August is a special month in Italy: the entire country closes down for about 2 weeks and it all looks like a Hollywood set — where did all the people go?
To the beach, to the mountains, but no one stays in town!
It is also the start of the harvest time, and that is serious business in Italy, a country whose cultural identity, not to mention economy, is largely based on food&wine!
Thursday night found me at Sagralea in Salea, above Albenga on the west coast of Liguria, at the sagra of Pigato. A ‘sagra‘ is a kind of town fair that focuses on a particular foodstuff – it could be a vegetable, a fruit, olive oil, a particular dish, or like in this case, the outstanding Ligurian DOC white wine Pigato! Sagra sounds sacred, but the celebration of these foodstuffs seems somehow earthy, pagan and primitive… a festival with ancient origins where you might expect some sacrifice of a lamb to an unknown god.
Not only does Sagralea celebrate Pigato: this little town above Albenga showcases all the typical products of the region as well as the traditional Ligurian cuisine. Mind you, this is no improvised, fly-by-night operation: it was the 48th annual Fair of Pigato! Some of the unique produce from this area include the spiny artichoke, purple asparagus, the little trumpet zucchini, and a beefsteak tomato known as cuore di bue or ox’s heart tomato. Take a look!
Stands and bands, and people everywhere – the old ‘if you build it, they will come’ philosophy. Lines of cars winding up the hill to park on grassy fields. A walk through vineyards and you’re there: the aromas of basil, rosemary, lavender and wine fill the air, two live bands are going on opposite sides of the fairgrounds – one with the slower, traditional music for dancing, the other a Police cover band.
Some serious wine tasting for those who love the grape!
And the flavors! Everything from pesto to polenta, ravioli, grilled meats, special handmade Ligurian pasta trofie, you name it. The only thing you needed to bring was your appetite.
The national association of the Women of Wine was present and making a presentation.
This man is one of the forces behind it all, Flavio Maurizio, who along with his brother-in-law Umberto Calleri of La Vecchia Cantina, were pioneers of Pigato wine. A force of nature, this producer puts his heart and soul into the product and its promotion.
A toast: to Pigato, to Liguria, to the Italian spirit of celebrating those precious products that Mother Earth shares with us, and to those wise men and women who cultivate that Earth and then are proud to display its bounty! Cin-cin!