When hearing the topic of ‘beating the winter blues’ associated with wine, the first thought that comes to mind is drinking a robust, rich wine that invites me to keep warm and cozy up inside. Instead, I was recently compelled to get out into the cold and damp winter weather of Bologna, Italy, to explore some pretty and historic areas with artisanal wineries. So, I set out really to warm up my soul.
The first was a trip out to the hills of Cesena in the Romagna part of Italy, situated between the Adriatic Sea and Apennine mountains, where I met the people behind the producer Braschi, part of Enoica, a group of boutique italian wineries. I met with one of the owner’s, Davide Castagnoli, who, with enthusiasm and pride, showed me around the town of Mercato Saraceno, which is in the Cesanese hills close to the Tuscan border. Davide was full of stories about the area, as it is loaded with interesting history and facts, such as churches from before the first millennium, signs of Sardinian cultural influence, even though Sardinia is quite far, an island off the opposite side of Italy, and, what stuck in my head the most, is a tidbit about a small Roman era village called Sarsina, whose ancient basilica is known, still nowadays, for performing exorcisms. To top it off, there wasn’t a tourist in sight (except for me)!
Braschi has been around for 70 years and their wine is as authentic as the local scene, made with native grapes from the area and keeping to tradition as much as possible. I was delighted to taste a wine made from a practically unknown grape called Famoso, that was considered extinct but was rediscovered in 2000 by a local farmer when he found unfamiliar grape vines on his property.
Braschi’s super-inviting, antique wine tasting cellar.
The second visit was up to the Euganean Hills (Colli Euganei), an hour north of Bologna going towards Padua. I was with a young entrepreneur, Giulia Brunazzo, who, together with her parents, have a firm called Alpha which is helping smaller Italian wineries to promote and sell their wines abroad. Giulia explained to me the reason for the unusual local geography of the Euganean Hills, which appear ‘out of nowhere’ amidst plains, as it was previously a volcanic area — this is a clue that the wines in the area are tasty and full of natural structure.
Giulia then took me to Tenuta Gambalonga, which is a 100 year old family run winery, with a down-to-earth and sincere approach both to wine-making and hospitality. I learned about the traditions of the area and the producer, Emanuele Gambalonga’s, philosophy for natural wine-making which is ‘to be good to the land and it will be good to you’; hence his wine is authentic and as good for your body as wine can be.
Emanuel and his wife Michela then invited us into their home to taste their wines. Amongst the delicious wines I tasted was a wine made from an Italian native grape I never had: Serprina, whose wine is Colli Euganei Serprino DOC. If you like prosecco or delicate whites, you gotta try this. It is fresh and fruity with just a bit of bubbles to give you an expected play on your tongue (or ‘gioca con la lingua’ as the Italians say) when you drink it.
‘In the home of Emanuele and Michela of Tenuta Gambalonga’
Stay warm, and ciao for now!
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