Wine in the Afternoon
Today (Saturday) we went on a winery tour sponsored by the embassy. We’re trying to be ‘joiners’, signing up for activities and events to try to meet people. So, we trekked to work at 8:30am on a Saturday to try to be social. We had a pretty good time. We got to tour the fields, where they grow two different kinds of grapes, fagiolini (beans), olives (for olive oil), and sunflowers.
It was a relatively small, family-run winery, which was pretty cool. When we asked the owner why there were white and red grape vines mixed in the same row, he said “I don’t know, my grandfather did that, apparently for no logical reason.” He explained to us about the fine difference in flavor for grape bunches that grow on different parts of the vine. Apparently, on the young trees, the only good bunches are the ones that are closest to the trunk on each branch. The rest, they just throw away. On older trees, they can usually take the first three bunches. Misshapen grapes are only good for ‘uva di tavola’ (table grapes).
The sunflowers were on their way out – but those fields must look amazing when everything is in bloom. Apparently they grow them for the seeds, which they feed to animals. It seems like a strange, difficult, and inefficient way to grow animal feed, but also, I have no idea what I’m talking about. Apparently they also have very hard, clay soil. I asked Ryan what he thought the farmers in Missouri would think of that soil – he said he didn’t think they’d want to grow anything in it. The Italian farmers have to constantly work the soil so that it doesn’t harden completely and cause ‘disasters’ when it rains.
They hand pick everything – olives, grapes, beans, sunflower seeds – which allows them to select only the ones that are perfectly mature.
After a long, hot hour in the fields, we went in for a fantastic lunch. The wine, of course, was delicious, but the real highlight was the prune jam made by the owner’s uncle which everyone was dissappointed to learn that he does not sell. Apparently he only has 5 trees, so he just makes jam for the family. The other surprising winner was one of the appetizers. At first taste it appeared to be couscous with fresh vegetables. But it turns out that it was old bread – masquerading as couscous. I am definitely going to try this recipe:
Apparently they take stale bread, add water to it to soften it. Wring it out. Mush it up. Add fresh cut lettuce, basil, tomatoes, onions, and whatever else is good and fresh. And mix in olive oil. Tadaa! Fantastic, light appetizer – perfect for a hot summer afternoon.