T is for torrone:
Torrone (tor-rone-eh) has been called “Italy’s candy bar,” with its sweet nougat and nut confection that is the inspiration for Toblerone and Mars candy. A typical recipe includes white sugar and honey, egg whites, and almonds, hazelnuts or pistachios (or a delicious nutty mix). Various spices are optional, and each Italian town has its own variation of the torrone. This sweet is traditionally eaten after lunch or dinner from Christmas day until January 6, the Epiphany; but now it can be found at any time.
If other typical Campanian products are shrouded in mystery, torrone is even more hushed up about its origins. It was possibly made by numerous cultures, including the Persians, Spanish, North Africans and Chinese. The Arabic turun is a similar confection, which suggests it was introduced to Sicily by the Arabs and then spread through Italy. If basing the origins on the candy’s name, however, the Latin torréo means “to toast,” referring to the toasted nuts. So, perhaps the ancient Romans invented the recipe and carried it with them to the far ends of the Roman empire, whereupon sweet-loving Arabs adopted it and carried it to Spain and Greece. Again, though, “torrone” also means “big tower,” perhaps referring to the royal wedding of Francesco Sforza to Bianca Maria Visconti of Cremona in 1441. The nougat is fabled to have taken center stage at the table, sculpted as the Cremona tower.
In the end, the origins of torrone are lost. But, some of the best is found in Campania in Benevento, where they are served with a liqueur called strega, or “witch” (Benevento’s colorful past includes a long history of witchcraft). This instructional video shows you how to make torrone, but this long-lasting candy cannot only be bought all over Italy, but shipped (or packed in suitcases), as well.
If stuck in the States without torrone at a local Italian specialty shop, the nougat can be ordered at Dean and DeLuca and A.G. Ferrari Foods. In Italy, torrone are found everywhere. Here are some high-quality shops in the Campania area:
Via Pastena, 29 – 83014 Ospedaletto d’Alpinolo
Stabilimento in contrada Chiaira , 49/A – 83100 (Avellino)
Gran Caffè Gambrinus (while you’re picking up the sfogliatelle, give this a try, too)
Festa del Torrone e del Croccantino
San Marco Dei Cavoti
Dec. 3 – Dec. 6, 2011
This year will be the tenth edition. Watch out for changes, however; a notice on the website states that the date may change.
T is for Taburno DOC:
Taburno refers to the Campania wine region that was declared D.O.C. in 1982 and includes 13 municipalities in the foothills of Mount Taburno. The grapes that are grown include Campania classics: Coda di Volpe, Falanghina, Greco, Novello, Piedirosso and Aglianico. The soils are especially well-suited for Falanghina and Aglianico. In the Taburno D.O.C. area, the viticulturists’ cooperative Cantina del Taburno assists over 300 members to successfully cultivate the indigenous grape varieties of the region. The Cantina is also associated with the University of Portici in Naples, supporting students in research with their analysis and micro-vinification laboratories.
The wines that are produced are Rosso and rose, a blend of 40-50% Sangiovese, 30-40% Aglianico, and 30% of other; Bianco wines are 40-50% Trebbiano, 30-40% Falanghina, and 30% other; Spumante is 60% Coda di Volpe and/or Falanghina and 40% other; and Riserva blends, with the additional requirement that they must be aged for at least three years.
Taburno D.O.C. is one of the three most important areas for growing and producing Aglianico (the other two being Taurasi D.O.C.G. and Falerno del Massico). For the Aglianico D.O.C., the blend must be 85-100% Aglianico and 15% Piedirosso, Sciascinoso, or Sangiovese and spend 24 months aged in oak; the Riserva is aged for 36 months. The wine produced is a deep, garnet Rosso, with black plum, anise, tobacco and black pepper on the nose, and an initially strong sense of tannins that mellows within minutes in the glass, and is balanced in the mouth with a tangy acidity and spices. Red sauces and second courses of red meats or game pair well with this Taburno wine.
Vineyard Adventures is happy to arrange tours to discover the wines of the Taburno DOC area.
Gangi, Roberta. Sicilian Torrone. Best of Sicily Magazine. 2005.
Gold, Susannah. Aglianico in Campania: Taurasi, Aglianico del Taburno and Falerno del Massico. Alta Cucina Inc. 2008.
Piergiorgio and Amy Nicoletti. Torrone: Italy’s Candy Bar. Delallo. 2010.
Skurnik, Michael. Cantina del Taburno. Michael Skurnik Wines 2007.
Smith, William LLD, Ed. Taburnus Mons. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854).
Wines of Campania: Taburno D.O.C. Italian Made.