The Road Less Travelled: Alto Modigliana
Alto Modigliana, located in Emilia Romagna, less than an hour south east of Bologna, is largely off the tourist trail and is stunningly beautiful with verdant valleys and beautifully unpolluted craggy panoramas. It seems a world away from the rich Emiliana plains that lie to the north and the polished landscapes of Tuscany to the south – it feels refreshing to arrive somewhere less manicured, wilder and somehow less sure of itself. I came here to understand more about Sangiovese, having stumbled upon the wines of Mutiliana this time last year. The notes from my first tasting should be preserved: they are bursting with energy and enthusiasm. Convinced I’ve discovered something truly great, memorable and off the beaten track, I describe the encounter with their mastermind, Giorgio Melandri (@giorgiomelandri) in detail, who is an intrinsic part of these wines, this territory and this story.
As Alto Modigliana borders Tuscany, it’s no surprise that Sangiovese has the capacity to be well at home here. Emilia Romagna as a region however has an even deeper and richer food culture than it’s neighbours – it actually knocks the socks off most other regional Italian cuisines. It won’t be a surprise to any of our readers that this is the home of ragu, of Parmiggiano Reggiano, prosciutto di Parma, balsamic vinegar and tortellini but if you don’t happen to live in Italy, I just can’t describe to you how much you need to visit this region for its food: it exceeds all expectations, and I say that very rarely.
Modigliana itself is full of medieval charm, palaces and an impressive fortress. Today leather is an important trade and there are some great craftsmen offering their wares. The town has a handful of characterful, un-fussy places to sample the local delicacies. I can’t recommend highly enough Antichi Sapori, a fresh pasta laboratory/shop that also serves lunch if you arrive at the right time. (Via Don G. Verita’ 33, Modigliana. T. +39 0546 94 16 47). For a more rural restaurant, again totally unpretentious and with a relaxed family feel, try Trattoria Manueli with its classic Romagnola menu that changes seasonally and zero km policy for meat.
For Giorgio Melandri, Alto Modigliana is his land, his heritage, it’s where he walks the dog, grows olives, spends time with his family and because he’s a brilliant observer, he has understood the land perfectly. Giorgio is curious by nature and has travelled and tasted widely and as a consequence of this he is able to challenge his observations, interpret the territory, pay homage to the soil and allow his wines to be themselves. As well as writing about wine, Giorgio has for many years contributed to the Gambero Rosso guide to Olive Oil and I’m absolutely thrilled that he has introduced us to Gianluca Tumidei, who is a local EVOO Master. Watch this space.
Giorgio knows this land like nobody else, I would wish for a guide such as him to every unknown region in Italy. He has opened my eyes and tastebuds.