Ad carnem erudire | A weekend in Franciacorta discovering historic meat recipes
From Adro to Rovato, by way of Erbusco and Cologne: a circular itinerary for beef and sparkling wine lovers
The spring is just beginning to peep through shyly and the lengthening days encourage our ‘weekend impatience’. If you are not a short working week pioneer, then simply do something crazy: On Friday, after lunch, pack a light bag, kidnap friends or family and treat them to a long weekend of good food and wine, on the basis of a themed itinerary designed especially for you. Destination: Franciacorta (south).
The first break we recommend is in the Adro area, a small town with a winemaking tradition located just six kilometres away from Lake Iseo (and, more significantly, less than an hour from Milan, traffic permitting). What better way to kick off the weekend could there be than a good glass of wine? We have decided to drink to the health of the Gatti family, Ferghettina a firm founded on the entrepreneurial spirit of Roberto who began managing his first four hectares in 1990 after twenty years of experience in Franciacorta’s wine estates and vineyards. Today Roberto and his wife Andreina, helped by their oenologist children and a large group of staff, manage 200 hectares of organically farmed vineyards scattered across eleven Franciacorta towns. If you don’t want to miss out on a visit to the estate, and a tasting obviously, get here before 3 pm and don’t forget to book.
After a glass of sparkling wine, perhaps poured from the square bottle patented by Matteo Gatti to increase the yeast deposit surface, it is now time to set off for Erbusco, beating heart of the Franciacorta DOCG area and headquarters of its consortium. If you’re not running out of energy visit the town’s Romanesque church, Pieve Romanica di Santa Maria Maggiore, and wander its streets in search of the historic town houses of the Brescia nobles.
At dusk, stop off for the night at Agriturismo Cascina Carretto, a 17th century estate set in gardens and vineyards. Here you’ll be welcomed by the Lamberti family, who have worked this land for four generations and owned it for two, farming it to vegetables, cattle and, most recently, vines. If there are children in your group you’ll certainly be comfortable in the upper first floor apartments with their splendid views of the surrounding vineyards. And don’t worry about having to venture out late in search of a meal as Claudia and Francesco will be happy to serve you dinner too.
If you’re looking for something more exclusive, in fact verging on the princely, L’Albereta is the place for you, a Neo Renaissance style historic residence dating to the late 19th century hosting a hotel built around a guest cult ensuring an ‘ability to guarantee total wellbeing and sublime pleasure for the senses’ and the Chenot Espace Health Wellness SPA means there is very little chance of it not living up to this. Finish off your day with yet another treat on the terrace of the LeoneFelice Vista Lago restaurant, suspended over the hotel’s historic park with enchanting views of Montisola.
It is Saturday morning now: throw open your windows and drink in the views over the Franciacorta vineyards. Don’t skip breakfast because at 10.30 a tasting will be waiting for you at Quadra wine estate in Cologne: in the space of just twenty years the firm has built a clear, recognisable identity, also thanks to the winemaking vision of Mario Falcetti, its manager since 2008. The innovative nature of his approach is visible primarily in its return to Pinot Blanc, which accounts for 20% of the twenty hectares farmed to vines (as against 3% of the Franciacorta production area as a whole). The maximum expression of this out-of-the-box thinking is EretiQ, a thought provoking classic method pas dosé minus its main character, Chardonnay. Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir in equal measure make for a stylish, minimalist and undoubtedly one-of-a-kind version of this denomination.
Continuing along the Franciacorta wine road for a further ten minutes takes you to Rovato, where every spring Lombardia Carne fair takes place, celebrating Rovato’s oil cooked beef, an over a century’s old dish made with cappello del prete (beef chuck), oil, garlic, breadcrumbs, anchovies and parsley. For a taste of this fine dish (protected by the De.Co. Brand since 2018) outside the fair context the best place is undoubtedly Trattoria del Gallo, a historic farmhouse dating back to the 17th century serving a menu based on local Brescia cuisine with its authentic no-frills style, just like this famous beef dish.
In the afternoon visit the town and make sure you stay until aperitif time. Al Malò – a name which encompasses the initials of its three Brescia partners – is in a 19th century building overlooking Rovato’s central square, a historic location which brings the best out of what is designed to be an unconventional format for this small Brescia town, a full-blown fine dining and mixing experience. And if you’re looking to add a touch of adrenalin to your weekend away, continue your Franciacorta exploration on a quad bike, taking advantage of a tour (complete with tasting if you like) accompanied by an expert guide who will take you through the rigorously geometric Franciacorta vineyards for a fun off-road adventure.
It is Sunday now and the time has come to pack up your bags again to return home but the day is still long and packed with surprises, first and foremost of which is a date at one of the area’s largest and best known wine estates. Ca’ del Bosco’s mission is to ‘listen to nature, giving it the chance to take shape via the assistance of humans acting as custodians of an extraordinary land, cultivating it but never using it up.’ This is what makes Maurizio Zanella and his family invest in technological innovation as a tool with which to ‘give nature (vines) the shape of culture (wine)’, building the foundations for tomorrow’s traditions. And culture pervades Ca’ del Bosco’s places via art – primarily sculpture – too, expressing values and concepts bound up with the grape life cycle, conceived of by artists after they visited the estate and designed to promote dialogue with the land they are part of.
For a final experience, just two minutes way a well-deserved culinary experience organised by Dispensa Franciacorta awaits you. This modern osteria, present in the Slow Food guide for years, promotes a new restaurant concept in which the history landlord figure is less theatrical but still present and, most importantly, better prepared to interact with international guests and aware of their responsibility to Franciacorta’s increasingly numerous tourists. Its menu revolves around Slow Food products with the cheese menu standing out, and featuring Fatulì della Val Saviore, Bagòss and many other dairy products characteristic of Lombardy (and beyond).
Just a few hundred metres further north there’s a great place to buy culinary souvenirs, Polastri Macèlér – expert butchers for four generations – where you can find out more about traditional cold cuts such as Rét (also known as Magiòla). This characteristic roe deer meat salami is protected by the De.Co brand and stands out for its large size, varying in weight from 5 to 14 kilos, and a powerfully aromatic flavour obtained with sage, lemon zest and garlic and a generous dash of Curtefranca bianca wine. The shop’s creative salamis flavoured with liquorice, chestnut honey, cocoa, coffee or chilli are also of interest.
With your belly full of beauty and goodness you’ll be ready to return home, replete with the wonderful stories and traditions which make our country so special and unique.