5 things I’ve learned about Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

5 things I’ve learned about Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

When I left my career as a middle school principal, I gained some immediate benefits. I traded in my neckties for t-shirts and long meetings for behind-the-scenes tours. Recently, though, I learned of another great switcheroo that came when I left my job in public education to pursue travel writing full-time: Cafeteria mini-corn dogs have been replaced with delicious Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

The Chef & The Dish

When Jenn Nicken of The Chef & The Dish asked us to take part in the complimentary cooking lesson that Ann wrote about HERE, I was definitely interested. And when she explained that all four of the recipes would feature Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, I did a happy dance.

Steve selects a piece of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese at Whole Foods.

Steve selects a piece of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese at the store.

All my life, I’ve loved parmesan cheese. It tops pizza, spaghetti, lasagna, and even popcorn perfectly. But, as I quickly learned, our cooking experience wouldn’t be with tiny salty pellets of cheese product from a round plastic container. Instead, we’d be working with the real deal, the king of cheeses, Parmigiano Reggiano. At the beginning of our cooking class with The Chef & The Dish, our chef, Paola Martinenghi, made sure we knew just how special this ingredient is.

Chef Paola Martinenghi was a phenomenal teacher, but she also made us laugh.

Chef Paola Martinenghi was a phenomenal teacher, but she also made us laugh.

Here are 5 things she taught us about the most delicious cheese.

1. Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is NOT parmesan (it’s way better)

The world is full of cheese called parmesan. This name simply means that the cheese was made in the style of Parmigiano Reggiano. What makes Parmigiano Reggiano cheese special is that the cheese maker must follow a very specific set of rules that have been around for generations. A consortium of cheese makers governs these rules which are designed to produce a consistently high-quality product that consumers can trust.

First, the cheese can only be produced in a certain part of Italy. That region has the necessary climate to produce the perfect cheese of this style. Then, a specific process must be followed. At the end, every cheese wheel undergoes an inspection. Those that pass are marked with dots that say Parmigiano Reggiano and are branded with a seal on the rind of the wheel to show it’s authentic.

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese grated

A pile of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese grated. Note the rind with the dots showing the cheese is authentic.

If you want to buy real Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, make sure any piece you purchase still has the rind on it and that you can see the dots. Otherwise, you might well be buying an imitation. And trust me, after trying the real stuff and the pretend side-by-side, there is a difference you can clearly taste.

2. It takes a huge quantity of the right milk

All cheese starts with milk, and that’s true for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Cows that produce the milk for the cheese must live in a certain area of Italy and be grass-fed. Only. The milk they produce is used unpasteurized.

The cows are milked twice a day. The evening milking is put into copper vats, and the fat is skimmed off. The next morning’s milking is added creating a part skim, part whole milk mixture that then moves on to the cheese making process. By now, each vat has more than 260 gallons of milk, though all that milk will produce only two wheels of cheese.

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese twins

Each vat of 260 gallons of milk produces only two wheels of cheese. These are called the “twins.” (Photo courtesy Parmigiano Reggiano)

During the cheese making process, natural ingredients are added to cause the curd of the milk to separate from the whey. This curd is then put in to molds and wrapped in a belt that leaves the distinctive Parmigiano Reggiano dot markings on the rind. The whey of the milk isn’t wasted. Instead, it’s fed to pigs. This may well be part of the reason why prosciutto di Parma is so delicious.

3. The cheese takes a swim

The next step is to put the new cheese wheels in a vat of salt water. It floats around and is turned regularly, so that the wheel can absorb salt. The cheese will spend 20 days in this magic brine.

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in salt water

A worker turning wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in a vat of salt water. (Photo courtesy Parmigiano Reggiano)

4. Aging properly is key

Then, the cheese wheels are put on long wooden shelves in a large room to age. Because humidity is different from the front of the shelves to the back, the cheeses are turned regularly. According to Chef Paola, there are enough shelves to go 20 or more cheeses high meaning each row might have more than 1,000 cheese wheels aging in it.

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese wheels aging

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese wheels aging on shelves. (Photo courtesy Parmigiano Reggiano)

5. Then, the final exam

After one year of aging, each cheese wheel is inspected to see if it meets the requirements to be called Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Someone from the consortium comes and taps the wheels with a hammer, listening for imperfections. If the inspector is satisfied, the cheese wheel is branded with the seal of the consortium, and that wheel is officially Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. If it does not pass inspection, the dots are removed and the cheese is sold as plain old parmesan cheese.

