The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Two Takes on Tuscan Bread

From my own traveling, I’ve learned that every place has a specific cuisine or beverage that all tourists must try at least once before leaving. In Gruyere, it’s the fondue. In Barcelona, it’s the paella. New Orleans has shrimp and grits, and, of course, you’ve never really been to New York until you’ve tried the pizza.

From my own traveling, I’ve learned that every place has a specific cuisine or beverage that all tourists must try at least once before leaving. In Gruyere, it’s the fondue. In Barcelona, it’s the paella. New Orleans has shrimp and grits, and, of course, you’ve never really been to New York until you’ve tried the pizza.

This commonplace holds true for the small Tuscan hill town of Montepulciano. Embodying the charm of a traditional town of Toscana, Montepulciano is known for its “big” Sangiovese-based wines and delicious, yet simple, food.

Most of Montepulciano’s traditional dishes encompass fresh, local ingredients—and this combination of locality and seasonality means really spectacular cuisine. However, as much as it’s known for its lamb stew and pasta with rabbit—and Vino Nobile wine—Montepulciano is particularly known for its bread. When searching for a great summer recipe, one dish in particular caught my eye: panzanella. A very easy dish, panzanella combines everyday ingredients—and in doing so, it gets its nickname of “leftover salad” or “bread salad.” Panzanella is mostly made of cubes of bread that are combined with ripe tomatoes, peppers, basil, onions, a touch of mint, olive oil and traditional seasonings. I could see this dish as an accompaniment to a hearty steak on the grill with a delicious glass of any of the region’s wines, especially a nice Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

My interest was also piqued by another traditional Tuscan dish called Ribollita. This dish also focuses on the Ciabatta bread of the region, but it serves as a comfort food and is soaked in bean soup and often topped with freshly squeezed olive oil. I thought it would be perfect on a cold, rainy day, perhaps complemented by a glass of Il Macchione Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, a full-bodied wine that would go nicely with such a hearty soup. I’d also add some slow roasted meat to add a little more substance and flavor.

This summer, I sadly don’t have any trips planned. Therefore, I’m traveling to Montepulciano through some traditional recipes and wine in the comfort of my own home. It’s the next best thing to being there.

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