This was one of the most interesting and informative press trips that Michele and I have been on. We tasted Pecorino Toscano in all of it forms, went to a sheep farm, tasted the cheese with wine and with beer, had a cooking lesson and lunch afterward, ate in some very good restaurants, explored the Parco della Maremma, went to two cheese making plants and spent an evening in Siena.
We not only learned about how Pecorino Toscano is produced, but also about the Maremma and the area around Pisa in Tuscany, how to cook with it, and what to drink with it, .
We stayed in the Villa Fattoria Granducale Alberese which is owned by the Consorzio Tutela Pecorino Toscano DOP. The Villa was originally a fort built in the 15th century by a Prior of the Order of the Knights of Malta. It sits in a park like setting on a hilltop. It has undergone many transformations over the centuries and in the 16th century a chapel was built next to the main structure.
The next day at the Villa Fattoria Granducale Alberese Chef Giuseppe Villani from the nearby cooking school, along with some of his students conducted a cooking class. Chef Villani demonstrated several dishes made with Pecorino Toscano and some of us helped helped him prepare them. In the photo below, he is showing Michele his technique for tossing his homemade pasta together and pecorino Toscano in the pan.
For dessert, the chef made these delicious Sardinian cheese turnovers made with Pecorino Toscano.
With lunch we had the wines of Provveditore presented by Cristina Bargagli. We tasted the Il Bargaglino Vermento Maremma Toscana DOC made from 85% Vermentino and 15% Trebbiano Toscano, Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Ansonica. The “Casaiolo” Maremma Toscana Rosato DOC made from 50% Sangiovese and 50% Syrah. The “Provveditore” Morellino di Scansano DOCG made from 100% Sangiovese and the “Primo” Morellino di Scansano DOCG Riserva made from 85% Sangiovese and 15% Alicante and Cabernet Sauvignon.
That nignt we went on the horse drawn carriage ride in the Parco della Maremma. It took us an hour and a half to cross the Granducale pinewood forest and reach the beach and dunes of Collelungo.
The park is located south of the Maremma coast and it extends for 9,800 hectares from Peincipina a Mare to Talamone. The scenery changed as we passed Mediterranean scrub, caves, dunes, sand and cliffs.
By the time we finished it was getting dark and along the route we saw wild boar and wild cattle among other animals I could not identify. Their was some problem on the way back and the had two change the position of the horses. It was quite an adventure!!!
The next day we visited Caseificio il Fiorino were we saw first hand how Pecorino Toscano is made. We were given a tour of the plant by the owners Angela Fiorino and her husband Simone Sargentoni. In their natural cheese-aging caves, we tasted the cheese in various forms and toasted the cheesemakers with sparkling wine. Simone said the company is over 50 years old and all their products are made with sheeps’ milk from selected local breeding farms.
The cheese in the aging cave
We went with Simone to a sheep farm where he gets the milk for a cheese. The flocks are are raised in a limited territory specified by the Designation of Origin Protection (DOP). The sheep come from different breeds, either those indigenous to Tuscany (mostly from the Massese breed) or those brought from the area of production from other places (Comisans and Sarda). We also saw the sheep being milked.
The next day left Acciaiuolo di Fauglia (Pisa) to visit Caseificio Busti, founded in 1955. Today Stefano Busti along with his son Marco and daughter Benedetta manage the family company. This is a big operation and includes a large cheese making plant, a retail store and a restaurant. They have maintained the family tradition keeping the crafting method unchanged from the dry salting process, using a type of salt that comes from the nearby salt flats of Volterra, to manual cheese making and the crust treatment using natural products.
The finished cheese
We tasted the cheese and food with beer by Birrifico Artigianale J63 of winery Torre a Cenaia with Esther Filippi. Esther explained how the beer was made and the most interesting was the one made with 5% Vermentino wine.
JLIPS Birra Agricola Toscana con mosto di Vermentino made from water, barley malt, wheat flakes, hop yeast (Top fermentation) and Vermentino grape must 5%. The style of the beer is Italian Grape Ale. The Vermentino must is added fresh while boiling. Vermentino grapes are grown on the estate. The color is golden yellow and the foam is fine, compact and persistent. It has fresh floral notes with hints of white fruit and grape aromas and nice minerality and a light taste of malt. The Alcohol is 6%. This was my favorite — the addition of Vermentino made it very mellow
We then went to Siena where we were privileged to see the presentation of of the new flag for this years Palio. Afterward we enjoyed sitting in the magnificent Campo di Siena where we had dinner.
The trip was a real eye opener. We not only learned a lot about this excellent cheese and all of its varieties, but we enjoyed visiting this remarkably unspoiled part of Tuscany.