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The Forked Grapes

It was the early 1600s when Marquis Vincenzo Tanara in Bologna wrote the splendid L’economia del cittadino in villa (The citizen’s economy in the villa), which we have also mentioned in other articles. Tanara, a magistrate and marquis in the then papal state, leaves us writings rich in detail concerning the administration of a mansion in a Bologna of bygone days, just a few decades after the famous coronation of Charles V at San Petronio. “On my kingdom,” goes the Emperor’s famous phrase, “the sun never sets” (In meinem Reich geht die Sonne niemals unter). And it is good that this is so because a good vineyard requires sun, wind, water and land. It was also during those years that the cloister of a Benedictine monastery was built, which is of interest to us because it houses a very old vine that is still, all things considered, going strong, in the very center of Imola.

Tanara is famous in agrarian and gastronomic historiography for many reasons, but of particular interest to us today is his classification of vines at that time, among which ticks the name of a grape that has held its own in the area for centuries, the vine of that cloister. The Forcella grape (the Fork).

Around the Forcella orbits a confusion that spreads even on today’s ministerial documents, where it is only derubricated as a variant (or “clone”) of Albana di Romagna, so called because of the bifurcation that its long clusters present at their end. Today, however, we are not dealing with Albana Forcella, but with the Forcella that was also cultivated for centuries in the town where I live, Castelfranco Emilia. Or rather, it was even cultivated in the street where I live, although it has obviously been extirpated entirely. Fortunately, a far-sighted person has recovered cuttings so the Forcella of the street where Ser Parsifal lives are still alive, and will give us excellent wines.

Ser Parsifal oversees his estate- on the horizon the land where he grew among other grapes, the Forcella

This vine is becoming less and less widespread, a fate that in this area has also befallen the other great absentee of local wine biodiversity: the Alionza. The only one that still enjoys some health is the equally historic Montuni (with which an honest Bianco di Castelfranco Emilia is produced).

An important 1914 text edited by Cavazza mentions Forcella as being used for the production of table wines, given to the sapling, rustic and expansive, very productive and almost always used in blends. It is a passage that leads to many reflections on the nature of an area everywhere less and less interested in its historic winemaking vocation. Around the home of my lord Ser Parsifal above, the lands now host blanket cultivations of Lambrusco and Pignoletto of not only often terrifying quality but stubbornly condemned to single-varietal, when I wonder if this could still be a land of great whites, in the hands of skilled winemakers.

Vite  secolare nei pressi di Santa Maria in Regola
Patriarch of the fruit in the former Benedictine convent of the Olivetan congregation, Imola

To honor the city of Imola and the Forcella plant above, today’s Cornucopia recipe will be about a typical local dessert, handed down to us thanks to a recipe by the very famous Pellegrino Artusi.

Migliaccio di Romagna con saba di Uva Forcella

  • Milk, deciliters No. 7.
  • “Undone” pig’s blood, grams 330.
  • Forcella grape sapa, grams 200.
  • Peeled sweet almonds, grams 100.
  • Sugar, grams 100.
  • Very fine breadcrumbs, grams 80.
  • Candied fruit, grams 50.
  • Butter, grams 50.
  • Fine spices, two teaspoons.
  • Chocolate, grams 100.
  • Nutmeg, one teaspoon.
  • One strip of lemon peel.

Pound in a mortar the almonds together with the candied fruit, which you will have first cut into small pieces, sprinkle them from time to time with a few teaspoons of milk and pass them through a sieve. Place the milk on the fire with the lemon peel, which must then be removed, and boil it for 10 minutes ; then add to it the grated chocolate, and when this has melted, remove it from the fire and let it cool a little. Then pour into the same pot the blood, already passed through istaccio (sieve), and all the other ingredients, saving for last the breadcrumbs, of which, if it were too much, a part can be left behind. Put the mixture to cook in a bain-marie and remove it often with the ladle so that it does not stick to the pot. The cooking and the degree of right density that is needed can be known from the ladle, which, left in the middle of the mixture, must remain upright. If this does not happen, add the rest of the breadcrumbs, assuming you have not poured it all in. For the remainder, do the same as for the ricotta cake No. 488, that is, pour it into a pan lined with the flat dough No. 118 and, when it is well browned, cut it into almonds. Cook the pasta matta a little so that it can be cut easily, and do not let the migliaccio dry out over the fire, but take it out when it comes out clean a granata twig dipped in it. If you use honey instead of sapa, taste it before adding the sugar so that it does not turn out too sweet, and note that one of the virtues of this dish is that it is mantecato, that is, of very fine composition. The fear of not being understood by everyone, in describing these dishes, often makes me descend to too much minute detail, which I would gladly spare.

Pellegrino Artusi, La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene


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