Salumi Field Trip

Freshly made salame

Last week I had my first field trip with the University of Gastronomic Sciences, a thematic stage looking at salumi (cured meats).

I was very lucky to be allocated to the group going to the Antica Macelleria Falorni in Greve, Tuscany where we were accommodated very generously and luxuriously by the Folonari family at their wine estate, Tenuta di Nozzole. This led to us learning almost as much about wine as salumi during our stay…

Tenuta di Nozzole house and vineyards

After arrival in Greve and a brief welcome at the Falorni shop and by the mayor of Greve, we were taken to Tenuta di Nozzole, one of the key estates of Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari Tenute. After driving up through the vineyards of the estate we arrived at the impressive estate house and were shown to our bedrooms by the butler. This was not quite how I had expected these trips to be.

Before dinner we were invited to our first tasting of Folonari wines concentrating on Sangiovese variants from Montepulciano and Montalcino …

  • Pancole 2003, Rosso di Montepulciano
  • TorCalvano 2001, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
  • TorCalvano 2000, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva
  • La Fuga 2003, Rosso di Montalcino
  • La Fuga 1999, Brunello di Montalcino
  • Le Due Sorelle 1999, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva

My not particularly extensive notes indicated I was most impressed by the TorCalvano 2001.

The next day we were taken to the more remote Val d’Elsa to see free-range raising of cinta senese pigs (a traditional breed of Tuscany) and wild boar raised in the woods…

Wild boar & piglets

We had lunch at the agriturismo La Fornace where we ate an extremely good polenta with wild boar and sausage.

Tenuta di Nozzole cellar

Back at Tenuta di Nozzole we were shown around the winery by Giovanni Folonari who gave us some background on their operations. They now have 7 wineries with their own vineyards allowing them to fully control yields and quality. He explained that they were trying to keep the wine less time in wood and more time in the bottle to reduce some of the adverse reactions that occur within the barrel. He explained how expensive it is to make wine in Tuscany compared to places where mechanisation can reduce costs. He gave an example that here it took 300 hours work per hectare, producing around 6.5 tons of grapes where in Australia it could be done with 100 hours labour and a yield of 20 tons. He showed us the bottling plant where they have invested in an expensive nitrogen bottling system to prevent oxidation at that stage.

Wine tasting at Tenuta di Nozzole

Back at the house we had our second tasting, this time including some of further afield Folonari wines and some of the closest…

  • Campo Al Mare Vermentino 2004, Bolgheri
  • Campo Al Mare Rosso 2003, Bolgheri
  • Vigne a Porrona Syrah 2004, Maremma
  • Vigne a Porrona Merlot 2004, Maremma
  • Porrona Morellino di Scansano 2004
  • Cabreo Il Borgo 2000, Sangiovese + 30% Cab. Sauv.
  • Cabreo La Pietra 2003, Chardonnay

The Cabreo are the group’s top wines, made only in years when the conditions are right, the red grapes coming from a prized location next to Tenuta di Nozzole, the chardonnay from a little south of Greve. Il Borgo was deeply coloured, rich, smooth and elegant. La Pietra was also very good, quite a lot of sweetness left, very fresh acidity and honeyed flavours. They said La Pietra was usually good for 10 years of cellaring.

Wednesday we learnt about some of the health and safety problems and controls within the meat and meat processing industry. In the afternoon we visited the Falorni processing facility where we viewed the processing, aging and storage of the various products made. Stefano Bencistà also taught us how to tie salame and gave us a few tasks to help out in the packaging department. We also saw them preparing rather a lot of pigs heads for a sopresata.

We ended the afternoon in the Cantina di Greve where you can try an extensive selection of Tuscan wines by the glass (they have bottles with airtight delivery systems) and I was able to try a number of wines whose bottles are beyond a student’s budget like Montesodi Chianti Ruffina 2001, Dievole Novecento Chianti Classico Riserva 2000, Castel Giocondo Brunello di Monalcino 2000, Altesino Brunello di Montalcino 2000, Poggio alle Mura Banfi Brunello di Montalcino 2000, Bruno di Rocca Vecchio Terre Montefili 2002 Super Tuscan, Antiteatro Vecchio Terre di Montefili 2000 Super Tuscan, Montevertine 2001 Super Tuscan and a Castello Pommino Vin Santo.

Reeling a little after tasting (not spitting) all those, we headed for our dinner at Osteria Mangiando Mangiando in Greve where Chef Salvatore Toscano cooked us the famous Fiorentina (Chianina) steak.

Aging salame

Thursday morning Lorenzo Bencistà told us about the factors involved with the aging of salumi. The need for good ingredients, where the meat has the correct level of fat, the slaughter is done without stress to the animal, the blood is removed quickly after slaughter as blood is ideal place for microbial growth, the need for the carcass to be cooled not too quickly and not too slowly. Then the meat needs to hang to allow certain bacteria to start the maturation process. He explained the salame process, the meat is minced (size depending on the type of salame) and salt is added (3-4%), put into intestine casing and pricked to create holes. The salame is then rested 8 hours so that the salt can diffuse. Then the drying process starts at 16C, 60-75% humidity for 1 week. At this stage the salame will start to develop moulds which feed on the lactic acid produced by bacteria within as fermentation starts and ammonia is produced. The total process depends on the size of the form – a small one may take 1-2 weeks, a medium one 4-6, still at 16C and 70% humidity.

Next we were told about the marketing strategy of Falorni by Italo Baldini. He explained that the success of the operation was down to creating an image of the products that included the culture, people, history and territory of Greve – so that there is more than just a food. The products were also always eaten by all the workers of the company ensuring knowledge and attention to quality and desirability. He told us that they had had difficulties with their success, with growth of 30-40% per year difficult to cater for in terms of production and storage space and recruiting staff for work that requires skill but is not valued. With their products they use small wooden packaging with straw which allows the salame to breath and also looks attractive, simple and traditional. The packaging theme runs throughout their products and they see it is as an important factor in the relationship with customers.

Pasta with saffron at Giovanni Verrazzano

For lunch we vistited the restaurant Giovanni Verrazzano where they produce saffron. The main dish was pasta with saffron.

Preparation of sopresata

Then we had our last visit to the Falorni factory where we saw them finishing the cooking of the pigs heads we had seen previously and making the sopresata.

After that we had a tasting of some of the 50 different salumi they produce. We tasted Salame Greve that they have produced for 300 years, a salame with quite a large cut. Salame Cinghiale (wild boar) which is relatively new to them, Salame Nobile, Salame del Toro di Chianina (Chianina bull) , their Lardo, Finochiona which has wild fennel added and a Cinta Senese Salame.

That evening at Tenuta di Nozzole we had our last wine tasting with mostly wines from the Friuli part of Folonari’s operation…

  • Novacuzzo Tocai 2004
  • Novacuzzo Sauvignon Blanc 2004
  • Novacuzzo Pinot Grigio 2004
  • and for a fine finish Cabreo La Pietra 1998

La Pietra 1998 showed what could happen with that wine with a bit of aging in comparison to the 2003 we had tasted previously. It had developed very complex tastes and flavours including some caramel and coffee notes.

Friday before returning to Bra we visited one of a young, dynamic, organic olive oil producer, Pruneti di San Polo in Chianti. With him we visited a local olive mill which was in the midst of production. Then we tasted 4 oils of his, Leccino, Moraiolo, another Moraiolo from a different part of the estate and Viuzzo, a blend of 75% Frantoio 15% Moraiolo and 10% Pendolino.

More photos of the trip are here.

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