typical Roman place to eat with a spectacular selections of Salumi and cheese, a small section to sit and eat in the back and a beautiful cellar dining room in the basement. Below are a few of the selections, goat cheese Crottin with house smoked salmon and roasted tomoatoes, one of the most flavorful Caponata I think I’ve ever eaten; and what could be better but a lovely Kerner for lunch (and yes, that is a huge plate of house made sliced Mortadella behind the bottle….yum.

For dinner, we made reservations at an incredible spot – Guida Ballerino. The evening could not have been more perfect. Specializing in classic Roman dishes, Guida has a tremendous tasting menu in which you are offered the “I Classici” – six different classic roman dishes; and the “I Presente” six different “Michelin” versions of classic dishes. We ordered both tasting menus and I can tell you each dish outdid its prior…we lost ourselves in the decadence of food and wine for the next 3 hours. After initially ordering the first wine, Picech – we let our host pair the rest of the dishes, which he did impeccably. Just a few of our evening’s delights: