t’s a luminous morning in early December. A dwindling sprinkle of gold and crimson leaves grace the Umbrian countryside. We, hubby and I, are driving to the hill of the exorcist. Scacciadiavoli, “he who casts the devil out,” is among the oldest wine estates in Montefalco, among Umbria’s prime wine areas.
We’re welcomed by the sweet smile of youthful Liu Pambuffetti. Pambuffetti learned the art of winemaking at the prestigious UFR d’Oenologie at Université Bordeaux Segalen in France. She’s a fellow Italian who makes me proud: competent, down-to-earth and engaged in an extraordinary enterprise. Scacciadiavoli makes Sagrantino, a gutsy, complex, structured red wine well known to connoisseurs. Intrigued, we enter the winery through heavy wooden doors.
Rome Prince Boncompagni-Ludovisi founded the winery in 1884 not far from a hamlet where an exorcist used red wine as part of exorcism rites. More than a century later, it still uses its original gravity feed flow technology. The main building is built into the hill and consists of four vertical levels. The grapes are transported from the vineyards to the fourth and highest floor and later moved to the third level where they’re fermented and vinified in stainless steel vats. On the lower floors the wine is aged in small wood barrels. There are no pumps or air conditioning. Thick stone walls maintain ideal temperatures. The floors, the wooden beamed ceilings, and most of the metal work dates has 19th-century origins.
Digital age tools supplement the old process, with all phases of wine production computer monitored. But most of that occurs behind the scenes. Walking from the winery into the tepid sun is like leaving a fairy castle.
The wine is delicious but what most impresses me is the family’s determination to keep its traditions alive by pushing past into future while embracing both history and change. It’s something Italy isn’t known for, and I’m grateful to be around it, even for an hour.
Risotto al vino
- 500 grams/1 lb Italian fresh sausages, grilled.
- 250 ml/1 cup good quality strong red wine.
- 1 liter/5 cups low-salt vegetable broth.
- 1 tablespoon butter.
- 1 large onion, diced.
- 2 cups of rice (Arborio, vialone nano or carnaroli).
- 1/2 cup Parmesan or pecorino shavings.
- 2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley.
— Grill the sausages and set them aside in a warm place. I use Umbrian sausages seasoned with garlic and black pepper, but wouldn’t be averse to fennel or spicy sausages.
— For the risotto: in a large saucepan, sauté the onion in butter until tender over low heat (about 8 minutes). Add rice and stir for about a minute. Increase the heat to medium-high and add 2 tablespoons wine.
— Cook until absorbed, about 2 minutes, stirring often. Add the rest of the wine, one tablespoon at a time, stirring until absorbed.
— Lower the heat and add a 1/2 cup of broth and simmer and stir for about 4 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed.
— Continue cooking, adding broth by ladlefuls and allowing the liquid is fully mixed in before adding more. Stir only after you’ve added liquid.
— When the rice is tender (but still has bite), add more salt (if necessary), 2 tablespoons Parmesan and a final ladleful of broth. For extra creaminess, add a tablespoon of cold diced butter and stir vigorously.
— Cover and wait 5 minutes before serving. Serve topped with sliced sausages, a sprinkle of parsley and shavings.