Monday, July 1, 2013

Two Weeks in Tuscany with The Weekend Artisan

This past March, I posted an article about a new cheese making website called The Weekend Artisan.  Douglas Lumley and his wife, Jan, of Winchester, UK have created a great "do-it-yourself" site with a strong focus on cheese making.  They are also teaching cheese making classes (click here for the booking form).

Recently, Doug and Jan traveled to Tuscany, home of some of the world's best cheeses.  Doug offered to share their trip with us and I knew you would be interested.  I think this article is the next best thing to being there!

Two Weeks in Tuscany
By Douglas Lumley at The Weekend Artisan

Hi folks, we have recently returned from two weeks in Tuscany. Apart from being just a wonderful place to be, it is also Cheese and Wine Heaven.

The place we stayed was an Agroturismo called Zampugna, just about equidistant between Montepulciano and Pienza. It is in the middle of nowhere, 

surrounded by organic farming, olive oil groves and vineyards, offering total tranquility, with a swimming pool.

The owner is Riccardo Berna and he is building a website as we speak:

The views are stunning, the wine and home made Grappa fabulous

 and the cheese is Pecorino!!

We have been to the same place several times, which, in itself says how great it is. However, this time, because we have done all of the big touristy things in the area, we managed to refine our visits a little more, so guess where we went? Of course, to visit a Pecorino maker.

The name of the cheese making company was Cugusi Silvana & C.

They were recommended to us by Riccardo, the owner of Zampugna (he seems to know everyone). Cugusi Silvano is a small local cheese making company which makes 13 different varieties of Pecorino. Yes that's correct, 13 types, from 10 day old Pecorino through to 3 year old wine dressed cheese with peppers. Included in the repertoire of cheeses is Pecorino wrapped in walnut leaves and also Pecorino matured in ash. Believe me, we tasted the lot. The on site shop is fantastic and the staff are so friendly, the company sells to local hotels, restaurants and they have another shop in Montepulciano.

Two cheeses at different stages, one is a 3 year old Pecorino with peppers alongside a two month old version of the same cheese:

The boss was greatly impressed when I told him I make Asiago Pepato. The company also make Ricotta, which Jan loved and Raviggiolo which we did not try. The boss, Fabritsio and I think it was his wife, he introduced her as the cheese queen anyway,

were fantastic hosts and showed us all the way around the dairy and cave. It was also terrific to see the sheep out in the fields next to the dairy

of which there are about 1000 (not all in this picture of course). The whole crew were so proud of their cheese, but it was obvious that for Fabritsio, there is a special relationship with his cheeses.

Some of the producers in the area ship their milk from all over Europe, but this was the true traditional Pecorino, that made it so special for Jan and me.

I think the next pictures are fairly self explanatory so will just post them with a little title to explain.

The mould racks for Ricotta

The milk/cheese tanks

Ricotta tanks

3 Kilo Pecorino cheeses…

3 Kilo Pecorino cheeses salted and out of the moulds ready to go to the cave

Peppered 3 Kilo cheese with date of manufacture on

25 Kilo cheeses aging (they are turned once a week for 2 years)

10 Kilo cheeses maturing in the cave

More 25 Kilo cheeses maturing

10 Kilo olive oil dressed Pecorino

Jan checking out the different mould sizes

Three different sizes of Pecorino all salted and waiting to be placed in the cold room at 10°

Cheese Heaven…

Cheese Heaven…

Cheese Heaven…

‘St Jan’ with her cheese halo

Cheese Heaven…

Cheese Heaven…

Curved olive oil cheese dressing table

The shop

Further information I managed to gain with our poor knowledge of the Italian language is; the sheep are milked twice a day, the temperature they add their culture and rennet is 36.° I didn’t want to appear rude so didn’t ask about production statistics, but believe me, walking round the cave, there was enough to keep them going for the 2 year maturation cycle.

It was a fabulous morning, so all we can say is thank you Fabritsio. If you ever find yourself traveling out of Montepulciano towards Pienza, about 2.5 km out on the SS140, you will find Cugusi on the right, pop in and treat yourself, it’s worth it. You can of course also visit them on

To read a little more about our trip, take a look at my blog article Pure Heaven!

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