Inspection of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

An expert inspects the wheel of cheese by tapping it with a hammer while listening for imperfections. (Photo courtesy Parmigiano Reggiano)

After hearing all this, I tasted the cheese and delighted in the explosion of pure deliciousness that filled my mouth. Last summer, when we traveled to Italy, we marveled at the quality and flavor of the food everywhere we went.

Bruschetta with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Fresh bruschetta topped with thin slices of genuine Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

All over Italy, we met with wine makers, bakers, and butchers. As each explained her/his craft, we learned they take no shortcuts. They simply do things the old fashioned-way, even if it takes a little longer or costs a little more. Our experience with The Chef & The Dish reinforced this idea. Sure it might be a complicated process to make Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Yes, it might take longer to produce than other mass-produced cheeses. But in the end, all of the attention to detail creates a product that is of incredibly high quality that adds so much to food. The extra effort is definitely worth it.


While our cooking experience with The Chef & The Dish was complimentary, the opinions and our newfound love for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese are our own.

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We learned how to make risotto with The Chef & The Dish

We learned how to make risotto with The Chef & The Dish

We’ve always wanted to learn how to make risotto. So, when The Chef & The Dish reached out to us (read more about that HERE) and offered us a complimentary cooking class where we’d learn how to make risotto not just one, but two ways, the answer was a definite yes! We invited our friends and fellow foodies, Jeff and Ciana Cloud to join us. Not only do they enjoy cooking (and eating), but Jeff is also a professional photographer. He was gracious enough to document our culinary experience so I could focus on cooking. Many Jeff Cloud Photography photographs are featured in this post.

Both couples cooking with The Chef & The Dish

Left: Our friends Jeff and Ciana Cloud came to cook with us (right).

The Chef & The Dish cooking class

Our cooking class began with introductions. Coming to us from her small village near Milan, Italy, Chef Paola was eager to learn a little bit about us and asked about our favorite Italian dishes. She went on to give us little history of each dish we’d mentioned, and then began to tell us about training as a chef, the region in Italy from which she was teaching us, and the significance of the dishes we were about to make.

Chef Paola The Chef & The Dish

During our lesson, Chef Paola taught us a little bit about her hometown in Italy.

The five of us spent more than 20 minutes just talking and it was so helpful to get to know our teacher a bit and learn about her village, as well as the history of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese we were about to use in all of our dishes.

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese The Chef & The Dish

The star of the show, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Note the distinctive dots on the rind that show it is authentic. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

Dessert first

Then, it was time to get cooking. We poured four glasses of Prosecco (our course) and got work. First, we tackled dessert – a poached pear filled with a lemon and ricotta filling, topped with honey, walnuts, thyme, and of course, finely grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese.

Pears for The Chef & The Dish

Clockwise: Bosc pears in the store, Steve zests a lemon under the watchful eye of chef Paola, spices for the poached pears,  cut and cored pears before poaching.

Chef Paola taught us how to properly peel and zest the lemon. She also gave us specific instructions on how to core the Bosc pears and open the tiny pods of cardamom seeds.

The Chef & The Dish poached pears

These are pears we made a few weeks later for a dinner party at our house. See, we learned!

Everything went into a pan and cooked for 15-20 minutes until the pears were cooked through and the liquid was syrupy (that’s a word, right?). Ciana mixed up the filling and put everything in the refrigerator. More on the dessert, later.

Fun with The Chef & the Dish

Chef Paola encouraged us to enjoy our time together and have fun. The experience was stress-free and everyone had a blast. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

Tips for the best bruschetta

Next, while sipping Prosecco, we began assembling our Italian bruschetta. This is one of my favorite appetizers and something I’d made many times before. However, Chef Paola’s instructions were a bit different from what I’d normally done. Details she mentioned like toasting the bread until it was quite blackened, and not adding the olive oil until the very end, made all the difference.

The Chef and the Dish bruschetta

Ann, Ciana, and Steve work together to assemble the bruschetta. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

Finished bruschetta with The Chef and the Dish

The finished bruschetta with the blackened toast and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese was the most authentic tasting we’ve had in the U.S. Yum! (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

How to make risotto

Then, it was on to the main dish – risotto. This is one of those dishes that I love ordering when we’re out for dinner at a fancy restaurant. It tastes so creamy and delicious and has always seemed way too complicated to cook at home. I was wrong. Check out this short video below of Chef Paola telling us how to make risotto.

Chef Paola included all of us in the cooking and walked us through making each dish one step at a time. She explained that we needed to treat the risotto like a baby. We were told to watch it constantly, don’t leave it alone, and give it water when it seems a bit dry. We followed all of her instructions, and even brought the pan closer to the computer camera once for Chef Paola to better see (without dumping it all over the keyboard).

Chef Paola olive oil

In addition to showing us how to make risotto, Chef Paola also gave us a lesson in the right way to taste olive oil. Much to Steve’s delight, it includes loud slurping. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

Then, she invited one of us to try tossing the risotto in the pan to fluff it up. Steve volunteered (while I closed my eyes) and he did a great job tossing the creamy rice in the pan just like Chef Paola demonstrated from her home kitchen in Italy.

The Chef & The Dish Flipping risotto

Following Chef Paola’s instructions, Steve flips the risotto near the end of the cooking process. (Photos by Jeff Cloud)

Time to gather at the table

When the risotto was finished cooking, we each took a spoon and gave it a taste. It was amazing and none of us could believe we’d made it ourselves. Then, Chef Paola suggested giving our risotto a new twist. She had us put fresh strawberries in a blender and add the puree to the risotto.

We blended fresh strawberries just until they were all broken up and added them to the cheesy risotto.

We blended fresh strawberries just until they were all broken up and added them to the cheesy risotto. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

We plated the risotto on one of our wedding china plates (we actually use them quite a bit) with a small depression in the center and patted the bottom just like a baby’s bottom to even it out on the plate. Next, we finished the dish with a few sprinkles of pureed strawberries and more finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Our finished strawberry risotto. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

We all loved learning how to make risotto. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

It was finally time to eat. We gathered around the table, gazing at the beautifully plated dishes and astonished that the four of us had made them. Of course we snapped a few photographs before we tasted our culinary masterpieces. They were all absolutely delicious.

Whole meal with The Chef & The Dish

The plated meal on the table included classic Italian bruschetta (on an olive board we bought in Italy this summer), strawberry risotto, and a poached pear dessert. All dishes featured Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

Savoring every bite

We took our time savoring each bite of the meal and reminiscing about our cooking experience with The Chef & The Dish. All agreed that this video conference cooking class was one of the most unique and satisfying culinary experiences we’d ever had. While we are all confident we could recreate these dishes on our own (in fact, we did make the pears for a dinner party this week), the only thing better would be traveling to Italy and cooking it there. Someday.


While our culinary experience with The Chef & The Dish was complimentary, the opinions and newly gained cooking skills are our own. Thank you, Jeff Cloud, for the use of your fantastic photos! You can find Jeff on Facebook at Jeff Cloud Photography

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Learn how to make risotto and bruschetta with The Chef & The Dish

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The Chef & The Dish Skypes a chef right into your kitchen

The Chef & The Dish Skypes a chef right into your kitchen

The Chef & The Dish brings world-class chefs right into your kitchen and it couldn’t make me happier.

Lasting memories

I will never forget the taste of the beautifully presented, fruit covered waffle we had in Belgium or the spinach pie we learned how to make in Mykonos, Greece. If I think about it, I can almost taste the the paella Steve and I shared with our daughter, Meghan, on the square in Salamanca, Spain and the ricotta stuffed ravioli we prepared ourselves in Tuscany last summer.

A fruit covered waffle in Belgium, spinach pie in Greece, Paella in Spain, and ricotta stuffed ravioli in Tuscany.

A fruit covered waffle in Belgium, spinach pie in Greece, Paella in Spain, and ricotta stuffed ravioli in Tuscany.

Yes, I have a love affair with food. Trying new cuisine is one of my favorite things to do when we travel. And when we have the opportunity to learn how to prepare an authentic local dish, it becomes a fond and lasting memory of our time in that place.

We loved learning how to make pasta with Opera in the Kitchen while traveling through Tuscan in 2018.

We loved learning how to make pasta with Opera in the Kitchen while traveling through Tuscany in 2018.

