The apprentices go to Tuscany
Heidi was one of the lucky few that accompanied the apprentices on their trip to Tuscany. She gives her own account of all the goings on…
What an opportunity for our thirteen apprentices, a sourcing trip to Tuscany, kindly sponsored by our wine suppliers Liberty Wines. Although it may seem an extravagance the trip is pivotal in their development and the apprentice programme. It gives them a real insight to the inspiration behind the food and flavours of Fifteen Cornwall. It’s a great opportunity for them to see the suppliers we use and understand the Italian food culture first hand.
We all met early on the platform of Bodmin Parkway eagerly awaiting the First Great Western Sleeper train due in at 11:06pm but already running late, not that we minded. Everyone was excited and keen to see what exactly was meant by a sleeper train. We were pleasantly surprised. Everyone had a bed and was woken promptly for breakfast at 6am, although I cannot account for the amount of sleep that was had.
The second stage of our journey was by plane from Heathrow to Pisa, this was the first time for some of our apprentices to fly so it was interesting to see their excitement and apprehension. Being a dubious flyer myself we took off and landed perfectly and offered the captain a rousing round of applause, which some felt was odd.
Once in Pisa we met our hosts and guides from Liberty Wines and were whisked off to our first winery, Selvapiana in the north east region of Chianti (an area situated in the hills between Florence and Sienna).
Mark from Sideways Cornwall was also filming our trip and caught up with the apprentices throughout the experience.
It was here that the true extent of the beauty of Tuscany was reviled. The rolling hills, the sun drenches vines of reds, greens and oranges, the old Tuscan villas with their terracotta roofs nestling in the landscape.
Selvapinana is in the Rufina zone, the smallest region in Chianti, and has been a family run vineyard since 1827, the oldest vines over 42 years old. The immediate smell of vanilla hit us as we walked into the fermentation chamber. They had only recently harvested the grapes. We were then shown into the cellars where they keep old vintages and on to taste some of their wines and olive oil, mainly of wine we use in the restaurant and generated some debate between the sommeliers.
It was then on to Petrolo in the Colli Aretini region, where we would spend the night and experience true Italian passion and hospitality. Petrolo harvest grapes and olives and produce wines of a exceptional standard which we serve in at Fifteen. The cellars were vast and old and the apprentices enjoyed the passion of Stefano, the wine maker as they tasted the different varieties.
After the tasting it was quite late but the Signor of the Estate delighted us with a fantastic dinner and a chance to taste different vintages of the same wine, giving the apprentices a chance to see that there are so many different elements that go into a wine vintage and extending the debate between the sommeliers some more.
After a rested night and before we moved on again we took an early morning hike up to the Galatrona Tower, the highest point on the Estate where on a clear day you could see the four corners of Chianti. It was well worth the jaunt. The view was spectacular.
Our next stop was Volpaia, the only winery in Tuscany presently licensed to make vinegar. The apprentices obviously use it all the time in their cooking as they were all very interested and keen to compare and contrast the flavours.
Then it was back to wine with Fontodi. A fantastically modern vineyard situated in the ‘conca d’oro’ (golden shell) in the main Classico region of Chianti. Giovanni was the stereotypically stylish Italian gentleman and guided us around his estate with grace. It was a wonderful vineyard and cellar which seemed to go on forever. And the primary business isn’t even wine, its terracotta.
We tasted, compared, contrasted, with the aid of bread and cheese and before we knew it, it was time to leave to meet Dario Cecchini, the famous butcher extraordinaire. He didn’t speak a word of English, but he didn’t need to. His body language and passion was so intense that our apprentices were captivated. He gave a workshop on how to use all the different cuts from a hind of beef and then we were lucky enough to try all these different cuts over lunch as his guest in his restaurant. Our lunch was a meat eaters dream, consisting of over ten different beef dishes using the whole hind. And to accompany our lunch we were treated to a range of Fontodi wines and a shot of grappa, which I declined. I didn’t think it mixed well with red wine.
Before we knew it, it was the end of our second day in Tuscany and we were on to our overnight stay in Capezzana, Carmignano, the very north tip of Chianti.
Capezzana was in complete contrast to the modern Fontodi. The cellars were dark and old and libraries of old bottles lined the walls, the earliest dating to 1920. After our tour we were lucky enough to see the olive oil press and filter. The quality and flavour of the oil was apparent in the vibrancy of the green colour and the smell of fresh olives. Again, we were treated to a wonderful Italian meal and wine before bed.
On route back to Pisa airport we had the opportunity to sample the delights of the food market in Florence before making our long journey home. Coach, plane and finally train, arriving back at Bodmin Parkway in the early hours of Saturday morning. We were all very tired but inspired by the passion that our Italian friends had shared.
A truly valuable trip for all everyone!