Friday, November 13, 2009

Fall Traditions in Veneto - Chesnuts and Novello wine

The summer in Italy ended with a screeching halt two weeks ago, literally overnight the temperature went from hot and humid to cold and damp. However, as much as I do love the summer, the fall in Italy comes in a close second. With the changing of the weather comes a change in activities. The piazza is still the place to be in the evening with a spritz in hand, but the ice in the glass makes it a bit chilly so some adaptation needs to occur. With the added chill in the air comes the added treat of the little man who roasts chestnuts...yes, it's over an open fire and some “New Wine”.

I used to live in Boston and there would be a man downtown that would roast chestnuts, but he used a gas powered fire and the smell just about made me sick and he didn't do it by hand, he had a little machine that swept in circles inside of this steel barrel turning the nuts. On the contrary, my little roaster man here uses real wood that realizes a sweet smelling smoke that gently curls over the roofs of the nearby buildings lining the piazza. The nuts are actually roasted by hand by a gentleman who (in my opinion is nearly 80) uses a giant, cast iron skillet with holes in the bottom that has a long (about 6 feet) wooden handle.

I must admit that this little 80 year old man is my favorite roaster; he seems to know exactly how to toss the nuts into the air so that the shells come off of the nuts. Even as he continues to roast them, he never burns the actual nut inside and every single one has a warm, sweet, flavor that didn't exist with the roaster in Boston. Each skillet filled with nuts is just as perfect as the one before it and he seems to do it so effortlessly that you would think that the skillet is a feather in his hand.

The price for a bag of freshly roasted, piping hot chestnuts is roughly 1.50 Euro per etto (1 etto = 100 grams; 500 grams is 1.1 pounds) which is more than enough for 1 person. With all of this goodness around you, you can have a relaxing, romantic, fall evening in the piazza. But what if you get thirsty? Novello wine, roughly translated, means New Wine. Why? Because that's exactly what it is. From now until the beginning of summer, Italians alone will drink somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 bottles of this sweet, smooth, very young red wine. Every year this wine is typically produced from the beginning of November (usually the 6th) to the end of March...that's it.

Novello is an easy drinking wine that isn't very strong, and for those of you who think that you prefer something a little fruity, I guarantee this will be right up line of sight! Novello wine is meant to be drank immediately. Don't think about buying a bunch of bottles and storing them in your wine cellar, by this time next year the wine would be bad. Just pick up a bottle and uncork it, it's the way to do it. The main thing that makes Novello the way it is comes from the way that it is fermented. The grapes are not crushed like they are with most wines, but rather the wine is fermented using whole grapes, this allows for a minimum amount of sugar to be converted into alcohol, which consequently gives the wine it's smooth, fruity, flavor.

So if you're thinking of heading to Venice in the next few weeks, perhaps this could be a lovely alternative to the many enotecas and wine bars that abound in Venice. Find yourself a cozy piazza with a man roasting chestnuts and small enoteca that offers Novello might be the best night you'll ever spend in Venice. But don't think you have to come only to Venice to experience this, you can also find a wondeful array of roasters in Padova, Treviso, Bologna, as well as many other small towns around Northern Italy. If you happen to see me in the piazza make sure you say “Buona sera.”.

Brad is Tripbod in Veneto and Venice

See his profile and contact him to start planning your perfect trip

1 comment:

  1. Wow, those chestnuts are enough to make anyone want to visit, I'm on my way!


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