Exploring Ferrara – Citta delle Biciclette, Cappellacci, and the Feasts of Lucretia Borgia

ferrara-castellese-italy-walking-toursOur Gourmet Venice to Florence Walking Adventure traverses Northeast Italy, exploring the historical sights, regional kitchens and local wines of Venice, Vicenza, Bologna and Florence. One stop on this journey that surprises our guests, as it is not that well-known to tourists,  is the city of Ferrara.

ferrara-walls-italy-walking-toursFerrara is the capital of the province of Ferrara, in the region of Emilia-Romagna, about 50 km northeast of Bologna. The center of town is dominated by the Castello Estense, a brick castle complete with moat, commissioned by Nicholas D’Este in 1385. The Este family ruled Ferrara for close to 400 hundred years, and during their reign Ferrara became a center for art and culture, and was one of the first examples of Renaissance city planning earning today its status as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The notorious Lucretia Borgia was married to the Duke of Ferrara, Alfonso I, and spent most of her life here in Ferrara, and is buried here as well.


Visitors to the Castello have the opportunity to experience the old prisons, the Tower of the Lions, the terrace orangerie which supposedly inspired the same at Versailles and the ducal kitchens, where a nice exhibit describes the elaborate feasts that were put on by the ruling family. The Este’s were renowned for their elaborate banquets which feature numerous courses, elegant table decorations, and musical and theatrical entertainment, from magicians to pastry castles, pies filled with live birds, sucking pigs, and decorative marzipan figures and sculpted sugar table ornaments.

ferrara-cathedral-italy-walking-toursThe center of Ferrara is dominated by Romanesque façade of the Cathedral, one of the landmarks of the city. “The Martyrdom of St. Lawrence” by Guercino is among the most important works housed inside the cathedral. The surrounding busy marketplace is the center of activity in this lively city.

ferrara-artifact-italy-walking-toursAnother spot worth a visit is the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Ferrara, located in Palazzo Costabili. A very interesting exhibit is dedicated to Spina, an Etruscan port that flourished between the 6th and 3rd centuries BC. Spina was the principal port in northern Adriatic Sea between the late Archaic and Hellenistic periods, and one of the cornerstones of Etruscan presence in northern Italy.

ferrara-archeological-museum-italy-walking-toursFerrara is surrounded by some of the best preserved ancient city walls in Italy, dating from the 15th and 16th century. Today, 9 km of cycling and walking paths follow these walls, where you will often find the residents of this “Citta delle Biciclette” enjoying the outdoors along these quiet tree-lined paths.

ferrara-walls-sunrise-italy-walking-toursferrara-cycling-wallls-italy-walking-toursAfter a nice late afternoon bike ride, we head out for dinner to discover some of the favorite local dishes. The undisputed signature first pasta course in Ferrara is cappellacci di zucca, a stuffed pasta with a filling of winter squash or pumpkin, Parmigiano-Reggiano and nutmeg. It is served two ways, either with a butter and sage sauce, or, interestingly enough, a meat ragu. Cappellacci di Zucca Ferraresi are mentioned in recipe books from the Renaissance, when these were prepared for the Este family. A great place to find both the Cappellaci as well as another Ferrarese specialty, Salama da sugo, is Trattoria da Noemi.

ferrara-cappellaci-italy-walking-toursSalama da Sugo is a locally produced pork sausage that is prepared for eating in a very specific way. The sausage is first soaked in warm water overnight in order to soften the outer crust, which is then brushed to clean it. Next, it is wrapped in a cloth and immersed in a pot of water, hanging from a wooden stick so it does not touch the bottom. The water is brought to a low boil, and the sausage simmers here for over four hours. Once cooked, you carefully break the casing and spoon the warm meat over mashed potatoes or polenta.

salama-da-sugo-ferrara-italy-walking-toursA wonderful dining destination in the heart of the medieval district of Ferrara is the Jewish Ghetto, where the Jewish community of this city was segregated from 1627 to the Unification of Italy  (1848 – 1870). Sights here include quaint terracotta houses, the Jewish school, and the Synagogue in Via Mazzini, site of the Jewish Museum. My favorite restaurant here is the Osteria del Ghetto, where you can sample traditional dishes of the community.

