There are three things that every Italian region takes pride in – its wine, its food, and its olive oil.
We’ve covered all three topics in-depth on the Xtrawine blog in the past. And today will be no different. Only this time, we’re going to look at all three for a particular region in the country.
Today, Montecarlo will be the region of choice for the Xtrawine spotlight. And before you get the wrong idea, we’re not talking about Monte Carlo in Monaco. Instead, we’re going to look at the Italian region of the same (or at least very similar) name and what it has to offer to the discerning foodie.
A Little Bit About the Region
Montecarlo is located, like so many other wonderful wine regions, in Tuscany. More accurately, it occupies a central spot in Tuscany and is home to all sorts of delights.
Montecarlo itself is actually a commune, rather than a full-blown town. Moreover, most incorporate the neighbouring communes of Porcari, Altopascio, and Capannori into what is regarded as the wider Montecarlo region.
As mentioned, this is not the same Monte Carlo that is arguably better known thanks to Formula One racing. Interestingly, their names, though similar, actually have completely different origins too. The Monaco-based Monte Carlo’s name famously comes from Charles III, which was the king of the state of Monaco during the 19thcentury.
The Italian Montecarlo derives its name from another Charles from fair earlier. In this case, it comes from Charles IV, who served as the Holy Roman Emperor during the 14thcentury.
Having said all of that, both names roughly translate to “the hill of Charles”. It was just a pair of different Charleses that lent their names to the regions.
Montecarlo also has another claim to fame. It was one of the earliest regions to receive the DOC classification, with its wines starting to carry the label in 1969.
That DOC covers a much wider variety of wines than you would expect, many of which shy away from the famed Tuscan varieties. Having aid that, you’ll still find plenty of Sangiovese in many a Montecarlo wine. However, they also use other varieties, such as Trebbiano Toscano and Colorino. There’s also the exceedingly rare local variety of Sjiriak. Though producers are allowed to use it in their wines, the grape’s scarcity means that you’ll rarely find it. Having said that, a wine that does make use of this grape perhaps provides the truest representation of the region.
Now that you know a little about the region itself, let’s take a closer look at the wonderful tastes of Montecarlo.
As mentioned, Montecarlo wine uses a wide variety of grapes and there are several wines that come from the region.
Perhaps among the most popular are the Montecarlo Vin Santo varieties. This golden wines have a deep and sweet flavour that makes them particularly popular as a dessert wine. They’re made using grapes that are left to dry for several months following their harvest. This allows for the natural concentration of the sugars within the grapes, thus leading to the wine’s sweet taste.
Of course, there is also the Montecarlo DOC wine to consider. These wines are renowned for their wonderfully balanced flavours, with many considering them to be among the best examples of Tuscan wines. For those who know the Tuscany region and the many stunning wines that it produces, this is something of a lofty claim.
The Montecarlo DOC wines also come in both red and white varieties, which perhaps explains why the region is home to so many different types of grape. They’re also made in a specific area of the region. Montcarlo wines come exclusively from the area that lies south of Lucca down to the border of Pistoia.
In addition to complementing a number of local dishes, Montecarlo DOC wines tend to go very well with seafood.
The Colline Lucchesi DOC Wine is another that comes from the region. Much like the Montecarlo DOC, it comes in both red and white varieties. It also has a Vin Santo variety, which is much sweeter.
The key difference comes in where the grapes are grown. Producers occupy the hilly areas to the east and north of Lucca. While only a few short miles from the Montecarlo DOC zone, the wines are completely different and thus subject to different DOC classifications.
The Olive Oil of Montecarlo
But what about those who wish to look beyond the wines that the region has to offer?
Fear not, as Montecarlo is also highly regarded for the quality of the olive oil that comes from the region.
Lucca is again the main focus here. The DOP Extra Virgin Olive Oils of Lucca offer an interesting contrast of flavours. They’re at once fruity and sweet while also offering hints of bitterness. It also has a pungent aroma.
These characteristics are so ingrained into the oil that the DOP actively tests for them. If they’re found to be missing, the olive oil is classed as defective and is thus banned from carrying the DOP label.
The Foods of the Region
Though Montecarlo wines go extremely well with fish, it’s not known as a seafood-heavy area. While you’ll certainly discover that there are many other Montecarlo delicacies to try.
You’ll find that many locals combine their wines with a number of regional delicacies.
Altopascio bread is among the most famous from the region. Like many Tuscan breads, it is made without either salt or yeast. Instead, producers use a dough mix known as sconcia to get the bread to rise.
Meats from the Gombitelli butchery are also extremely popular in the region. The elevated location of the butchery exposes it to sea breezes. Couple that with a complete absence of the smog that pollutes urban landscapes and you have the perfect conditions for curing meat. As a result, cured meats have become a particular favourite of those in the region and are certainly recommend should you happen to visit.
And there you have it, the tastes of Montecarlo explained. All that’s left now is for you to pack your bags to experience them for yourself.