So when we got an email from a company called The Chef & The Dish, I was instantly intrigued. The company was founded by Jenn Nicken, the former head of marketing for the entertainment division of Apple/iTunes in Canada who left to pursue her love of all things food and travel.


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Creating The Chef & The Dish

After traveling the world and tasting foods of each region, Jenn returned to Canada and put together the recipe for her own new business, The Chef & The Dish.

Jenn found her way into a chef's kitchen in Thailand and he taught her to make this colorful dish.

Jenn found her way into a chef’s kitchen in Thailand and he taught her to make this colorful dish. (Courtesy photo)

She created a company that brings world-class chefs into the home kitchens of people (like you and me) all over the world. Through the magic of the internet and video conferencing software called Skype, The Chef & The Dish connects its customers with a highly trained chef. She or he teaches you, step-by-step, how to create a specialty meal from her/his region.

The Chef & The Dish website

There are dozens of different cooking classes to choose from, including Hungarian goulash, traditional Spanish tapas, and okonomiyaki from Japan. The chefs may be home cooks, have Michelin stars or have been trained by their grandmothers. But they have all been selected for being great cooks as well as great teachers and effective communicators. And, they are fun!

We had the pleasure of taking a complimentary cooking class via Skype with Chef Paola Martinenghi who instructed us from her small village near Milan, Italy. We’ll write more on that, later.  For now, just know that she is FABULOUS!

Chef Paola Martinenghi was a phenomenal teacher, but she also made us laugh.

Chef Paola Martinenghi was a phenomenal teacher, and she also made us laugh.

How The Chef & The Dish works

First, let me tell you how this whole The Chef & The Dish thing works. The first step is to make sure you have a laptop or tablet (like an iPad or Samsung Galaxy). It needs sound, a built-in camera, and a high speed Internet connection. Second, you just visit The Chef & The Dish website a book a class online.

Booking a class with The Chef & The Dish is simple with easy to navigate online options.

Booking a class with The Chef & The Dish is simple with easy to navigate online options.

Cost of the classes begins at $299 for two people, which we found comparable to cooking classes we’ve taken abroad. Once they receive your booking, a kitchen assistant will contact you to set up a personal kitchen prep session. Our cooking assistant (Jenn herself) reviewed our shopping list with us, answered all our questions, and even helped us find the best camera angle for our online class.

We were fortunate that our kitchen assistant was none other then The Chef & The Dish Founder, Jenn Nicken.

We were fortunate that our kitchen assistant was none other then The Chef & The Dish Founder Jenn Nicken.

Preparing with a kitchen assistant

Before our video conference, Jenn emailed us a detailed grocery list and recommendations for kitchen supplies we’d need. She walked us through each list and even offered to call around to help us find specific ingredients for our recipes. Jenn also explained how our cooking class would work and what to expect from Paola. By the end of our video conference, we felt well-prepared for our culinary experience.

Steve selects a piece of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese at Whole Foods.

Steve selects a piece of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese at Whole Foods.

Several days before our class, we did all of our grocery shopping and were easily able to find everything we needed. Next, we prepped our kitchen with all of the necessary pans and mixing bowls. We also made sure we had a bottle of Prosecco chilling in the fridge because drinking wine while cooking just seemed to make it a little more Italian.

Some of the dry ingredients we purchased for our Italian cooking class.

Some of the dry ingredients we purchased for our Italian cooking class.

On the day of our cooking class, we gathered all of our supplies in the kitchen, and set up our computer. Then, at the appropriate time and from her kitchen in Italy, Chef Paola appeared on the screen of our laptop. We were ready to begin our culinary journey!

What’s next?

Coming soon – Part two of our series on The Chef  & Dish, including all the details about what we cooked (and lots of beautiful pics). We’ll show you how we prepared four dishes, all featuring Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese! Seriously, you’re gonna wish you could taste your computer/smartphone screen.


While our cooking class with The Chef & The Dish was provided complimentary, the opinions and excitement for cooking at home are our own.

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Tips for your visit to Prosecco Road: #4 Savor the food

Tips for your visit to Prosecco Road: #4 Savor the food

When we were in Italy this summer tasting the bubbly wines along Prosecco Road, it was easy to be laser focused on the next wine tasting. However, to go to the Prosecco region and only concentrate on the wine would be a shame. That’s because Valdobbiadene had some of the most delectable food we had in all of Italy.