ferrara-osteria-ghetto-italy-walking-toursThe breadbasket will arrive filled with bread with a very unusual shape, this is coppia Ferrarese (ciupeta),  the local specialty bread. This bread dates back over 800 years or more, when rules instructed bakers to produce bread in the shape of scrolls (orletti).  Today’s version is a sourdough bread, made from two rolled up ribbons of dough which are united together in the center, leaving the four twisted ends sticking out like a four pointed star. Coppia Ferrarese enjoys PGI (Protected Geographical Identification) recognition by the European Community.

ferrara-bread-italy-walking-toursDue to religious restrictions, you would not find pork dishes here, instead, poultry based dishes were common. Here, try the Chicken Braised in Pears, spiced with cinnamon, featuring the local pears found in the orchards surrounding Ferrara.

ferrara-chicken-pears-italy-walking-toursWhen in Ferrara, I recommend the local wines to accompany your meals. The region of Emilia-Romagna produces quite a bit of wine, but not a lot is exported. You should try a glass of Lambrusco, and re-discover this wine you have probably tried early in your wine drinking career. Lambrusco is the name of both a family of red grapes, and the sparkling wines produced with them. There are many varieties of the grape, over 60 have been identified throughout Italy. The best to try: Lambrusco Salamino, Sorbara, and Grasparossa.

lini-labrusco-rosso-private-bike-tours-italyFor a white, the local favorite is a Pignoletto. Here in Emilia-Romagna the residents proudly use this name, but DNA analysis has shown that Pignoletto is actually the Grechetto grape grown in Umbria. The best are lively and crisp, and you can find both still and sparkling versions. Finally, the local red wines are made from the Sangiovese grape, the most widely planted grape in Italy, You have no doubt enjoyed Sangiovese based wines before, in your glass of Chianti. Spend your evening in Ferrara enjoying a glass on the Piazza della Cattedrale, watching the sunset reflecting on the historic facade.


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Bigoli con L’Anatra – Bigoli Pasta with Duck Ragù

bigoli-con-anatra-italy-walking-toursVenetians themselves are not really meat eaters; their watery surroundings naturally drove them to a seafood based cuisine. However, as we move inland from Venice to the mainland on our Veneto walking tours and cycling trips, the low-lying wetlands that exist around the Po, Brenta, and Adige river valleys are perfect breeding ground for a wide variety of waterfowl. These various species were valued and hunted by the locals for hundreds of years. For Hemingway enthusiasts, recall Major Cantwell revisiting the last romance of his life in Venice as he huddles in a duck blind during a hunt (well, the blind was actually in Trieste, you get the idea – his last romance was in Venice.)

venice-grand-canal-night-walking-toursAll along the waterways leading to the Venetian lagoon, we see the food products used in the local cuisine, from rice for risottos, to fresh-water fish, to waterfowl. Traditionally there was an enormous variety of water birds that were hunted and used for food. Each would be prepared in a particular way, designed to exhibit (or hide) its particular characteristics. Nowadays, we see recipes that call for “duck”, years ago, you would prepare each particular variety in a slightly different way. The most prized species of duck “germano reale”, the familiar Mallard, even had different preparation techniques for the female (boiled, and used for stock) than the male (roasted). There is a specific recipe for the pintail duck, another for the teal, the tufted duck, the coot, and so forth. Waverly Root describes recipes in which the not-particularly attractive taste of heron and curlew is disguised with a lengthy marinade in white wine, lemon juice, consomme and herbs.

Male_mallard_duck_2When using meat in a recipe in the Veneto, you will most likely see it chopped up and used in some sort of sauce, rather than served in large pieces as is done in most meat loving regions. Poultry in general is more popular in this region than beef or other meats, undoubtedly due to the availability of waterfowl in the low-lying wetlands of the region. Throughout the area, you will see a meaty duck sauce served in a variety of different ways. In Venice, it might include tomatoes and be served over gnocchi. In Vicenza, it will be served over the favorite local pasta, bigoli, not often seen here in the US, but most closely resembles bucatini, a wide, hollow, spaghetti.

Brenta River in Bassano del Grappa

The following recipe I have translated and adapted from “Ricette di Osterie del Veneto”, by Slow Food.

Bigoli con L’Anatra – Bigoli with Duck

1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 duck, cut into quarters
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 celery stalks, peeled and finely chopped
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup low-salt chicken broth
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 fresh bay leaf or 1/2 dried
1 lb. fresh bigoli or other pasta
Freshly grated Grana cheese, for serving (optional)

Heat the oil heavy-duty pot over medium-high heat. Season the duck with salt and pepper and place them in the pot, skin side down. Sear until the skin is browned and crisp, about 7 minutes. Turn the pieces over and brown the other sides, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the duck and pour off all but about 1 Tbs. of the rendered fat and discard or save for another use.

