When I first moved to Italy in 1991, I lived in Florence and like many local residents, went on holiday in Tuscany. I often went to a little town called San Vincenzo which is near the Golfo di Baratti. Little did I know at the time, that the area is actually called the Val di Cornia or the Cornia Valley. It has unbelievably beautiful beaches and a gorgeous stand of parasol pines in the Parco di Rimigliano. It also has world renowned wines, including Tua Rita. An industry expert said that he feels that Val di Cornia is Pomerol and Tua Rita is Petrus. I thought that was an interesting analogy. I have not had the pleasure of drinking many wines from Tua Rita but have been lucky enough to drink the wines made by their next door neighbor, Gualdo del Re . I will be pouring these wines at the Wine & Food Festival – Newport Mansions tomorrow and have been thinking about the wines and that gorgeous part of Tuscany.
Val di Cornia became a DOC in November of 1989. There are only six towns that may use this legislation for wine labeling and that includes Campiglia Marittima, Piombino, San Vincenzo, Suvereto, Sassetta and Monteverdi Marttimo. These towns are located in the provinces of Livorno and Pisa.
The area is called the Etruscan Coast because it is home to numerous medieval towns with Etruscan ruins. This area of Tuscany has a mild climate due to the tempering influence of ocean breezes.
Located just four miles from the Etruscan Coast facing the island of Elba, Gualdo Del Re’s Nico and Teresa Rossi have created a “piccolo paradiso”, a small paradise, in this lovely spot complete with delicious wines, a fine restaurant and a bed and breakfast set amidst pine woods and olive grows.
The Rossi’s have named their Vermentino after their daughter Valentina. Nico told me at Vinitaly that at local bars they just ask for a Valentina instead of a Vermentino. That must be a kick. Valentina works in the family business. She just had a son named Davide but will soon be back heavily involved in all aspects of the family winery.
Vermentino, a classic aromatic Italian varietal is grown throughout Tuscany, Liguria and Sardinia. It produces light, soft straw colored wines with floral aromas, herbal notes and a hint of peaches. The Rossi family currently makes 10 wines using the help of well known enologist Barbara Tamburini. I will write more about Barbara at a later date. The wines include Eliseo Bianco (a mix of Trebbiano Toscano, Malvasia and Clairette) and Eliseo Rosato, a rose’ made from Sangiovese and Merlot. These are easy drinking wines which go well with the summer’s bounty of fish and seafood served with light pastas. Other, more meditative red wines, marry well with heavier pastas and meats. Eliseo Rosso, for example, is a blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Canaiolo. It spends some 12 months in French barriques and an additional three months in the bottle. The Rossi family’s restaurant suggests pairing this wine with a delicious Cacciucco di Polpo. Cacciucco is a well known fish stew from the Livorno area. The Rossi’s aren’t simply pure traditionalists. They have taken full advantage of the DOC legislation to make wines using international varieties as well as the indigenous Tuscan varieties. The results have been wildly successful. L’Rennero, made from 100% Merlot, is a fabulous wine that Chef Gianmaria Margelli suggests pairing with a filet mignon in a complex sauce made using the same wine. This wine is aged for 36 months, 15 months in oak barriques and 21 months in the bottle. The Rossi have given one of their wines the perfect name which sums up the whole experience at Gualdo Del Re: SenzAnsia, which means enjoyment without anxiety or haste. Sounds good to me.
I decided to start including receipes on my blog. Here’s one from the Gualdo del Re restaurant. Cacciucco is traditionally from Livorno.
1 lb. of assorted fish, such as monkfish, mullet, eel (cut in cubes) or halibut
1 lb. of assorted seafood, such as baby octopus, squid or cuttlefish (cut in rings), clams, mussels or lobster
4 tablespoons of good virgin olive oil
Half of a medium onion
Half a cup of minced parsley
2 garlic cloves, minced
A few sage leaves
1 lb. of peeled tomatoes,
1 hot red chili pepper
1 glass of red wine
Thick slices of whole grain bread, toasted and rubbed with olive oil (optional)
Clean and wash the fish.
Boil the fish heads in a few ladles of water in a saucepan, made of clay if possible.
Sauté the minced onions and parsley, sage, red chili, and garlic in oil and remove them once they turn brown.
Add the octopus and cuttlefish to the saucepan and cook them with the cover on. When they are almost cooked, pour in the wine and let it evaporate. Then add the pieces of tomato and the fish head broth passed through a strainer. Add salt and bring to a boil. After about ten minutes, add the fish. Cook them by moving the frying pay, without mixing too much, and add more salt to taste. Arrange the slices of bread in a soup tureen or in small clay pots. Distribute the fish on top with some of its juices. The tomato sauce should not be too watery or too thick. There should be enough so that little remains after you have soaked the bread.