A postcard-like landscape, immortalised in so many of those photos that seem inanimate, designed to be taken again and multiplied almost to infinity, to represent a mythical idea of a bucolic beauty. Instead, the Val d’Orcia is life, work, beauty shaped by history and current events, a piece of Tuscany in the province of Siena, northeast of Monte Amiata, stretching towards Umbria.
Pienza and Montalcino are its most famous towns which, on the topic of day-to-day, immediately remind us of pecorino (the former) and wine (the latter), inducing us to forget for a moment the architecture, the churches, the squares and the forts in both. Images and memories jump from cypresses, the most characteristic tree in the area, to locals products like Cinta Senese cold cuts and can’t help but settle on the numerous, well-kept vineyards, ordered along the slopes and prized for their production of wines that all have the Sangiovese grape in common.
In the municipal area of Montalcino, the Sangiovese grapes become Brunello, one of those superior wines of which legendary stories are made of, but in reality, rest on the modern and concrete reality that to produce high quality wines one must confront the market and consumers every day.
It is a wine with great longevity. It is not produced infrequently. In fact, you can find bottles aged for periods ranging from 10 to 30 years and longer. It has long passed the concept of perfect pairings by acquiring an international status that makes it suitable with any dish from any cuisine, thanks also to its fine and elegant style. In the other municipalities of the valley (Buonconvento, Castiglione d'Orcia, Pienza, Radicofani, San Quirico d'Orcia, Trequanda) and in portions of neighbouring municipalities (Abbadia San Salvatore, Chianciano Terme, San Casciano dei Bagni, Sarteano, Torrita di Siena), the Sangiovese grapes are the undisputed protagonists of a rather young DOC (created in 2000), the Orcia, so called as to establish an indissoluble link with the territory.
On its own or together with other grape varieties such as the Canaiolo Nero, Colorino, Ciliegiolo, Foglia Tonda, Pugnitello and Malvasia Ner, the Sangiovese gives life to wines that, for their linearity and immediacy, assume a distinctive stylistic feature that’s excellent withthe cheese and cold cuts mentioned above and with the most characteristic dishes of the area. Like the pansanto, a bread served with boiled cauliflower, vinegar and oil that can be eaten as an appetizer to the famous pici, here served, above all, with a meat sauce or with stale breadcrumbs; or to bread soup, a poor man’s dish that used leftover bread by soaking and warming it in a bean and vegetable broth, a symbol of many other Tuscan peasant cuisines, where it is sometimes called ribollita.
Roasted game and meat, in various forms and kinds, come together in the famous mixed grill, which is accompanied by ciaccia, a type of flat bread seasoned with oil and which has a sweet seasonal version prepared for the early November holiday, All Saints Day. It’s called the ciaccia dei morti and is made with flour, lard, raisins and walnuts. During Carnevale, on the other hand, it’s tradition to prepare crogetti, a dough made with flour, eggs, butter, sugar, yeast, vanilla, grappa and a pinch of salt that’s then cut into strips and fried in hot oil. More or less the same ingredients are the base for cenci or frappe, also known as ‘chiacchiere’ (gossip) or ‘delle bugie’ (lies): all different fun names for the sweet crisp pastry twists known internationally as Angel Wings.