Reduce the heat to medium low. Put the celery, onion, and carrot into the pot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are softened, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute.

Pour in the wine and increase the heat to high. Boil until wine is reduced by 1/2, then reduce the heat to medium. Add the broth, tomato paste, sage, rosemary and bay leaf, stirring to combine. Return the duck to the pot and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, just enough to maintain a gentle simmer. Cover the pot and simmer until the meat is fork-tender, 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

Remove the duck from the pot and set aside until cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, skim the excess fat from the top of the sauce with a large spoon. If the sauce seems thin, continue simmering until thickened to desired consistency.

Discard the duck skin and shred the meat. Add the shredded meat to the sauce. Let the sauce simmer gently for 15 minutes; discard the garlic and bay leaf. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

When ready to serve, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water and then drain the pasta. Return the pasta to the pot and toss it with some of the ragù, adding a little cooking water if it seems dry. Serve the pasta with more ragù spooned over the top, garnished with freshly grated Grana cheeese.

The ragù can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months. Reheat gently before tossing with pasta.


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Risotto con Zucca e Salsiccia – Risotto with Pumpkin and Sausage

risotto-pumpkin-close-italy-walking-toursExploring the countryside of Northern Italy during our walking and cycling tours we find ourselves on one of the only flat plains in this otherwise mountainous country. Here in the marshy areas of the Po River Valley, rice found a natural habitat. The result is a wide array of risotto dishes found in the traditional cuisines of the area, from Risotto alla Milanese in Lombardia to Risotto con Funghi in Trentino-Alto Adige. Verona is a favorite destination of ours, and just south of this lovely city is a farm that still cultivates risotto rice, Antica e Rinomata Riserva Ferron. Their web site gives a thorough overview of the history of this grain in Italy.

view-veneto-plain-italy-walking-toursThe origin of the cultivation of rice is poorly documented. Some scholars believe it was grown as early as the seventh century BC on the island of Java; others identify China. What is certain is that it spread throughout Asian; from Japan to the Middle East.

Rice did not appear on tables in the west until many years later. The Greeks knew the methods of cultivation, thanks to the campaigns of Alexander the Great, but never adopted it in Greece. The Romans knew rice not as food, but as a precious spice used to prepare herbal teas, digestive teas and creams. According to some sources it was the Arabs, and then the Aragonese to introduce it in the south of Italy. According to others it was the Crusaders and the Venetian merchants to introduce it in Italy. Here in the north, it found its home in the flatter wet plains along the Po River in Piedmont, Lombardy and Veneto.

vialone-nano-cycling-tours-italy-dolomites-italiaoutdoorsThe first firm evidence of the cultivation of rice in Italy is a letter from 1475 in which Gian Galeazzo Sforza, Duke of Milan, sent 12 bags of rice to the Duke of Ferrara so he might taste the product of his lands. In the following centuries constant land reclamation and a new water infrastructure enabled the spread of the rice fields, despite the resistance of the authorities who considered these rich areas of standing water a source of malaria – which was one of the leading causes of death in Italy until the 1950s.

canal-veneto-plain-italy-walking-toursWith the opening of the Suez Canal, the Italian production of rice suffered due to the import of cheaper rice from Asia. This continued until the end of World War II, when a growth trend began that brought Italy to a leading position in the European market. In concert with this growth was a resurgence of Italian style rices that possess the unique characteristics required for the best risotto – an extraordinary ability to absorb liquids and seasonings, up to an impressive twice its weight, and a kernel that retains is consistency during cooking, rather than becoming mushy.

Riso Vialone Nano Veronese risotto rice emerged as part of this resurgence, and is now the pride of the Veneto region. This risotto rice was created in 1937 by crossing the variety Vialone and Nano: the intention was to reduce the size of the Vialone to avoid the damage caused during harvest. In 1996 Riso Vialone Nano became the first in Europe to boast the IGP.