Pizza in Prosecco Region

Steve holds up his pizza so Ann could take a picture. Also, he wasn’t going to let anyone else anywhere near it.

It definitely had the best pizza we tried. Deb and Massi, our local guide and driver, took us to a charming pizza place with outdoor seating and colorful flower pots that surrounded an outdoor patio.

Deb at pizza restaurant

Deb said she’d point the way to the best pizza we’d ever had. And she did.

The four us sat down and took a look at the menu. I asked if we should order a couple pizzas to share and Deb insisted that we would each want our own. As usual, she was right.

Pizza in Prosecco region

Ann’s pizza had prosciutto and peppers on a crust made from artisan grains.

I ordered this prosciutto pizza with peppers and we paid just a tiny bit extra to have the crust made with artisan grains. Worth. Every. Euro. Cent. (And the cost was still even less than what we’d pay for a Domino’s pizza in the U.S). It was the most incredible pizza I’d ever tasted; not the thick and greasy stuff with processed meats and cheeses like you sometimes get in other countries. I’m talking a thin, wood fired crust with a sauce so fresh you’d think the tomatoes were picked from the garden just minutes before (they probably were), topped with fresh meat, vegetables, and flavorful, gooey cheese.

Yes, in Italy pizza is not just a dish; it is an experience of flavors and tradition.

Pizza crust appetizer

For an appetizer we had a pizza crust that had been drizzled in olive oil and sprinkled with herbs.

We shared an appetizer pizza crust drizzled in olive oil and sprinkled with fresh Italian herbs while sipping glasses of cold beer and wine. We sat, enthralled by the view of the sun setting over hills covered in grape vines. THIS was the Italian experience I’d been dreaming about for years and it was everything I’d hoped it would be.

Prosecco region beautiful view

It was great to have a private driver who would stop when we wanted to take a picture. And who wouldn’t wan this picture?

For our second night in the Prosecco region, Deb and Massi wanted to take us to a different kind of Italian restaurant, one that was more formal, a bit more gourmet, but just as delicious. After a leisurely drive along a mountain road littered with breathtaking views and passing through several quaint Italian villages, we stopped at a fine dining restaurant late in the evening where we were seated at a white linen covered table on an open-air balcony with an incredible view.

Prosciutto and figs

Ann’s appetizer of prosciutto and fresh figs.

The appetizer course was my favorite. I had prosciutto with fresh figs while Steve ordered a local favorite, a warm cheese fondue with crispy Italian bread. It was sprinkled with edible flowers and he savored every bite.

Cheese fondue

This creamy cheese fondue was beyond delicious. Steve wanted to lick the glass clean, but Ann said no.

In between courses, we watched the sun set over the hills of Valdobiadene and listened to the chiming bell of a nearby church. It was another quintessential Italian experience.

Restaurant view in the Prosecco region

Our view from the restaurant.

For the main course, I had an apple risotto with four beautifully crafted tortellini. The plate was sprinkled with coarse, pink peppercorns and looked too good to eat. Of course I ate it anyway, taking my time to savor every bite.

Risotto and tortellini

Apple risotto and tortellini seasoned with ground red peppercorns. Yum!

For dessert, I opted for one of my favorites, a traditional tiramisu and it was one of the best I had in Italy.

Tiramisu

Ann had this beautiful tiramisu for dessert.

While we came to Prosecco Road for the wine, we were surprised to be equally impressed with the food and restaurants. Not only were the dishes beyond compare, you can’t beat the views, the relaxing atmosphere, and the hospitality of the people who live there. We can’t wait to go back.


Other tips for your visit to Prosecco Road:

#1 Hire a driver and local guide

#2 Stay at an agriturismo

#3 Get to know your wine


Our tour of the Prosecco Road and transportation were complimentary from Italy Unfiltered and Massi the Driver. The opinions expressed are our own.

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Tips for your visit to Prosecco Road - #4 Savor the Italian food.

Tips for your visit to Prosecco Road – #4 Savor the Italian food.

