The full Monte

Calabria Family Wines sent me Australia’s first-ever boxed Montepulciano wine to try last week, so I cracked the cardboardeaux on Friday night and reminisced about the time DD and I went to actual, real life Montepulciano.

Ah, that fairytale era when Aussies could travel overseas, it seems so long ago.

Calabria’s bottled Montepulciano won its first trophy in 2018. According to the Calabrias, the Montepulciano grape variety is perfectly adapted to the famously warm and dry Autumns of the Riverina, the family’s home. The goon version – part of the new Banta Box range – is quite palatable in its own right and very handy to have on tap.

I’m not much of a red connoisseur, so I’ll go with the Calabria description of it: “Delicious forest fruit flavours of blackberries and raspberries complemented by layers of spiced cherry.”

The Banta Box range has an RRP of $13.99 and has been rolled out in select independent retailers over summer.

The birthplace of the grape varietal is perched on a hilltop in southern Tuscany not too far from Siena. It’s a medieval town filled with elegant Renaissance palaces, ancient churches and charming squares. It boasting stunning views over the Val d’Orcia and Val di Chiana valleys that surround it.

The town is also where the Twilight sequel New Moon was filmed (below).

We didn’t get to explore much of the town as we arrived after nightfall and headed to the Piazza Grande in the heart of Montepulciano for dinner.

We’d spent a few hours earlier that day visiting Siena, which also has the most amazing town square that’s been rated one of the most picturesque in Italy. We had lunch in a cobblestoned side street before heading off to find one of Italy’s “wild” thermal springs at Petrolio.

They’re called “wild” because they haven’t been commercialised – the day we were there just a few campervans and hippies were enjoying the ambience. Petrolio was once the site of an ancient Roman spa and bits of crumbling wall still surround the steamy little spot.

We lazed around sipping wine in the hot, hot, hot water for around an hour before dressing our sulphur-scented bodies and heading to Montepulciano (above) for a bowl of spaghetti and glass of the famed wine in the square.

Such lovely memories! I miss my adventures with DD, it’s been a long time since we holidayed outside NSW together. Fortunately NSW is a very pretty place to wait out the COVID crisis.

Though it was fun to flick through the travel photos, the one above is from Lucca, another absolutely gorgeous Tuscan town … I look so young and thin and it is very weird to see DD without his beard, which he’s been threatening to shave off (nooooooo!).

He’s the best travel companion, so calm and zen, even when lost in the back roads of Tuscany, as we were that day.

Speaking of traveling outside NSW, I saw this newspaper cover yesterday:

I thought it was pretty ironic, because I’d love to holiday in Australia, but it’s pretty difficult right now with the various states and territories becoming fifedoms that close their borders and order strict lockdowns at short notice.

The Victorian decision in the early new year was particularly disturbing, giving its own citizens less than a day to get home then locking the stragglers out.

But Queensland is probably my least favourite (WA somehow avoids my ire by being so remote, though yesterday’s lockdown seems a bit full on). I have a friend whose trip to Hamilton Island has been cancelled three times in just over six months. She’s over it and won’t bother trying to rebook again.

I think a lot of us are lairy. If we book, will we be locked out just before we go? Or will we be forced into isolation while we’re there? Or will get there and be asked to leave?

She may not be on my political team, but I’m with Gladys on this one.

“I completely support having strong borders to Australia,” she said.

“But for all of us within Australia, we’re all Australians and we should be moving around freely within our country.

“A decision you take can impact someone’s livelihood, it can impact their health, it can impact their mental health and wellbeing.

“That’s why in NSW we like to find that balance of keeping the virus at bay but also keeping the economy going and keeping our citizens moving freely and I wish other states would consider that approach as well.”

Closing Queensland’s borders to Greater Sydney during the Christmas period alone is estimated to have cost the state’s economy $200million.

I really feel for the Queensland tourism operators, it’s a crushing situation. But NSW is it for me for now.

And I’m very fortunate that it feels like I am on holidays every time I head to the gorgeous part of the world where DD lives. So I’ll be having all my getaways there for the foreseeable future.

PS Thank you to the lovely stranger who tapped me on the shoulder at Woolies on Saturday and told me she loved the blog. I was a bit startled and forgot to ask your name, but I was very touched by your words.

Song of the day: Bananarama “Robert De Niro’s Waiting”

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