The Enoteca del Buttafuoco Storico www.buttafuocostorico.com) is in Canneto Pavese. If you are planning a visit be sure to follow the directions given on Google maps otherwise, like me, you may find yourself driving through some very obscure places.
Enoteca is the Italian word for wine merchant and this particular one is the home of a consortium of local winemakers dedicated to producing this historic DOC wine. According to Armando, the manager of the Enoteca, the source of the name ‘Buttafuco,’ was an 18th century poet from Milan, Carlo Porta, who, upon tasting the wine, declared that it was a real buttafuoco or spitfire, referring to the heat of the alcohol content. The Enoteca itself has a tasting room with the most exquisite ceiling vaulted in herringboned brick; it’s a wonderful place to relax and savour these historic wines.
The consortium has 15 members and they all put their ‘storico’ wine in identical bottles. The bottles are easily identified, as they have the emblem of a sailing ship moulded into the neck of the bottle, and then each individual producer attaches their own label.
The reason for the ship goes back to the second half of the 1800s when the Austro-Hungarian Imperial Navy launched a ship named ‘Buttafuoco’. Legend has it that the name was in commemoration of a battle lost by a company of imperial sailors. The local wine, rather than the heat of battle, was apparently more successful in attracting the bold sailors who, in a large cellar, and quite bravely, massacred several barrels and numerous bottles of this local wine.
The wine is matured for three years before it is available to the public and the whole consortium produces only 80,000 bottles per annum. This a wine that will reward those with the self discipline to allow it to age – full maturity may only be reached after 15 years. It is initially high in tannins but these break down over the years, adding layers of complexity. Each producer has his own ideas on maturing his wine, using barrels of differing ages, sizes and wood. For those who cannot wait, seek Armando’s advice and choose one aged in French oak – which adds vanilla notes – against one matured in traditional Slovenian oak botti. This is ‘no holds barred’ wine at 14.5% to 15% by volume and so is perhaps more suited to being enjoyed in the evening and, in any event, will benefit from being paired with the strong flavours of the barbecue or game.
Also available is a wine called Chinato, described as medicinal by Armando. This is a Buttafuoco which has been blended with herbs and spices to produce wonderful and unusual flavours. Ingredients for this normally include china calissaya (from which quinine is derived) hence the medicinal reference. It can also contain gentian root, again, an ingredient with medicinal properties, rhubarb, cardamom and cloves. This list is not exclusive and each producer will have his own secret recipe. At 16% alcohol it is something that can be enjoyed particularly with chocolate.
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