Amber: It is the color of a Tuscan autumn, when all is bathed in a gorgeous honey light, gilded in gold, sweet, liquid, overripe, on the verge of decay.
Shadows become longer, days shorter and the Tuscans increasingly maudlin and all goes quiet: Winter is approaching.
This light turns all of the stone buildings to gold, makes every farmhouse a temple of radiance, their thick walls keep the warmth of summer for as long as they can before the cold of winter drains it from them.
Like hothouse flowers, Italians need light. Their Latin skins can handle any amount of sunlight dealt to them, and they absorb each sunny day like the sunflowers that blanket their landscapes in summer. Over the years spent here, I’ve observed that melancholy seems to be embraced by the Italians. It is a source of inspiration. Unlike Americans, Italians do not strive for happiness at all times, indeed, happiness and bliss are not the state of perfection, as it is considered in America. The Dark Ages in Italy were times where sadness, grief and devastation were the status quo. The escape from these conditions inspired the renaissance, and like a long dormant winter, Italy burst forth with an amazing spring. Happiness is bittersweet, it comes at a price. Each joy encountered is a treasure, to be cherished, to be stored in the banks of memory, kept ready and polished to be brought forth in times of reminiscing with friends over a glass of wine.
With this in mind we set out with our friends from California on a three day wine and olive oil tasting tour of Autumno in Toscana
First stop, a revisit to Villa Petrolo, our fabulous location for filming Terrior and famous for one of the best wines in Tuscany, the Galatrona, a pure Merlot.
It was fascinating to detect the influence of terroir on their various different vineyards of Sangiovese, Merlot, Canaiolo, and Cabernet. An inspired and thoroughly satisfying experience.
It is the end of November, and olives on the trees are fattening: shiny black, or glossy mauve and green. They will be allowed until the first freeze to collect their greasy humours before being beaten off the trees and gathered for pressing at the frantoio. The Raccolte delle Olive is an ancient tradition in Tuscany, and my absolute favorite.
A visit to our neighbor’s Tiberio and Giuliana Nocentini… they have long since finished their harvest and we happily bought our year’s supply.
Off to the other side of Chianti: San Gimignano and a visit with wine maker Mattia Barzaghi.
We met Mattia last year in our search of locations for Terroir. We were so taken by him that he soon became a collaborator and actor in our film.
Mattia’s wines repeatedly have won the prestigious “Tre Bicchieri” award designated by Gambero Rosso magazine..a well deserved honor.
Mattia’s latest endeavor: creating wines with the La Mormoraia estate. We arrived just in time to witness a magnificent Tuscan sunset and take a tour of the cantinas and estate
Evenings like these are truly magical… with all the elements of earth, air, water, and fire… Juice of the Sun in the form of wine…
and the irresistible fragrance and taste the earth in Mattia’s olive oil… only pressed a few hours ago.
Fruity, bitter, earthy and spicy… two coughs after tasting is a good sign. All went down very well with Mattia’s award winning Vernaccia, a white wine particular to the San Gimignano area.
The onset of winter triggers something in Tuscans that must remind them of the Dark Times, as winters in Tuscany can be so very dark. I suppose this is why the autumno in Tuscany is so glorious: its the last celebration, before the sun recedes.
Bittersweet, melancholic, and gold infused memories to be sipped, savored and to keep the soul warm…