Monday, January 4, 2010

Cori Day Trip

    Temple of Hercules and Medieval bell tower

Of Wine and Lazio

    Cori is a small medieval town in Latina, which is a province of Lazio, in Italy.  Rome is also in the region of Lazio, and yet, unlike many parts of Italy, Lazio is one of the most forgotten regions of Italy.  Rome, a city of monuments, popes and politics, overwhelms Lazio, leaving towns like Cori to continue to evolve and watch time go by as they remain unchanged.  The towns of Lazio have a medieval facade, which often buries a pre-roman foundation.  Rome, too, was once a village,  that became an empire, which them fell to become another medieval village of Italy.  Cori is a town I want to keep my eye on. As a wine drinker, I have a deep fascination with the wines of Italy, and I especially love the "newer" style of Lazio winemaking.  In Cori, they are going back to their roots, rediscovering their indigenous grapes and making great and interesting wines at a very good price.  Cori, was once a town of Volsci, a Pre-Roman Italian civilization who were assimilated by the Romans by the 6th c. BCE.   The Romans were very good at assimilated cultures throughout the penninsula, and virtually eliminating any memory of the culture before.  Or so they thought.  You can still meet people who refer to themselves as Latini, Volsci, or Etruschi. Long ago, when Rome fell to Barbarians, People maintined their ancient heritage and remembered their roots.  The birth of the Middle Ages in Rome gave birth to what Italy is today, which is not so much the heir of homogenous Rome,  but a very diverse culture of hundreds of dialects, kitchens, and wine.  People went back to their roots in the middle ages.  They built their medieval towns on the ancient foundations that already existed.  They isolated themselves, and really, the only true link they had with each other was the Church.   This is why, when we visit these old stone towns upon hills, we travel back in time, to a pastoral Italy that is dying and going extinct.  Before the monuments of Rome, Italians were pastoral people, very much linked to the land, and soo they still are.  Cori is a fantastic example of Lazio being built on itself time and time again.  We walked through the town, visited the medieval alleys, saw the Roman gates, all built on top of Pre-Roman foundations.  The roots of the greatest Roman orator, Cicero, are Volscian.  His house was in the valley below Velletri, the capital of the Volscian league. 

    Trattoria Da Checco

 We decided to have lunch first.  Cori is about 45 km. south of Rome, so it was a lovely drive past the Castelli Romani through Velletri and down to the grassy fields of Cori.  We found this trattoria,  Trattoria Da Checco When we arrived, it was empty, but I suppose this is because we arrived earlier than the usual lunch hour for Italians.  One of the reasons I wanted to eat here is because they had a local wine list, including wines from the Carpineti cantina.  Marco Carpineti makes wonderfully rustic and organic wine all made with the indigenous grapes of the area.  

     We ordered the Capomole.  Now, I don't usually carry around a wine notebook when I am having a casual lunch, but I wanted to make a note of this wine, because I really enjoyed it.  Luckily I had a tiny notebook that I used to scribble some tasting notes.  First, the color: we noted it was ruby red with a hint of garnet.  We both found the aromas intense and complex, a very earthy wine, with hints of clay and wet forrest.  We noted leather, dried red currants, with hints of wet grass and rosemary.  Underneath all that it had a very obvious note of licorice, which made sense when I read it was a blend that incuded the Montepulciano grape.  There was something I couldn't quite wrap my  nose around, it was a bitter and earthy aroma.  It made my mouth water and reminded me of sunshine and the fall in Tuscany.  It reminded me of youthful love and then sipping wine in a moldy wine cellar in Rome while snacking on porcini mushrooms. Then it came to me, black truffles!  In fact, it came to me in such a flash that I shouted to Ettore, Tartufi Neri!  While my nose was busy in the glass, I failed to notice that the trattoria had filled up, and it wasn't just Ettore and I anymore.  Oh well, for me, truffles are always something to get excited about!  I also noted a hint of pencil.  Why would I know this?  I am one of those anxious people that chews on pencils while listening to lectures.  I have known what pencils taste and smell like since I was a child in elementary school.   This was on the palate was very well rounded, mineral, dry and had lovely soft tannins.  It was warm on the palate, I didn't write it down, but I believe it was at least 13%.  For me, I didn't find it fresh enough.  The acidity for me was lower than I would have expected, but Ettore found the wine to be very fresh.   On this we differed.  Wine is, afterall, subjective, perhaps I had a cold.  This wine is made from a blend of Montepulciano, Nero Buono, and Cesanese grapes.  How very laziale!  Now, on to the food.... 

We both ordered antipasto verdure grigliate.  We each got a plate of grilled and marinated vegetables including eggplant, sundried tomatoes, artichoke, olives, and red peppers.  All were very fresh and delicious, though, I found them a bit on the oily side. 

Luckily they gave us enough of this rustic bread to clean up all the leftover olive oil in the plate! Hi Ettore!  :)

I ordered Cellitti con funghi porcini e zucchine for my first course  The pasta was incredible and prefectly al denteCellitti is a water and flour pasta that is very easy to make at home.  It was all very fresh and flavorful, but, again, I found that they were a little heavy handed with the oil.  When I was almost finished and at the bottom of the bowl, the pasta was swimming in oil.  errrrrr...

For my second course I ordered fresh porcini mushrooms.  They were amazing.  They had the perfect consistency and firmness, they were cooked to perfection, with just the right amount of oil, salt, parsley and red pepper.  They had a nice soft bitterness that I quite enjoyed with the the wine. 

I also ordered grilled radicchio.  Talk about BITTER.  It was so delicious I was practically licking the plate when I was done.  Wikipedia defines radicchio as follows:  Radicchio is a leaf chicory (Cichorium intybus, Asteraceae), sometimes known as Italian chicory. It is grown as a leaf vegetable which usually has white-veined red leaves. It has a bitter and spicy taste, which mellows when it is grilled or roasted.  YUMIt was bitter and it overpowered the wine.  Luckily we had pretty much finished the bottle off before the radicchio.

 We decided to have a walk around the town, which was pretty much a ghost town built on a hill with stones.  I love these old doors. 

The Temple of Hercules

     It was just fantastic to walk through Cori and see the old temples with Christian churches built into them.  Our trip ended with a drive down the hill to the winery Marco Carpineti where we tasted a few more wines and bought a case to go home with.  Unfortunately they had sold  every single bottle of white wine!  I have had their whites and they are lovely.  Mr. Carpineti was a very gracious host.  He spent ample time with us explaining their organic vineyards, introducing us to the enologist, describing their methods and philosophy, and letting us taste some wines.  He also had some very nice cats(what can I say, I am a sucker for kitties!).  Carpineti incorporates old winemaking with the new, using sound and sustainable practices on the land which has produced wine for thousands of years. 

If you are interested in an enogastronomic day tour from Rome, contact Antiqua Tours