Wine tasting at Roccafiore

Well, when in Rome - or more accurately, Umbria…

Exactly, we just had to visit a vineyard on our trip to Italy this autumn, and MOH lost no time trying to find just the one. And that’s how we ended up at Roccafiore, a vineyard in Todi close to where we were staying. What interested me was what they call the “natural and sustainable viticulture” which we learnt means a more natural way of producing wine.

A view over the vineyard's gardens and terraced patios

It’s just a small vineyard set in the hills of Todi, the terraced gardens where we had our tasting were very pretty - usually the tastings take place inside, but as it was unexpectedly warm we were more than happy to sit in this pretty setting. When we arrived the workers were having their lunch, and they were a great advert for their company - I’ve said it before, but you can tell a lot by a company by their workers, and later when we saw them at work, they looked equally as happy.

A place to perch and enjoy the Italian Countryside

Having our tasting outside meant more work for our host as she fetched and carried everything we needed, including a pretty jam jar of flowers and a wine passport for us to make notes about the wines in, and some weird dog-like biscuits (in the basket) which I wasn’t much of a fan of.

The serious business of wine tasting was ready to begin
admiring the roccafiore merchandising

We’d chosen to have lunch alongside the wine, which is always a good move, and the lunch included some of the charcuterie from pigs kept on the land, which tasted as good as it looks. There’s also olive groves on the land and they also produce olive oil, which we tasted slathered over bread, and also very tasty. Tasty isn’t a word I thought I’d use about olive oil, and it’s here we realised that we don’t use olive oil in the same way at home, and it’s wasted how we do use it!

local charcuterie to accompany the wines
the best tasting olive oil

When it got to the part of the tasting that the price list came out we surprised ourselves by considering the olive oil. We didn’t buy any though as there were only 3l cans available, and this summer aside, we couldn’t think of when we could make use of so much olive oil to do it justice, which was a shame.

We also did the calculation on the optimum bottles of wine to ship home, which turned out to be three cases. Red, of course, although even I was tempted by a couple of the whites. And so a couple of weeks after we returned from Italy, some of their Il Roccafiore, a Sangiovese and Prova d’Autore (a blend of Sagrantino, Montepulciano and Sangiovese) followed us home.

A jam jar of flowers no doubt picked from the vineyard's gardens

As I said at the top of this post, when in Rome (or Umbria)…

Oil and vinegar

Or as my new bottles say Olio and Acete, a recent purchase as a momento from our break in Italy along with a new butter dish. And not surprisingly I’m embracing the yellow, so where better to photograph them than on the dresser in a particularly yellow spot.   

A momento from our recent holiday in Italy

We often bring something home from holiday to remind us of our trip, and quite often it’s something that catches our eye, rather than something that’s planned. But it’s always something we’ll use, or have a use for. 

On this trip it was very nearly a decorative plate that I fell for on our visits to the local town of Todi. In the maze of a town, or our circuitous route around it anyway, even I was surprised I managed to find the shop again on our second visit. But of course I managed to.  

A closer look at my new butter dish

After some longing and oohing over the ceramics, we asked the price and tried not to look too shocked. It was pricier than we expected, and I wasn’t sure if it would fit where I had in mind at home, let alone in our hand luggage. So with a last look we walked away, but even MOH was getting smitten and said to buy it if you want it.  

But I resisted, as I really wasn’t sure on the size. Although a new plan was forming, so back we headed to the shop again.  Only this time it was our final purchases that I had in mind.  

the ceramic oil and vinegar bottles
the bottles are shaped so they fit together

We’d seen many sets as we perused the shops in town, but none this colour and none squished like this so they nestled together. Clever, huh?

shaped bottles so they nest together

And then came the breakthrough.  We needed a new butter dish.  Yes, needed. (The glaze on ours has gone and butter seeps through the pottery and leaves a greasy mess on our kitchen worktop - so I mean needed).

But, I didn’t want to be without one. I’m a butter fan, and don’t like it fridge cold and so our butter is out and at room temperature year-round.  So when the butter dish hd been decided on too, and I’d agreed to get rid of the old one, MOH couldn’t quite believe his ears. He’d proffered replacement butter dishes over the years, but all had been rejected. Until now. 

finding a new home for my holiday momentoes on the dresser

And it was worth the wait. It’s quickly replaced the seeping dish in my affections, but sssh! don’t tell MOH, I think I’m only going to crock** half of the dish, as I realised the top half would make a great cover for cheese...

** and yes, to crock - that’s a verb, to break crockery to use as drainage “crocks” in plant pots. A great way to use old crockery as it’s satisfying to smash (as long as you look out for flying pieces) and when you next empty your pot, you never quite know what memory you will quite literally unearth! 

Homewares, Italian-style

When we were away recently in Italy we stayed on the outskirts of Todi, a relatively small hill top town in Umbria, with a population of almost 17,000. That might sound a lot, but in comparison even Greenwich has a population of quarter of a million (and that was in the 2011 census), so you can see why it felt small to us. But even so, my knack of stumbling across a fantastic homewares shop still managed to find its way, which really is quite something…

A glittery pumpkin

And so was the silver sequinned pumpkin. I’m not much of one for celebrating Halloween - I’m the type of person that pulls the curtains and doesn’t open the door, if the doorbell is rung by trick and treaters - but I could have made allowances for the sparkly pumpkin. The smaller plush fabric-ed pumpkins were also cute, but after seeing the sequinned one, there really wasn’t any comparison.

A smaller plush pumpkin

But the pumpkins were a bit of a distraction, once I saw these pots. By now MOH was looking concerned, as there was no way these would fit in our suitcase and I’m sure he was already planning his excuses for not having these in hand luggage either, and I have some sympathies.

Planters with texture that catch the eye
A closer look at the planters

My reason for giving these such a close look over was more than that. I was keen to know what they were made of - small wooden discs painted white - and how we could replicate them at home, and if we could use the small mountain of corks that seem to multiply at home.

I mean, I have no idea where they all come from…

But the real star of our visit was these exquisite bowls.

Wooden bowls underneath with a patterned interior

Aren’t they gorgeous?

They’re rustic wooden bowls with a smooth floral patterned interior. I don’t need any more bowls (but please don’t tell MOH) and I was very tempted, of course it helped that they were yellow, but I resisted. I didn’t even get as far as looking at the price, however I did take a picture of the label and the base and hope to be able to track down something similar online.

A sideview of the wooden and patterned bowls

I’m pretty sure that the floral pattern, which I’m hesitating to call vintage, featured in my childhood wardrobe at some point!

A zingy table setting

The Italians are shy of using yellow as these zingy scalloped bowls show. They’ve a bit of a kitsch feel about them, but they’re fun too. And we’re getting in on the yellow scene here in the UK now too, although we’re most likely to see a pop of mustard in our homewares, and in our wardrobes, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

I think after all the browsing, and especially the pausing to inspect closer MOH was relieved to leave the shop empty-handed, but that’s partly because we’d already bought a ceramic momento, but more on that next week.