Logo-Nano-Vialone-IGPThe recipe below is just one example of the main flavors of risotto found in the Veneto. The source is a recipe book put out by one of the region’s tourist boards, so it identifies the local products one would use – the Vialone Nano rice, Soave wine, Grana cheese. I’ve identified options that you are more likely to find here in the US. To make it vegetarian, leave out the sausage and use vegetable stock. It is naturally gluten free.

risotto-pumpkin-sausage-italy-walking-toursRisotto con Zucca e Salsiccia

Serves 4

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, cut in 1/4” dice
1 pound pumpkin, peeled and cut into 1/4” dice
8 ounces sausage, skin removed and cut into pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
6 cups meat stock
1 1/2 cups Vialone Nano rice from Verona (or another risotto rice like Carnaroli or Arborio)
1/2 cup Soave or other dry white wine
Grana cheese, grated or Parmigiano-Reggiano

Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pan, and gently saute the onion. When slightly browned, add the pumpkin and sausage. Cook for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large saucepan, heat the stock, keeping it just below a simmer.

Add the rice to the sauté pan with the pumpkin and sausage. Stir for about 1 minute, until the grains are coated with the fat and liquid in the pan. Add the wine, and simmer slowly, stirring frequently, until it has evaporated.

Add a ladleful of the hot stock and again simmer, stirring gently, until the stock is absorbed. Continue adding the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring and waiting until the stock is absorbed before the next addition of stock. Continue until the rice is al dente. The stock may not all be used.

When the risotto is done, stir in the grana cheese and season with salt to taste. Serve, garnish with the fresh sage.


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Mezzelune – Schlutzkrapfen – Spinach Ricotta Ravioli from Sudtirol

mezzelune-private-italy-walking-toursDuring many of our walking tours or cycling adventures, when we visit a small local restaurant catering to non-tourists, I am called upon to translate the menu. This is a particular challenge in Alto Adige, where the menu is just as likely to be in German as Italian. One wonderful traditional dish of the region, with a name that can evoke a chuckle from guests, is Schlutzkrapfen.

schlutzkrapfen-private-italy-walking-toursSchlutzkrapfen, called Mezzelune (“half moons”) by the Italian speaking natives of the region, are semi-circular stuffed pasta, similar to ravioli.They are also known as Ravioli della Pusteria, after the Pusteria valley. The dough is usually made of white flour, sometimes mixed with rye or buckwheat flour, mixed with eggs and milk. The fillings may vary, but the most typical is ricotta cheese and spinach. These would often be served during days of abstinence, as a meat free first course. Similar types of pasta found in Northern Italy are the beet stuffed casunziei from the Dolomites area, casoncelli in Lombardy, and cjarsons in Friuli.

mezzelune-sheet-private-italy-walking-toursI adapted this recipe from a cookbook put out by the Sudtirol Tourism agency, Alpine Flavors: Authentic recipes from the Dolomites, the Heart of the Alps. Here, they introduced yet another name for this dish, the Ladin name Cajinci t’ega. The Ladin people are an unique ethnic group in northern Italy. Their native language is Ladin, a language related to the Swiss Romansh and Friulian languages. The Ladin people constitute only 4.5% of the population of South Tyrol, but their influence has played a role in the culture, history, and traditions of this region.


Cajinci t’ega – Mezzelune Pasta

Makes about 60 mezzelune

For the dough:

1 1/2 cups wheat flour
1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons milk

For the filling:

1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon butter
4 ounces of cooked, pureed spinach
3 ounces of ricotta cheese

To serve:

grated Parmigiano Reggiano
melted butter
finely chopped chives

How to make the dough:

Place the flour on your counter in a mound. Make a well in the middle. Add the eggs, water, milk and salt. Using a fork, lightly beat the eggs. Gradually start incorporating the flour from the sides of the well. Eventually the sides of the well will collapse, at this point use a pastry scraper to work the rest of the flour into the dough.

Knead the dough for about 15 minutes, working a bit more flour into it when it gets a bit sticky. The dough should be very smooth, silky, and very elastic.

To roll out the pasta using a pasta machine, divide the dough into 4 – 6 pieces. You will roll out one piece at a time, while rolling keep the remainder covered with plastic wrap so it does not dry out. Lightly flour the machine rollers, the work surface around the machine, and the first piece of dough. Set the rollers at the widest setting. Flatten the dough into a disc, sprinkle with flour, then feed the disc into the space between the two rollers. Feed the dough through with one hand, while holding the upturned palm of your hand under the sheet emerging from the rollers. Keep your palm flat to protect the dough from punctures by your fingers.

