Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Vino Novello - Italians give thanks for new wine

Although Thanksgiving isn't officially celebrated in Italy, Italians still give thanks during the month of November for their olio e vino novello, new olive oil and wine production. Vino novello is made using a different fermentation process than that of typical red wine. When harvested, the grapes are transferred uncrushed to a sealed barrel or steel vault. The winemaker then introduces carbon dioxide. With little oxygen and increased presence of CO2, the fermentation process is accelerated. The sugars in the grape are quickly converted into alcohol resulting in a fizzy, fresh, red berry aroma all in less than 20 days!

Produced in most regions, vino novello is most common in Veneto, Trentino, Alto Adige, and Tuscany. The most popular grapes for producing vino novello are Barbera, Dolcetto, Cabernet Savuignon, Merlot, and Sangiovese. 

Officially put on the Italian market November 6, consumers will savor this wine through January. But don't try to add a bottle to you cellar collection: lacking in natural preservatives from the tannins, vino novello won't last. Drink it young and slightly chilled.

The lightweight, bright and more acid forward wine is a perfect pairing for richer holiday meals...and most under $10, they're a great value too!

Giocale Novello Rosso 2012
Terre Di Chieti Abruzzo, Italy
This is a Novello from the south of Italy with 75% Montepulciano. It is very fruity and fairly full-bodied but well-balanced.

Tuscany, Italy
Novello is said to be born in the vineyards of Chianti and this wine stays true to the traditional style, combining the freshness of red berries with the fragrance of peaches.

Veneto, Italy
Blackberry, raspberry, and cherry aromas and flavors.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Friday, November 2, 2012

Honoring the Past on Il Giorno dei Morti

While in the U.S. glowing jack-o-lanterns light the way for children as they scurry from house to house for candy, in Italy the streets are empty. The festivities take place the following days on November 1st, All Saints Day (Ognissanti), and on November 2nd, Day of the Dead (Giorno dei Morti).

Although they fall on different dates, both Halloween and All Saints Day originate from the same Celtic traditions. For the Celts, the new farming year began on November 1st. It marks the transition from the season of life and harvest to winter, when nature sleeps. On the night of October 31, also known as Samahain, spirits were said to walk the earth. Once Christianity took over Pagan cults, the Samahain celebrations were turned into the Christian feast days of November 1st and 2nd. 

In Italy, many pay tribute to the dead with a visit to church and to the cemetery. Families are reunited at the table with meals of seasonal foods of pumpkin, polenta with squash, or gnocchi dei morti, made with squash or sweet potato dressed in butter, cinnamon and grated cheese.

As ancient tradition held that fava beans were a means of communication between the living and the dead, the appearance of these fave dei morti on the 2nd of November should be no great surprise. Other almond based sweets include ossa dei morti or dita dei morti, shaped like bones and teeth! And remember, while the name Il Giorno dei Morti might sound a little macabre, for Italians it's another celebration day!

Le fave dei morti - Beans of the Dead Cookies

Makes about 35 small cookies

100g (1/2 cup) Hazelnuts
150g (3/4 cup) blanched Almonds
350g (1 3/4 cups) Sugar
30g (2 1/2 tbsp) Flour
2 Egg Whites
Pinch either of Anise Seeds or Cinnamon or a little Lemon Zest as preferred

Place all dry ingredients into a food processor and work until ingredients are very finely ground. Slowly add the egg whites and process until mixture comes together. Wrap the mixture in plastic wrap and leave to rest in a cool place for at least two hours. Now you're ready to form the dough into small cookies. Generously flour a work surface and roll out thin sausages of dough, then cut into gnocchi-sized pieces. Cover a cookie sheet with oven parchment, roll the pieces of dough in flour, flattening them ever so slightly, and place on the cookie sheet and leave to rest for a further two hours. When you're ready, bake at 150°C / 300°F for 15 minutes.

Be sure you make extra! It is said that between the nights of November 1st and 2nd, the deceased relatives return to the places they did when alive. It is common in some parts of Italy to leave out an extra plate at the dinner table. Buon Appetito!