Autumn is an ideal time to host a Tuscan vineyard party inspired by the colours of the landscape at this time of year; a heady mix of red, auburn, yellow and terracotta orange colour which transforms the countryside as the season changes and harvest begins. These colours add a warmth to a dinner table setting, while the inspiring seasonal food, from new wine to wild boar, creates an unforgettable menu for your family and friends.
The Tuscan vineyard style is rustic yet charming: colourful tablecloths, herbs and wild flowers as center pieces and flickering tea lights come night-fall. Don’t have a vineyard to party in? No problem: you can create the perfect Tuscan vineyard inspired party in your own home with these easy steps.
The rolling hills of Tuscany are layered with rows of grape vines and clusters of olive groves; bring this to your table with plate settings that are a nod towards nature. First, cover your table in a cloth inspired by autumn Tuscan colours (or even in raw linen or hemp) and create place settings with simple crockery and cutlery: elegant white plates and clear glasses for wine and water. Wrap silver knives and forks in white (or autumn coloured) napkins and tie together with a natural string into a neat, small bow. If you can, find stems of olive tree leaves to add to the cutlery wrap for a simple yet natural touch; then place this cutlery bundle in the center of each plate setting. If olive tree leaves are not available in your neighbourhood, use sprigs of fresh rosemary for the same effect.
Add ambience to the table with candles and flowers: re-use old wine bottles by removing the labels and clean thoroughly to create a simple candleholder using white or autumn coloured candles. Old wine bottles also make the perfect vase: simply add a few stems of seasonal flowers and sprigs of fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme to create not only a colourful addition to your table setting but a fragrant one too. For more lighting come light fall, place white tea light candles in old jam jars (also cleaned and labels removed) for a rustic yet elegant Tuscan table.
A typical Tuscan dinner party is about sharing… plates and plates of courses, slowly enjoyed with friends and family. First, serve cured meats with aged cheese; the latter lightly drizzled with honey, which is a popular condiment in Tuscany. Slice up prosciutto, finocchiona (fennel seed salami, if you can find this at your local delicatessen) and any other cured meats of your choice. In Tuscany, pecorino is king, cheese made from sheep’s milk. Arrange your favourite cheeses besides the sliced meats on dark wood chopping boards. Add small containers of additional condiments for the cheeses, including fig jam or a spicy tomato sauce.
Make a plate of mixed bruschetta including the classic tomato and basil combination but also try two local Tuscan styles: one with white beans (fagioli) and another with garlic and olive oil (fett’unta). For the latter, slice fresh rustic bread then lightly toast each slice before, Tuscan style, gently rubbing a clove of garlic over the slice before drizzling extra virgin olive oil generously. Season with a touch of sea salt and serve hot for the freshest garlic bread you’ll ever try.
Follow the antipasti with a big bowls of pasta shared between your guests. This time of year, porcini mushrooms are in season and make a great vegetarian pasta (Tagliatelle ai funghi porcini) or for meat lovers, wild boar is a classic served on thick, flat pasta (Pappardelle al Cinghiale). Serve in large white bowls from the center of the table before finishing the meal with a classic dolce (desert) such as Tiramisu.
No vineyard-themed meal would be complete without a good flow of wine! Tuscany is renowned for it’s reds which match perfectly with cured meats and the pasta dishes suggested: a lighter Chianti Classico like Dievole’s Certosa di Pontignano to start before moving onto a heavier red like Novecento Riserva. Open and decant the Riserva two hours before to allow the wine to really breathe which will enhance the flavour, plus a clear glass decanter also adds an elegance touch to your Tuscany vineyard table.
Photo credit: Ea Travel
Location: Casa Montrogoli, Chianti, Tuscany