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Wine Festival in the Borgo of Giglio Castello

Tuesday 28 november 2017

For a few years now the village of Giglio Castello on the Isola del Giglio has held a wine festival at the end of September. Restaurants throw open their doors, chairs and tables spill out onto the pavement, and the local Ansonaco wine flows in abundance.

Wine Festival in the Borgo of Giglio Castello

The village of Giglio Castello is built within the walls of the Aldobrandeschi Fortress and, it would seem, into the very rock of the island. The twisting alleys negotiate jagged stones and dip beneath rugged arches. Apart from the arresting view of the surrounding sea (and occasionally of Isola d'Elba and Corsica on clear days) Giglio Castello has a surprise for art lovers - an ivory crucified Christ attributed to Giambologna - and for history lovers - a pistol left by Tunisian pirates attacking in 1799. Both can be found in the church of San Pietro. 

At the end of September each year the usually very sedate village becomes a giant festa of wine, food and music. The protagonist is, undoubtedly, the local Ansonaco wine, only produced on this island. It is a robust white wine, almost amber in colour, with a sharp, dry taste and high alcohol content. Luckily there is plenty of food around to soak it up!

There is a rough itinerary around the cantine, starting with a magnificent aperitivo at Pizzeria Giglio, featuring verdure pastellate (deep fried vegetables) and little bruschette with typical Tuscan chicken liver patè. One bar tender here demonstrated his literal interpretation of the Italian 'alzare il gomito', lift the elbow, which refers to someone who likes to drink. He poured the Ansonaco wine from a 5 litre demijohn by resting it on his upper arm and, with a little contortion, leaning the bottle over to empty into a glass held in front. 

Afterwards, there are several restaurants serving local dishes, with plastic tables and chairs outside filling up the tiny piazze. The menu changes slightly each night but it often includes traditional foods like baccalà and wild rabbit. On the ramparts of the castle a monstrous barbeque is erected with a well-oiled team dishing up a feast of grilled meat. Finally, in the rocca of the castle, the very centre, there is dessert paradise. A long table fairly groans with the weight of cakes, pastries and tarts piled on top. In particular you can taste the traditional panficato, a kind of sweet bread with figs and dried fruit. And with your dessert you can naturally try the local amaro called Aegilium. 

An Italian festa would not be complete without some music and dancing, and after a little Ansonaco wine you might be bold enough to join in the traditional Quadriglia gigliese dance. 


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