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Tips for your visit to Prosecco Road #3 – Get to know your wine

Tips for your visit to Prosecco Road #3 – Get to know your wine

A slow journey along the Prosecco Road allows you really get to know the wine you are drinking in a way not found in other parts of Italy. Because it doesn’t have the masses of tourists found elsewhere in the country, visitors to the Prosecco region can really immerse themselves and bask in warm Italian hospitality. There are no lines and no crowds, and no one seems to be in a hurry.

Prosecco region, Valdobbiadene, Italy

A view across the beautiful Prosecco region.

OK, now let’s talk about the wine.

What is DOCG?

The Prosecco region has a DOCG denomination. DOCG is short for the fancy Italian words, “Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita.” It is part of a labeling and control system that Italy has created to help consumers know the regionally created products they are buying are genuine and of high quality. Because this system is key to understanding wine in Italy, our hosts Deb and Massi of Italy Unfiltered and Massi the Driver made sure to explain it to us right away.

denominacion de origen controlada e garantita

This marker shows that we are in a special agricultural area, “Denominacion de Origen Controlada e Garantita.” This means the grapes for the wine were grown in a specific region and that the wine is guaranteed to meet exacting specifications for quality.

DOCG wines are made from grapes grown only in the specific region known for the wine’s production.

Any bottle bearing a numbered DOCG seal was created following a well-defined set of rules for the blending of grape varietals, and has been tested not only for taste but also at the molecular level to exacting quality standards.

DOCG label

DOCG is not exclusive to Prosecco. Here is a DOCG label on a bottle of Chianti Classico. Because of the label, we know this bottle was crafted to exact standards.

If a wine doesn’t pass any of these tests, it doesn’t get approved for the little numbered paper seal. In other words, if you see a seal with the letters “DOCG” on an Italian wine, you know it was created and checked to meet exacting standards so is a good representative from the region. The Prosecco Road is full of wineries producing DOCG wines.

Bisol Prosecco

A glass of DOCG Prosecco at the Bisol winery.

Visiting the Prosecco region

Along Prosecco Road, it is very easy to visit lots of wineries that produce DOCG wines, as they are extremely close together. I’m talking about sometimes just a few feet away from the next. Because each one offers visitors a unique experience, you really can really learn a great deal about the wine and region. At the Bisol winery, for instance, you can tour the museum in their original cellar and soak up the history of wine making both at that winery and in the region.

Bisol museum

Bisol winery cellar museum.

Bisol museum wines

Historic wines in the Bisol museum.

At another winery, you learn a little bit about the different soils in the region as well as what each soil type brings to the Glara grapes grown in it. You also hear how those grapes are blended to create the different wines offered.

Adami winery display

The Adami winery had a display showing some of the different soil types in which grapes are grown.

Grapes galore

Grapes are everywhere throughout the region, often running right along the road like a hedge. Vines of Glara grapes decorated people’s front yards and were planted right next to buildings as if the grape growers didn’t want to waste one single square foot of this fertile land. Seriously, we could have stuck our hand out the car window and touched a vine if we’d wanted to.

Prosecco region grapes

Glara grapes growing in the Prosecco region

Many of the wineries are small, family-owned operations without a formal tasting room staff. Instead, it is often the wine maker or close family member who pours and explains each wine to you. And what generous pours! In many cases you can get a little tour of the winery, as well. Imagine how much you can learn with so many mini-tutorials during your visit.

Vigne Matte winery

An antique spittoon at the Vigne Matte winery.

Le Colture winery

Steve and Ann pose at the Le Colture winery.

And with so few tourists around, even in the high Italian tourist season, we often had the wineries to ourselves. It was such a wonderful, relaxing way to enjoy sampling some of the world’s best wine.

Deb and Massi

Our hosts, Massi and Deb, at the Vinge Matte winery. We were the only ones there except for the neighbor’s cute puppy who just loved following us around.

Other tips for your visit to Prosecco Road:

#1 Hire a driver and local guide

#2 Stay at an agriturismo


Our tour of the Prosecco Road and transportation were complimentary from Italy Unfiltered and Massi the Driver. The opinions expressed are our own.

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Tips for visiting Prosecco Road in Italy. #3 - Know your wine.

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Tips for your visit to Prosecco Road – #2 Stay at an agriturismo

Tips for your visit to Prosecco Road – #2 Stay at an agriturismo

If you’re wondering what an agriturismo is, don’t worry. You’re in good company. I had no idea the word even existed before our trip to Italy this summer. In fact, it wasn’t until I stayed in one that I gained a good understanding of what they are and how they can take your Italian vacation to the next level.

