Vino cotto literally translates from the Italian as “cooked wine” which it is. it is though so much more than that. Vino cotto is a specialist product as far as we know only produced in the Piceno region of the Le Marche. The Piceno is the region of the southern Marche roughly between Fermo and Ascoli Piceno. (Le Marche by the way is the Italian region to the east of Tuscany and Umbria, with a similar landscape and climate but without the tourists) The Piceno is named after the tribe that lived here before the Romans took over.
Vino cotto itself is a delicious sweet ruby coloured dessert or cheese win, think of a ruby port or a fine sweet sherry. Having said that, the taste of Vino cotto is unique and is well worth seeking out when visiting the region.
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Step 1: The Process
Production of vino cotto is traditionally done on small farms for personal consumption. There are some commercial brands available but obviously if you want the real thing you need to make friends with a local farmer or try it out for yourself.
Traditionally vino cotto is made from the local white grapes such as "passerina" but perhaps not surprisingly red wine grapes work equally as well. In the video sangiovese grapes are crushed and the grape juice is cooked in a large “rama” or copper vessel. Copper is used as it does not taint the wine although one local tradition is to add a large iron bar the bottom of the pot, though no one seems to know why! When the rama is full a bucket full of “mele cotogne” quince, are added for flavour. The wine is then boiled down for around ten hours on an open fire until reduced to about half.
If you do this yourself you need very sweet grapes, crush them with a potato masher or something similar, strain through a fine sieve and boil the resultant grape juice in a large stainless steel pan until reduced by about half.
Step 2: Cooking and Storage
When the juice has reduced down the fire is put out and when cool the wine is transferred to 25 litre glass bottles for natural fermentation. When the fermentation has finished the resulting liquor is stored in “barrique”, french oak barrels. The vino cotto is then left for at least six months, but it improves with age and the best is over ten years old! Another local tradition is when some of the aged wine is drunk, the barrel is topped up with a more recent vintage. This maintains the quantity of the older higher quality vino cotto.
If you are trying this for yourself you can add a wine yeast to aid the fermentation in sterilised demijohns or similar fermentation vessels.
Bizarrely EU rules forbid sales of vino cotto as a wine but allow it to be sold as a food.
If you would like to know more about the food and wine produced in Le Marche visit our blog at Italian Food and Flavours