There are two things that seem to follow me around since I have been in Tuscany, one of them is images of owls, which I won’t get into that now. The other is coincidence, and coincidence played a big part in our adventures these past couple of weeks.
Last week a real chance encounter led to me meeting a wonderful couple and having two fantastic days away in the east of central Italy, in the region of Le Marche, which has been hit quite hard by the recent earthquakes.
I was contacted by Graham and Saranne via the ‘Workaway’ website last week. For those that don’t know. Workaway is a fantastic service, it enables you to travel and work and stay with families while you explore. I highly recommend it for people wanting to travel but on a limited budget. Graham contacted me regarding a workaway at their place, yet after lengthy video chats and a couple of calls, it turns out that Graham knows his stuff when it comes to wine and exporting to the UK. This lead to Jackson and I being invited over for a stay and a proper chat. Graham, Saranne and their family run an organic farm with guest house and wine tourism business. I highly recommend looking them up, I promise you wont regret it. www.foglie-ridenti.com
Le Marche, for those of you saying it wrong in your head right now, you pronounce it Le Markay, this isn’t French France after all. A truly stunning part of Italy about three hours from where I am in Tuscany. Rolling hills, a beautiful coastline and mountains, incredibly impressive mountains. The mountains were still covered in snow when we arrived, which gave the place the most mind blowing backdrop. Le Marche is still relatively undiscovered in regards to regions, meaning a great deal of their wines are also undiscovered.
While in Le Marche we went to visit a winery with Graham, one he has known for a few years and is recently under new ownership. The new owner wasn’t on site when we were there, but we did meet Carlos whose mum is from Yorkshire and dad is Italian, so he had the BEST accent when speaking English. He knew how to swear like a Brit too which always makes me laugh. We had a tour and a chat about my project and he muttered the immortal words I have grown to love to hear since starting this business “Oh you have to go and see this guy, he is a bit of character but makes great wine”. This put ear-to-ear grins on mine and Graham’s faces and off we went.
Now, as anyone who has been to rural Italy will appreciate, the roads are a bit naff and signposts are like rocking horse poo, even more so when it comes to wineries! So, we had to call Dante (the winemaker) a few times, and the highlight of these calls came to light when we finally met him and followed him after fumbling about for 10 minutes. “Dante, we are on the white cement road, yes it’s white, yes cement, okay we will meet you at the crossroads at the top”. When we finally met him and made it to his winery he said….”Oh I didn’t mean THAT white cement road” as if there are a dozen roads made of white cement in the area. To which Graham and I couldn’t help but laugh, as we both knew there were no other white cement roads for miles!
The winery itself is the smallest in the appellation, and when I say small I mean S M A L L . He makes 6000 bottles of wine a year in total. If you can’t work out how small that is, you know the “yellow tail” wine you see in the supermarket in the UK? Last year as a producer they made 138 million bottles of wine….let that sink in…!!
That means Dante owns the sort of winery I love and want you all to get to try the wines from. With this being Le Marche, there has been a lot of devastation because of the earthquakes, and Dante was a victim of this. He lost his home from the most recent earthquakes and he told us he was too scared to stay in his house while the quakes were going on, that he slept in the cellar with the grapes. Anyone spent any time in a cellar? Yeah, it’s not the warmest of places. This is the passion these people have right there and the sort of people I want to work with and get to know.
The second piece of gold came while we were trying his top wine, a dessert wine made from dried grapes that tasted and smelt of caramel and dried figs, it was beautiful. Dante said “we must go outside and try this wine, there are too many smells inside that they mask the true flavour and smells of this wine”. So off we trundled, stood outside enjoying the beautiful views and taking big sniff of the wine, when in true Italian fashion Dante pulls out a ciggie and sparks up! I looked at Graham deadpan and with tongue firmly in my cheek say “I get more of a smoky caramel now don’t you?” Ever the pro, Graham agreed and gave me a look to acknowledge my terrible joke. Luckily for me Dante spoke very little English.