Maremma lies south of Florence, north of Rome — a Tuscan region along the Thyrrenian coast. Nicknamed the wild frontier, this spot is home to vineyards, agriturismo, a sweeping natural preserve and a prestigious thermal spa. Also: there are cowboys — the butteri — horseback cattle breeders with roots dating back to Etruscan days.
There not many left, which shouldn’t surprise anyone in touch with modern culture. Italy hasn’t experienced the best economics in recent years, and there’s not much money in the trade. It’s also physically depleting work, with many butteri also managing other income streams through additional agricultural pursuits. Grains, olives and wine grapes are grown here and some Butteri have a hand in the production of these crops.
But Maremmana cattle are the main thing to these men and women, one of Europe’s oldest cattle breeds. “The Maremmana is frugal, adapts well to difficult environments and cannot be kept indoors, but must roam freely,” according to Slow Food Presidium. Exquisitely suited to the environment, these creatures roam the expansive Tuscan flatlands. Ultimately prized for meat, these oxen were valuable for their strength as working animals back in the day. For centuries Maremma was redolent with marshes, inhospitable swaths that interrupted the open plains — Maremmana and the expert Butteri that herded them were adept at managing this tough environment.
Beginning with the Medicis in the 1700’s and onward through the start of the 20th century, the agricultural scope of the area changed. Marshes were drained, methods were industrialized and mechanized, and slowly the composition of herd and cowboy became relegated to a nearly extinct existence. According to recent counts, only six herds of the cattle exist in Tuscany, accompanied by the small number of Butteri that keep them.
The Slow Food movement and Maremma tourism (agriturismo in particular) have extended the life of this culture as international interest in authentic Tuscan experiences sustains what’s left of the lifestyle. Adventures such as Weekend with the Butteri allow visitors to experience the moving of the herd as well as techniques for managing the herd.
For a list of producers and more information, visit Slow Food Presidium:
The Presidium wants to promote this excellent breed, whose beef could easily feature on the menus of Italy’s best restaurants. Instead they are often attracted by Aberdeen Angus from Scotland or buffalo from the United States, ignoring the fact that Italy has free-ranging native cattle whose meat is just as good. The Tuscan Maremma farmers who belong to the Presidium follow natural principles for the growth and care of their animals.
Another well-known regional product — wine — turned my attention to the Butteri. A bottle of La Mora Vermentino Maremma Toscana DOC features the image of a horse, a nod to the Butteri cowboys known for their instinct and skill with horses as well as cattle.
La Mora Vermentino from Maremma Toscana DOC is made by Cecchi in stainless steel tanks and released two months after bottling. 90% Vermentino (Rolle, as it is known in Provence) is dashed with 10% of other varieties. Fresh tropical fruit is balanced with minerality in this aromatic and bright wine — it’s ideal for summer and would be darling with a plate of grilled seasonal veggies over ancient grains. (For those you still thinking of steak, La Mora also crafts a red blend, 50/50 Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.) Both bottles retail for $19.
Italian Food, Wine + Travel
Our Italian Food, Wine and Travel group worked together this month to highlight Vermentino. Join us on twitter by locating our hashtag — #ItalianFWT — at 10:00 am central time on Saturday, May 5, 2018. We’ve prepared the following posts to highlight this captivating variety:
Gwen from Wine Predator share “You Need To Know Vermentino: Paired with Carbonara #ItalianFWT”
Lauren from The Swirling Dervish writes “Vegetarian Plates and Pigato from A.A. Durin: Perfect for Your Summer Table”
Here on L’Occasion we uncover “Vermentino from Maremma, Land of The Butteri Tuscan Cowboys”
Jane from Always Ravenous pens “Which Vermentino to Pair With Shrimp & Fresh Herb Pilaf?”
Lynn from Savor the Harvest contributes “One Italian Island White Wine You Must Try”
Katarina from Grapevine Adventures dishes on on “Vermentino by Antonella Corda – An expression of Sardinia Terroir”
David from Cookingchatfood gives us “Salmon with Lemon Olive Relish and a Vermentino”
Jennifer from Vino Travels Italy reflects on on “Vermentino of Toscana with Aia Vecchia”
Nicole Ruiz Hudson from Sommstable brings us “Piero Mancini Vermentino and Salmon Two Ways”
Camilla Mann from Culinary Adventures with Cam posts “From Sardegna to the Land Down Under: Vermentino + Pizza alle Vongole”
Wendy from A Day In The Life on The Farm gives us “A Successful Search for Vermentino”.
And our host, Susannah at Avvinare, is all about “Vermentino in its Varied Styles from Liguria to Sardegna” — thanks Susannah for hosting this month!
Join us next month, June 2018, hosted by Li Valentine of The Wining Hour as we dig into Soave.