As the sheet emerges from the rollers, guide it away from the machine with your palm. Pass the dough through the rollers five to six times, folding it into thirds and flouring it each time. Then set the rollers at the next narrower setting and pass the dough through three times, folding it in half each time. Repeat, passing it through three times at each successively narrower setting. Repeated stretching and thinning builds up elasticity making especially light pasta. If the sheet becomes too long to handle comfortably, cut it in half or thirds and work the pieces in tandem.

Don’t worry if at first the dough tears, has holes, is lumpy, or is very moist. Just lightly flour it by pulling the dough over the floured work surface. Take care not to overdo the flouring, or the dough may get too stiff. As you keep putting it through the rollers, it will be transformed from slightly lumpy and possibly torn to a smooth, satiny sheet with fine elasticity.

Different machines have different numbers of settings. These ravioli use the thinnest setting on a machine, which will be thin enough for you to see color and shape through it; this is perfect for lasagne and filled pastas. If it is so thin that the dough tears easily, however, stop at the next to last setting.

Place the pasta sheets on a floured sheet pan, separated by deli paper or plastic wrap. Cover the pile with a slightly damp towel.

How to make the filling:

Saute the onion in a skillet with the butter. Place the onion, spinach, ricotta, and salt in a food processor. Pulse to mix thoroughly.


Cut discs of pasta from the prepared pasta sheets using a round cutter about 2 inches in diameter.

mezzelune-cutter-private-italy-walking-toursOn half of each disc place a teaspoon of filling, fold over the other half and press the edges together well.

Cook the cajinci t’ega in boiling salted water.

Remove with a skimmer and drain, then dress with the melted butter and sprinkle with grated Parmigiano and finely chopped chives.


Posted in Pasta, Travel, Trentino Food, Uncategorized, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Accordini Winery – Walking through the Best of Valpolicella

accordini-view-private-italy-walking-toursThere is no better way to appreciate the terroir of a wine than to walk through it. On our private walking tours in Italy we typically plan a day to do just this – choosing a route that brings us through the countryside and vineyards to a winery where we learn how they create amazing wines from their picturesque surroundings – the soil, the vines, the climate, the grapes. This season we spent a day walking up in the hills of Fumane, part of the Valpolicella Classico zone, to award winning wine producer Accordini.

accordini-tasting-private-italy-walking-toursGaetano Accordini, helped by his wife Giuseppina Bertani, opened the winery in the early 1900s when he purchased 5 acres of land in the town of Negar. HIs son Stefano continued the business, producing Valpolicella wine for the local market. Stefano’s sons Tiziano and Daniele continued the business through the 1970s, when lower quality Valpolicella wines flooded the market, and the business struggled to remain profitable. Daniele remained committed to producing quality wines, planting new installations of Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Molinara, decreased yields per hectare, and modernizing the cellar and wine production process. Today the fourth generation is carrying on the family tradition, with Giacomo overseeing viticulture, Paolo caring for all stages of vinification, aging and bottling, and Marco currently a student of Agronomy and Enology.

accordini-vineyards-private-italy-walking-toursIn 1999, the family purchased an additional 10 acres in the hills of Fumane, in the village of Cavalo. The most favorably situated vineyards in the classico zone are located in the Monti Lessini foothills, where the grapes ripen at altitudes between 150–460 meters. The vineyards of Accordini are located between 500 and 600m, making them the highest vineyards in the area. The higher elevation means lower temperatures, concentrated sun exposure, and a large temperature differential between night and day.
Strong sun exposure in high elevation vineyards causes grapes to develop a deeper color, strong tannins, and a thicker, tougher skin – all great qualities to develop for age-worthy appassimento style wines. The large temperature differential means this same grapes ripen more slowly than the counterparts growing in the valley, producing more sugar and more complex flavors.

accordini-terroir-private-italy-walking-toursAfter a lovely walk up through the vineyards to the winery above Fumane, we enjoyed a private tour of the cellars. Alessandra warmly greeted us, then introduced us to the unique terroir of the region, showing samples of the various soil types, from morainic gravel near Lake Garda to more dolomite residual gravel with alluvial deposits. Alessandra tells us how many areas have tried to cultivate Valpolicella’s most important grape, Corvina, but the results have not lived up to the quality achieved here.

