Friday, September 29, 2017

A perfect day

It's perhaps a little unconventional to nominate a perfect honeymoon day as one in which my sister and a friend tagged along, but last Saturday, we really did have a wonderful day. The weather was great, the scenery spectacular, the food good and the company fun.

Post-wedding, my sister took the opportunity to travel a little in Italy also, before heading back to New Zealand. By coincidence, we happened to be in Bologna on the same day, so in the morning, we set out for Ferrara, set a rendezvous point on the edge of Bologna, and picked up Jess and Jo for a trip to the Opera02 agritourism centre, located in the hills about 50 minutes from Bologna.

Emilia-Romagna, the region which is home to Bologna (and Ferrara, Parma, Modena, etc.) is known above all for its fine produce and cuisine. Amongst its world-famous products are Parma ham, Parmesan cheese, mortadella sausage (the original "baloney"), and Balsamic vinegar, as well as recipes like bolognese sauce, lasagne and tortellini. We knew we wanted to do some food tourism while we were there, and picked Opera02 because it offered two kinds of food tours - balsamic vinegar and lambrusco wine tasting, because it had good restaurant reviews, and for its stunning location in the countryside.

It delivered on all points. We learnt a lot I didn't know about Balsamico tradizionale di Modena. The first thing being that there is such a thing as Balsamico tradizionale di Modena. It turns out that, while the vinegar you can buy in the supermarket labelled "Balsamico di Modena" probably is authentically produced in Modena, it's actually not the super high quality (and expensive), certified "Protected Designation of Origin" stuff. The Tradizionale vinegar is aged longer, produced differently (from cooked grape must only) and must be certified by the governing body and placed in a specific bottle.

We tasted balsamics (by the way, the name comes from "balsam", as it was used to dress wounds and as a medicine for things like sore throats before people thought of it as a condiment) of different ages, plus one which was used as a traditional sweetener before Europeans had refined sugar. You really could taste the difference between them and the standard supermarket stuff. All the vinegars produced at Opera02 were made in the same process, but there was a big price jump between those which had the tradizionale label (aged longer and certified) and those that did not, so all of us opted to buy the 12 year aged but non-certified variety. This is meant to be used as a condiment with strong cheese or meat, rather than as a salad dressing, due to its strong flavour (and price!)

The "battery" where tradizionale vinegar is aged. It starts in the biggest barrel on the right, and then after a year, some is scooped out and put into the next barrel. The sizes decrease as the vinegar loses volume to evaporation, and each barrel is made from a different type of wood to impart different flavours to the balsamic. The barrel on the right can then be topped up again from a large vat.

Part two was a tour of the wine-making part of the operation, where they produce a variety of red and white wines, but particularly sparkling lambrusco wines. I'm no expert on Italian wine, but I gather lambrusco has a bit of a bad rap. A sparkling red is not to everyone's taste, but it was enjoyable, and we all particularly enjoyed the sparkling rosé lambrusco.

Bottles in riddling racks
Next was lunch, on the most beautiful terrace in gorgeous weather. It rained most of the next day, which made the recollection of our lovely lunch all the sweeter. The food was great too.

Our view

Lamp friend

My sister's travelling companion Little Shark trying to steal some dessert

The perfect day continued back in Bologna, but I think I'm going to have to make that a Part Two. Ciao!

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