Montalcino is the land of great of wines, but perhaps not everyone knows that it is also home to many other products of excellence. It is an area where a vast amount of honey is produced, among the best known in Italy, and it is no coincidence that a big honey festival has been held here for decades. Then there is spelt, an ancient whole grain. An abundance of premium quality white, black and Marzuolo truffles can also be found in the Montalcino area. There are thousands of olive groves producing a very particular fragrant, peppery, green extra virgin olive oil. For centuries it has been a great producer of costly saffron.
Montalcino has cakes and desserts that can be found only here, such as “ossi dei morti” biscuits (literally “bones of the dead”) and “caffè in forchetta” (a coffee and cream dessert), and local versions of others, like Corollo cake, Pan co’ Santi (a raisin and walnut bread), Mantovane or Peschine con l’Alchermes (little chocolate cream-filled cakes soaked in Alchermes liqueur). There are many traditional dishes, such as pici con le briciole (a type of pasta with breadcrumbs) in duck or game sauce, bread soup (a local version of ribollita), guinea fowl in Vinsanto, braised beef in Brunello, collo di ocio (goose neck), either stuffed or made into a sauce. There is aglione, a delicately flavoured garlic head as big as a large onion. Here sheep’s cheeses are extraordinary, and those aged in Brunello marc or made with Sangiovese are unique. Great cured meats have always been made here, with their own specific names, spices and flavours. Wine is culture in Montalcino, but beyond wine there is a rich heritage of flavours, all waiting to be discovered and – why not – paired with an excellent glass of Brunello. A perfect duo.