A Veneto Wine Lunch in Brunello Country!

Montalcino town square
Montalcino town square

One of Italy’s best known, and expensive wines, is Brunello di Montalcino, which is made from 100% Sangiovese grapes that are grown around the town of Montalcino, which is located approximately 80km south of Florence.  With that being said, why was I in a quaint, family-owned restaurant in Montalcino, drinking wines from Veneto (Venice)?

The answer is quite simple.  Simply put, I was enjoying lunch with a member of the Bottega S.p.a. winery, that is headquartered in Veneto, where they produce Proseccos, as well as various levels of Valpolicellas, and also I think Italy’s favourite after dinner drink, Limoncello.  My host from Bottega was Irene Patruno, who drove down from Venice to meet with me in Montalcino, where we would enjoy a multi-wine and food course lunch.

But that is only half of the story.  After our lunch, the second half of my adventure was to visit Bottega’s Montalcino vineyards and winery, where they produce their Brunello di Montalcino.  I wrote about visiting their vineyards and winery, and trying their Brunello di Montalcino.  My Brunello di Montalicino experience article is here.

Back to lunch

Arriving in Montalcino you are again surrounded by the beautiful towers and other ancient buildings of a hill-top Tuscan town.  Narrow, winding, cobble-stone streets, where both people, patios, and cars all jostle for space.  Beautiful blue sky above, the constant whirling of tiny birds that tweet loudly, and along the streets, the varied restaurants and cafes, and especially important, the gelaterias.

Irene, with case of wine in hand, led me to the “Re di Macchia” ristorante, run by Roberta and Antonio.  I believe Re di Macchia translates to the Place or Spot of Kings. So high praises for the restaurant.

Irene spoke with Antonio, directing him to which wines to chill and which to open now for our first course. I asked Irene for a lunch of typical Italian dishes.  She conferred with me still as we reviewed the menu, and she ordered our lunch, starting with the appetizers.

The appetizers consisted of:

  • Salumi misti di Cinghiale con Pecorino (sliced salamis made with wild boar, and pecorino cheese)
  • Insalata di Coniglio all’aceto Balsamico (green salad with roast rabbit in balsamic vinegar)
  • Crostone cacio e pepe al miele di Montalcino (Crostini with hot/melted pecorino cheese and honey)

To this we enjoyed 2 different prosecco from Bottega S.p.a.:

  • Prosecco Gold DOC Spumante Brut
  • Prosecco DOC Spumante Extra Dry

Our main course was Pinci “fatti a mano” al Ragu di Cinghiale (Pinci, hand-made noodles topped with wild boar sauce), and was paired with Bottega’s Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore 2014.

And our dessert was a wonderful home-made ice cream made with egg yolk (sorry I do not have the name for the dessert), paired with Limoncello as well as grappa.

Crostini with melted pecorino cheese and honey, wild boar salumi, and green salad with roast rabbit
Crostini with melted pecorino cheese and honey, wild boar salumi, and green salad with roast rabbit

I did not take detailed notes of the food and wine, and can only give you my impressions of both, as I was engrossed in the discussions with Irene about Bottega’s wines, and Italian wine in general.

The 3 appetizers were quite filling in themselves.  Pecorino cheese I was told is quite a specialty for this region, and that there are a few different varieties of pecorino cheese.  I was able to try the cheese, melted and topped with honey on the crostini,as well as on it’s own with the wild boar salumi.  The cheese went very nicely with both of the Proseccos.  The Brut being the drier of the 2 wines, and the extra dry being slightly off-dry.  Overall I think the Extra Dry worked slightly better with all the dishes, but both were light and fresh and a pleasure to sip.

The green salad with the roast rabbit was a first for me.  The rabbit was finely textured and juicy.  I would love to see this in some Vancouver restaurant.  The high acidity and bubble from Prosecco paired nicely with the salad.  There were 4 different styles of salumi made from the wild boar.  One of the styles is called “coppa di testa”, which is more well known as head cheese, and is made from simmering parts of the pig’s head along with spices, then chilling the result in a pan and slicing it when set.  The recipe that any restaurant or cook uses, I was told is a family secret, and thus you can experience different flavours of coppa di testa as you sample at different restaurants.  Irene and the restaurant owner, were a bit worried that I would not try the coppa, but it is something that I did grow up with as a child, so dug in, and it was delicious.  Here is a recipe for coppa di testa if you want to try your hand at it.

Pinci fatti a mano al Ragu di Cinghiale
Pinci fatti a mano al Ragu di Cinghiale

After being filled up quite nicely with the appetizers, the Pinci noodles with the wild boar sauce was served, along with the Bottega Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore. Pinci are fat spaghetti shaped noodles, similar in size to udon noodles, if you like Japanese noodles.  These pinci were hand-made in the restaurant.  Cooked al dente and served with a richly flavoured boar sauce.  With this rich dish, you need a wine with body that can stand up to the flavour; and this Ripasso Superiore did just that.  Ripasso is a wine style, where after the regular Valpolicella wine is made, it is then re-fermented, this time with the fermented grape skins used for Amarone wine (which is made with dried grapes). Re-fermented = re-passo.

A special Italian ice cream dessert with biscotti
A special Italian ice cream dessert with biscotti

Rounding out our long and lingering lunch was an ice cream dessert served with limoncello and grappa from Bottega. The ice cream was the creamiest I have ever tasted, which I was told was because it was made with egg yolks.  It also had the nicest presentation I had seen during my stay in Italy.  The strong citrus flavour from the Bottega Limoncello again was a good compliment.

And here are some pictures of the wines so you can recognise the bottles when you see them in the store. Two take-aways from this lunch: 1) you can never eat enough wild boar, and 2) you can never have enough good wine from Montalcino or Veneto.

Bottega Prosecco Spumante Extra Dry, Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore, and Limoncello
Bottega Prosecco Spumante Extra Dry, Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore, and Limoncello

Can I Get Bottega Wines in BC?

Yes there is a selection available.  Here is the BC Liquor Store Product Catalogue for Bottega.

Author: mywinepal
Drink Good Wine. That is my motto and I really want to help you drink good wine. What is good wine? That can be a different thing for each people. Food also loves wine so I also cover food and wine pairings, restaurant reviews, and world travel. Enjoy life with me. MyWinePal was started by Karl Kliparchuk, WSET. I spent many years with the South World Wine Society as the President and then cellar master. I love to travel around the world, visiting wine regions and sharing my passion for food & wine with you. Come live vicariously through me, and enjoy all my recommended wines.