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Apuan Alps & Vermentino

Updated: Nov 19, 2020

Marble mountains & lard

If you've ever been to Italy and admired the marble that is displayed bountifully in the churches, palaces, and many statues, it's quite likely the blocks for all these ornaments originated from the Apuan Alps, around Massa Carrara (picture above).

While it took Michelangelo Buonarrotti 8 months to transport the block he needed for the David back to Florence, today it's a mere 2-hour ride from Florence, out towards the sea, and then up.

It's truly a stunning place. The white mountains always trick you into thinking that snow has fallen. But, of course, it's just the many marble caves showing off their precious stone.

As you leave the industrial part of Carrara by the sea and head inland, you will get to a village called Colonnata.

In February (so one of our last outings before Covid) we went and enjoyed a superb lunch feasting especially on the local specialty, the lard cured in marble tubs.

A random view from the road leading up to Colonnata featuring a marble cave from the 1st century BC
The Lardo di Collonata is a specialty made from pork and cured with salt, herbs and spices in marble tubs
Served on top of bread, instead of butter. Such a delicious delicacy.
Prunes wrapped in lard and baked in the oven, served with gravy (at Emanuele's restaurant).

Vermentino wine

The region is also known for its wines. In recent years, vineyards have been claimed back by a new generation and planted with regional grapes. Especially noteworthy are the Vermentino wines. Not just the white wine, but also a red, made from two distinctive grape varieties both called Vermentino (no logic, I know, but this is how it often goes in Italy).

Vermentino Bianco (usually the one we refer to simply as Vermentino) is one of Italy's most popular white grapes at the moment. Originating in northern Sardegna, it's being made into mainly fresh whites also along the coast of Tuscany and into Liguria and Provence. Its notes of apple, citrus, apricots & peach make it the perfect wine to pair with seafood of all sorts, like spaghetti alle vongole, but also baked or grilled fish.

Vermentino Nero, on the other hand, is a rather unknown grape variety that originates in this little corner of Tuscany. It was saved from extinction in the 80'ies and has since been replanted by several wineries, making it the most groundbreaking red wine of the region.

It is a relatively light-colored red with black fruit, coffee, and pepper notes. The acidity is remarkable and gives it the potential for aging, which according to the producer, Emanuele Crudeli (in the video) would make for an ideal experience of this rare grape variety.

Emanuele makes wine, his wife makes honey. They also run a restaurant in Carrara.

Last week I passed by Emanuele's winery, Terre Apuane, to pick up a few cases for our Mystery Box and hear a bit more about the Vermentinos.

See what we talked about in the video (remember to give us a like or, even better, subscribe).

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