By: Sara Grazia
When I’m travelling through Italy, I tend to make as much salami as I possibly can with friends and producers large and small; however, my travels are not always about salami!
I like to visit a range of different places and experience new and exciting things, get treated to new methods and skills that these crafts people have learned many years before and are excited to share when they meet equally as enthusiastic people such as myself, that share a common passion for all things hand made.
Today I hit the road running, running out into the great unknown of the Italian country side to visit some home producers that make their own wine and spirits. (It turns out they also make their own salami, but we’ll get to that later)
Miles away from the new freeway that links most of Northern Italy to Milan, I drove through towns, large and small, villages with only a few houses and the great mountainous valleys that northern Italy is known for. All in pursuit of the perfect cantina.
In a small farming village sat a traditional Italian farm house surrounded by acres of vineyard. As it was the middle of winter everything was quite brown and grey. I could just imagine how picturesque this place must be in the spring time, when the fields are full of colour and the vines are heaving with grapes.
This farm house and vineyard belonged to twin brothers, who both enjoy living off the land. They have a chicken hutch for eggs and roasting, a pig pen for rearing their own pigs ready for the winter slaughter, a vineyard and so much more.
The real reason I was here was to see a great Italian cantina, a real gem, and like most gems it was hidden far beneath the ground. I wasn’t expecting such a downhill slope and didn't come properly prepared on the shoe front. The path led us down into the ground approx. 3 storeys deep.
At the bottom of the slope was a large flat area with two large roller doors on either side. The door on the right led into a large farm shed that had been built under part of the vineyard. The door to the left however opened up into a cavernous vaulted palace.
It was one of the most impressive cantina’s I've had the pleasure of visiting. It dwarfed the farm house above 10 fold. This place was unbelievable; there was even an elevator through the centre that took you directly up to house. I'm not sure where the exit point in the house was, I only received a very limited tour – I do love the Italian way of life the way they hold onto their family secrets and such.
The cantina was full to bursting with wine equipment from 100 years ago right through to the present day. These brothers and their families produce 1000’s of litres of wine here, none of it is to sell – it’s purely for sharing amongst the families. If you don’t help with the harvest you don’t get any wine, it’s as simple as that.
With many of the younger family members coming into adulthood, they want to experiment and try new things with the wine, things the family hasn't done before. The younger generation decided to produced a small batch of sparkling wine. The younger of the twin brothers was very excited and thinks it’s great to see his nephews, nieces and grandchildren getting involved – trying new things and keeping the family traditions alive. The older of the twins, not so much. He’s much more of a traditionalist; you make the red wine and the white and basta! (That’s it!) "They shouldn't be blending the flavours and spoiling the grapes! There is a way that the wine is made, it has been like this for several generations and now the younger ones think they know better!"
After a tour of the cantina and wine cellar it was time for a little tasting. The wine was still young in the twins’ opinion so we only had a thimbles worth, and it was impressive. Full flavoured and bold, a very meaty red which went perfectly with the homemade cheese and salami. I was a little early for the salami making of the boys this year, so we shared what was left of the previous year’s batch, and it was delicious. A typical northern flavour, heavy on garlic and herbs, succulent and aromatic. A feast for all the senses.
I’m hoping that I can plan my next trip to be able to go and visit the twins on their next salami making weekend, it sounds like a festival. Close to 100 family members and friend embark onto this farmhouse every year to mix up a batch of salami, prosciutto and a range of cured meats. Its sounds like quite an event, one definitely worth heading back for.