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Citerna belongs to the Club
I Borghi Più Belli d’Italia

 


For someone it was born in Siena, during the furious plague of 1348, when a doctor gave it to the sick; for others, however, it was born out of an exclamation flown in the canteen of the Council of Florence in 1439 as a misunderstanding. However, it is no doubt that vin santo owes its attribute to some particular property, perhaps miraculous. Or perhaps to the sacred procedure used to obtain it.

Grapes for vin santo

Grapes for vin santo

A Work to be done with Waning Moon

«Do you want to taste this nectar? But this is not a vinsanto, it’s a nectar! Oh lovely sorbet, precious and delicate nectar». (Goldoni)

As an amber colored drink, vin santo is the finest product of the Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes, as well as the Grechetto, Cannaiolo, Vernaccia and San Colombano ones. In Tuscany it is also obtained from San Giovese grapes: so, it is called Vin Santo Occhio di Pernice.
Besides the grape variety, the creation of vin santo comes from the choice of the best bunches, with a state of ripeness not too advanced – so that the peels can resist the withering. They are hrvested and hung for three or even four months, so that they could wilt. It was a widespread belief that the bunches, single or double, would not rotten if they were hung with waning moon.
Widespread in the Upper Valley of the Tiber and in the nearby Tuscany, the vin santo acquires in Citerna that smoked note that has made it one of the Slow Food Presidia. The vast plains below the village, as well as the abundance of water, had in fact allowed the area to be elected as an ideal place for the cultivation of tobacco, intended for State Monopolies. So, to optimize the spaces, bunches and leaves were hung together, so that they could dry up with the heat of the stoves and fireplaces. Sources of heat that, inevitably, ended up also emitting smoke, giving the grapes the typical aftertaste of smoking.

 

A hard fermentation

The grape is then pressed and fermented – with or without marcs – in wooden caratelli with a capacity ranging from 15 to 50 kilograms. The dimensions of these containers show the quality of the drink that you will end up getting. First of all they give the measure of the production of the vin santo, extremely limited: on average a quintal of grapes, once the drying phase has finished, it reaches weighs 30-35 kilograms, and must still be crushed.
In the second instance, containers of this size allow to sacrifice only a small part of the precious vintage, in case something would go wrong during fermentation. This passage is in fact extremely delicate: given the strong drying, vin santo’s must has a very high sugar concentration which, in turn, involves a high alcohol content. The leavening agent contained in the pruine – the waxy substance that covers the grapes protecting them from ultraviolet rays and dehydration – can hardly survive alcohol contents of more than 13%, and here we are talking about values ​​that can reach even 19%.
The producers, to solve this problem, use the scum of previous years, a sort of precipitate that, preserved from year to year and divided into the various caratelli, can stimulate fermentation. It is called mother and, since it remains in the wood of the caratelli, they are re-used without being washed first.

Amber wine

Once filled for ¾, the containers are sealed and stored – in the past they were placed in the attic, so that they were exposed to thermal excursions, considered benefic – remain there for at least three years. The uncertainty about the success of the wine hovers until the opening of the caratelli.
It is curious that, in Citerna, just the vin santo was used to soften the leaves of tobacco that, taken away from the State Monopoly, were hidden in tin crates and buried in the fields. Still in Tuscany, cigar smokers are used to soak them in vin santo to taste them better.

 


Sources:

www.fondazioneslowfood.com/it/presidi-slow-food/vinosanto-affumicato-dellalta-valle-del-tevere/

www.ilportaledelleosterie.it

www.wsimag.com

«When I arrive in Citerna, I wonder why I came. Then, after a couple of days, I resume the human rhythm of these places and I would not leave anymore.» 

Journalist, television and radio author for Rai and La7, editor for Stream and film director for Tele +, everything driven by a single passion: cinema. Alessandro Boschi, born in Città di Castello, often returns to these places to rediscover the human dimension that this land can give.

 

personaggio-umbro

Alessandro Boschi

What’s your connection with Umbria, considering you have been living in another region for a while? 

Surely it is a register bond, since I was born in Città di Castello and grown in Citerna. In Umbria I have my family and memories related to my childhood. I often go back, especially to find a more human dimension. In Rome or Milan we lose these rhythms, everything is more frenetic, but my job has led me to forcedly leave Umbria. 

You deal with cinema: do you think Umbria is well exploited in this area or should it be strengthened? 

It is not badly exploited, but in Umbria it would serve a mapping of all the activities related to the cinema because, while being small, it has different ones and very interesting: I think of the cinema festivals, such as the Cdcinema in Città di Castello, of which I am the president, or Umbria Film Festival in Montone. They need structures that would organize and connect to each other all the small realities related to this world. Finally, the Film Commission should be restructured and have a greater power, as has in other regions.

As radio and television programs author, if Umbria was your program how would you enhance it? 

Umbria has identified and well exploited its  vocation – I think of the religious one. However, it would need external contaminations. Let me explain it better: we would keep our traditions, but they would have to be guided by someone coming from outside, to take away that provincialism that does not allow that real jump of quality that Umbria deserves. The region has to open up more and accept external contamination, which can only make it grow and improve. 

Have you ever felt that Umbrian stereotype of being narrow-minded, or did someone make it notice to you? 

Of course it exists, but no one has never make it notice to me. Perugia is even more closed: when I was in the college – I’ve been here for little time – I did very little friendship with people from Perugia. Umbria, unfortunately, has no mental openings, is an anachronistic reality. It needs social legitimation and it is necessary to open up our eyes as soon as possible and integrate.

Three words to describe Umbria

Appetizing, quiet and introverted.

The first thing that comes to mind thinking about this region … 

I think about the map. The fact that Umbria is the only Italian region that has no outlets, either on the sea or on other countries, that it is closed and surrounded by other regions. Perhaps its closure can also come from this.