accordini-drying-room-private-italy-walking-toursThen we  moved to the drying loft, our late September tour the perfect time to visit as it is during harvest and we see how the grapes are layed out on pallets and stacked to dry. The grapes destined to become Amarone dry for 3 months, for Recioto, 4. DOC regulations dictate what percentage of grapes can go into Amarone, typically 50% in a good year, like 2015. In 2014, a bad year with too much rain, only 35% of grapes could be used.  During the drying process, the grapes loose 35 to 40 percent weight. One bottle of Amarone requires 5 kilos of grapes, over 10 pounds!

accordini-steel-tanks-private-italy-walking-toursOff to the cellar, where we learned the different processes for each wine. The ‘basic’ Valpolicella is produced in typical red wine fashion – harvested grapes are pressed, yeast is usually added, and the juice and skins/pulp sit and ferment. Fermentation continues until the sugar in the grapes is converted into alcohol and CO2, the skins/pulp (called lees) is removed, and the wine is placed in either stainless steel tanks or wood barrels – or both – to age. For the Valpolicella Classico, a fresh wine meant to be enjoyed young, it is aged in stainless steel tanks, with an additional two months in the bottle.

accordini-drying-corvina-private-italy-walking-toursFor Amarone, the best grapes are picked, then dried in the loft for 3 months, which concentrates the sugars. The grapes are pressed, yeast is added, and fermentation occurs. The higher sugar content means more alcohol is produced, and a special strain of yeast must be used, to withstand the higher alcohol content. After this maceration, which lasts about 35 days, the juice is the filtered off from the lees, then off to the aging rooms. The Amarone is refined in new French oak barriques for 24 months, then in bottles for a additional 8 months.

accordini-vinification-private-italy-walking-toursThe lees from the Amarone are not disposed of quite yet. Instead, they are put to use in yet a third style of dry red wine made in this region, a Valpolicella Ripasso. Some of the Valpolicella wine mentioned previously is pulled off, placed on the leftover lees from the Amarone for about 10 days, allowing a second fermentation occurs. The Ripasso is aged in barriques of French Oak for 12 months, then six other months in bottle. The resulting wine offers a bit more structure and complexity than the Valpolicella.

accordini-harvest-private-italy-walking-toursFinally, the Recioto dessert wine – this is produced using the same method as the Amarone, but the fermentation Is halted earlier, after only about 20 days, when some residual sugar still remains. The Recioto is refined in barriques for 4 months, then in bottles for 3 months.

accordini-barrels-private-italy-walking-toursFinally, the moment we’ve been waiting for – the tasting! We tasted all four of the aforementioned wines, three from their Acinatico line. Acinatico is ancient Roman name for wines of this area. The first reference to this wine goes back to the 5th century A.D. in a letter of Cassiodoro, minister of king Theodoric, who was looking for red “Acinatico” for the royal meals. This was a red wine made during the winter months with wilted grapes; it was very difficult to get, at least in large quantities and was produced in the hills around Verona.

Tasting notes:

Valpolicella Classico D.O.C.

accordini-classico-private-italy-walking-toursBright ruby red with hints of violet. Very fresh and fruity, cherries and berries. Medium body, it should be enjoyed while young to appreciate it at its best. A versitile food wine, it is recommended with first courses and soups.

Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso Acinatico D.O.C.

accordini-ripasso-private-italy-walking-toursCorvina Veronese (60%), Corvinone (15%), Rondinella (20%), Molinara (5%).

Intense ruby red, with aromas of vanilla and spice. Flavors of ripe cherries, dried fruit and tobacco. Warm and full-bodied, it pairs well with roast meats, stews, braises and aged cheeses.

Amarone Classico della Valpolicella Acinatico D.O.C.G.

accordini-amarone-private-italy-walking-toursCorvina Veronese (75%), Rondinella (20%), Molinara (5%)

A dense, deep garnet red, with rich aromas of vanilla and dried fruit. Great structure, complex, creamy and elegant, with flavors of dried cherries and berries, tobacco, and nuts. This wine is traditionally served with game, grilled meat, braises and aged cheeses. It is also served between meals, a “wine for meditation” as they say in Italy.

Recioto Classico della Valpolicella Acinatico D.O.C.G.

accordini-recioto-private-italy-walking-toursCorvina Veronese 75%, Rondinella 20%, Molinara 5%

A deep purple ruby red. Aromas of dried fruit, with floral notes. Smooth, elegant, with flavors of dried fruit, and some acidity to balance the sweetness. Enjoy with dry cakes, pastry and desserts of the Veronese tradition, such as Pandoro, sbrisolona, Torta Russia and, of course, dark chocolate.

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