In the heart of Tuscany’s Chianti Classico region, the Castello di Verrazzano estate has been producing wine for centuries. Needless to say, what a treat it was for CEA Fall 2013 students to visit this historic castle as part of Orientation, where we spent the afternoon at a beautiful castle discovering a newfound appreciation for Italian food and wine culture.
The tour began with a brief historical overview of the Chianti region, given by our passionate tour guide, Gino. We then made our way to the ancient wine cellars, whose corridors were lined with fine oak barrels dating the early 1920s. Gino described the entire winemaking process and showed us rooms storing some of Verrazzano’s additional treasures: their own olive oil, balsamic vinegar and meats (that we would later get to taste!).
Following the tour of the castle, Gino led us to a dining room overlooking rolling hills. We made our way to our seats and were offered our first taste, Verrazzano’s Rosso Toscano. Before we were allowed our first sip, Gino described in detail the proper wine-tasting technique: hold by the stem, swirl the glass, smell the wine, and finally let the flavors absorb in your mouth for a few moments before swallowing. According to Gino, we would be using these vital skills for the remainder of our time in Italy since, as he puts it, “wine is life!”
Our meal consisted of Tuscan specialties, including a variety of cured meats, like the slightly unnerving pig face, a selection of delicious local cheeses, breads and two different types of pasta dishes. Gino explained to us the correct way to spread the olive oil along the bread with the tip of your finger and attempt to absorb the flavor with each bite. Accompanying the food were specifically paired wines, Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Reserva, and a Super Tuscan. At the end of the meal we tasted a spoonful of Verrazzano’s very special balsamic vinegar—so good that many students couldn’t leave without purchasing a bottle. To finish, we each sipped Verrazzano’s Vin Santo (Holy Wine), served with traditional almond biscuits.
Learning about Italy’s wine, feasting on delicious food, bonding with fellow classmates, and taking in the stunning Tuscan views all made for a fabulous day of getting oriented to our new temporary home.
- Katie Tomayko, Fall '13 CEA Florence student
from Cal Poly - San Luis Obispo
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