Agritourismo businesses area everywhere in the Prosecco region near Valdobbiadene, Italy.

Agriturismo businesses are great places to stay in the Prosecco region near Valdobbiadene, Italy.

Simply put, an agriturismo is a small, family-owned tourism business, like a bed and breakfast, attached to a larger agriculture-related business that produces and sells something. Along the Prosecco Road, you won’t find a Hilton Garden Inn, but you will find all kinds of agriturismo businesses catering to the handful of tourists who have discovered this beautiful area.

Our hosts, Deb and Massi of Italy Unfiltered and Massi the Driver, arranged for us to stay at the Roccat winery agriturismo business. Beautiful flowers greeted us outside the front door, a sample of the warm hospitality we were about to experience.

Flowers at Roccat winery

Lovely flowers outside the Roccat winery agriturismo inn.

The family renovated an old barn on their property into a six room bed and breakfast in the year 2000. Each is clean, comfortable and has a private bath with toiletries provided. Breakfast, served in a charming, sunlit room is simply wonderful. They serve locally made jams, as well as meats and dairy products from nearby farms. There are cereals, as well, along with baked goods from a local bakery. My favorite was a wonderful cake. I had two pieces each morning. Don’t judge. If you tried it, you would, too.

Breakfast at Roccat

The breakfast spread at the Roccat winery agriturismo. It is included with the room.

Roccat breakfast cake

This homemade cake at the Roccat Agriturismo was the perfect breakfast food.

The rooms provide a cultural experience you won’t get if you stay in a chain hotel, and we liked that. Be aware, though, that the air conditioning is to Italian standards, meaning it doesn’t cool the room as much as Americans might be accustomed to. Also, like most places in Italy, washcloths are not provided, so if you typically use one you might want to pack one in your bag.

What was great about staying at the agriturismo is that after breakfast, we went out the back door and were in the middle of the winery. The morning of our second day there, we met the wine maker, Clemente, and walked about 20 steps to the area where they produce and bottle the wines.

Roccat winery winemaker

Clemente at Roccat winery.

There, Clemente explained to us the process for creating Prosecco and explained how it is different than Champagne made in France. While both wines undergo a secondary fermentation that puts bubbles in the wine, the method used for that fermentation is different. In Champagne, it happens in the bottle. In Prosecco, it takes place in large vats. At the end of the Prosecco process, the temperature in the vat is dropped below freezing, killing the yeast and stopping the process.

Cold fermentation vat

Huge vats of wine are chilled to below freezing to stop the secondary fermentation. The ice on the door to this vat shows that the process is being stopped.

Once the secondary fermentation is done, the winery seeks permission from the governing authorities to bottle the wine. When they have it, they send it through pipes to the bottling machine.

Roccat winery bottling machine

Clemente explains the bottling process.

To learn a little more about the wine making process, watch this video. Massi does a great job translating what Clemente explained.

After our tour, we walked the 20 or so steps back to the tasting room at the agriturismo, a room they call the tavern, and sat down to sample the wine.

This beautiful great room is ideal for group gatherings as well as wine tastings.

This beautiful great room is ideal for group gatherings as well as wine tastings. Photo Credit: Roccat Winery.

It was a little earlier than normal for drinking wine, so I won’t say the exact time that we started other than to say it rhymes with “hen dirty” in the morning. Again, please don’t judge. We were conducting important research so we could share with you, the readers of our blog.

Roccat winery tasting

Clemente pours a generous sample of Prosecco at Roccat winery. It was delicious!

Our stay at Roccat gave us a glimpse into Italian culture and wine that you don’t get at most hotels. Without this experience, our visit to Italy simply wouldn’t have been the same. That’s why staying in an agriturismo is our number two tip for your visit to the Prosecco Road.

Other tips:

#1 Hire a driver and local guide

#3 Get to know your wine


Our tour of the Prosecco Road and transportation were complimentary from Italy Unfiltered and Massi the Driver. The opinions expressed are our own. If you would like to know more about Roccat winery, click [HERE].

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Tips for your visit to Prosecco Road in Valdobbiadene, Italy. #2 - stay at an agritourismo

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