This weekend in Tuscany, the 2nd annual Wine&Siena was held in this charming medieval jewel of a hilltop city that is still contained by its ancient walls. Organized by the same people who put together Merano Wine Festival, it was an opportunity to taste the bounty of the land that is Italy, both wine and culinary products. Siena is a natural choice for a wine event, as the province is home to 9 DOCG wines (for 5 points: can you name them all? See below for the answers!)
While the focus was Tuscany, wines from all over Italy were featured, along with local food products. Smaller than either Merano Wine Festival or Vinitaly, Wine&Siena gives you the chance to appreciate products that otherwise might get lost in the shuffle. When are we going to get it straight? Small is beautiful!
Siena is small, the scattered locations of this event involved the whole little city. People wandered through the streets, wine glasses in hand, seeking the next thrilling flavor. The tasting rooms were spacious enough to allow for moving about among the stands, but small enough to create atmosphere, inducing people to converse with other tasters and wine producers as if we were all in someone’s (admittedly magnificent) salon.
The 5-star Grand Hotel Continental provided one of the sumptuous tasting rooms.
The other stunning locations were Rocca Salimbeni, headquarters of the troubled local bank, Monte dei Paschi di Siena:
Palazzo Sansedoni, home to the Foundation of the MPS Bank, and a stunning palace right on the main square, Piazza del Campo:
The building housing the offices of the President of the University of Siena:
And my favorite, the Palazzo Pubblico, Siena’s most famous, iconic building, where one could have the unique experience of tasting Brunello di Montalcino gazing at Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s sublime fresco, the Allegory of Good and Bad Government. Yes, folks, that is 14th century painting at its best!
The food stands at the University building struck me with their simple yet opulent display. Each producer showing his or her wares, explained with great modesty how they made that particular cheese or prosciutto or salame or typical dessert and what unique ingredient or technique made it so special.
When I ask how many people work to prepare these delicacies, I am struck by the answer: 3 to 5 people. At Macelleria Siena, they’ve been marketing their products locally for only 2 years. Using all natural ingredients, Macelleria puts the famed Tuscan Ribollita soup in jars – all you have to do is add your own old bread!
But don’t get your hopes up: these things are marketed only locally… for now…
How about this one? Tuna from Siena! But Siena is not on the sea, you say. Well, that’s not tuna either! It’s pork! (What else? This is Tuscany, after all!) A delicate, delightful and different way of preparing and packing pork (all fillet, so a fine quality) that tricks the eye and maybe even some palates…
And how could one forget the famous Tuscan cold meats?
Truly the bounty of the land. Such a tasty prosciutto crudo! And yes, yours truly is there with the butcher, Alessandro of Antico Salumeria Salvini, Siena.
Maybe that’s the aspect I most enjoyed at this Wine&Siena: the personal touch, the human dimension. Each producer so eager to share the fruit of his or her labor.
Solidarity was not lacking. A silent auction of wine was held throughout the duration of the event to benefit those less fortunate Italians, victims of the recent unending earthquake that started last August and shows no signs of letting up, which struck four regions: Umbria, Abruzzo, Marche and Lazio. The proceeds from this were being sent to Norcia, a food capital if there ever was one, and which suffered extensive damage in the quake. Yes, that bottle does say ‘Bocelli’ – the famous Andrea even signed the label for his winemaker brother Alberto.
While the fun and diverisified smaller format was bite-sized, I am still digesting these two delectably packed days… More to come!
Answers: Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Chianti, Chianti Classico, Chianti Colli Senesi, Chianti Superiore, Vernaccia di San Gimignano and the Riserva of Vernaccia di San Gimignano as well as the Riserva of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.