■ 20 September 2012 by James Martin
We took a little trip today out to a little-known wine country town between Lucca and Pistoia called Montecarlo. The sky was devilishly clear. The red brick of the castle, the cathedral, and the medieval city gates stood in stark contrast to that deep blue.
Color. Sometimes it’s what I like most about Italy. It’s why I lug this camera around.
It’s not just the brick and the color. It’s the texture of things. The texture, sometimes, of rotting old age and maybe 20 coats of thick paint.
And then there are those crazy plants that work their way between rocks and bricks and live happily in the mortar. You know them right? Capers, the little flash of taste you get in sauces.
Montecarlo is a little village with a couple of long streets and a long castle where the streets come together on the north end. There is one main street, lined with shops, restaurants and bars. The traffic is pretty nasty. Cars snake amongst the tables and chairs and exhibition of goods that make the street seem like a pedestrian street until you notice the diabolically driven cars lumbering toward you maliciously. Fact is, if you park on the north side of town where there is a nice parking area you have to go through town to exit, which explains why there seem to be two cars on the move for every resident.
Outside the village there are plenty of wineries to keep you busy. The Tenuta del Buonamico gives you that California wine experience with free tasting and fluent English (warning: loud elevator music and odd interactions on the site). What’s interesting is that they offer two Montecarlo red blends (mostly Sangiovese) in which one has no barrel aging and the other is exactly the same blend but the Sangiovese is barrel aged (separately from the other grapes, which don’t see a barrel at all). You can taste both to see what you think and compare the two.
The most celebrated wine from the region is white, but if you look around, the red seems to be the most popular, especially in cities like Lucca.
What’s interesting about the region is that Napoleon seems to have brought about the marriage of the Italian grapes to the French, Montecarlo bianco is made up of the Italian Trebbiano (40-60%) but must also contain Semillon, Pinot Gris and Pinot Bianco, Vermentino, Sauvignon, and Roussanne grapes. It makes for a tasty and interesting wine.
And the food! Yes, it’s good, as it usually is in a wine region. But that’s for another post.
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