From Tuesday, August 22 till Friday, August 25, the small town of Loro Piceno in the region of Marche erupts into festivities celebrating the local variety of sweet, mulled wine. While in English we say “mulled wine”, the people of Marche produce vino cotto, literally “cooked wine,” with other regions of Italy calling the product vin brûlé. Loro Piceno is a medieval town famous for being a specialised wine-making zone. In fact, the wine produced here is of the highest quality in the region.
Tasting the mulled wine at the Festival is a celebration of the whole process behind its creation. The grapes are picked and pressed into a juice, which is then placed in large copper melting pots to simmer over the slow and constant heat of a fire. This boiling process generates different chemical reactions which give the wine its unique fragrance. Over time the wine becomes denser, the initial red colour transforms into an almost golden amber, and the taste is sweet and honeyed.
Yet it’s not all about the food and drink, essential as they are to a successful festa. During the week, the people of Marche enjoy live music in the piazze (town squares) and delight in wandering the narrow, winding streets, where they can try wine and buy craft products from street-stalls, watch a performance or explore an art show. There are, of course, games for children, and a climactic firework show from the medieval castle – the Castello Brunforte.
As far as Italian festivals go, the Sagra del vino cotto is relatively young – it began in 1948 as the Festa dell’uva (Grape Festival) with simple but popular celebrations, featuring carts adorned with grape vines. Now celebrating its 46th edition in its current format, the festival is loved and appreciated at a regional level.
If you’re touring Italy but aren’t around Marche during the week of the festival, you can still find local produce all year round. While the summer Sagra is the main celebration, the town has also recently started hosting La sagra del vino cotto in the beginning of winter in December.
If you want to participate in the festival spirit, or you need to battle some cold symptoms, try making mulled wine at home with this general recipe, and feel free to be creative!
For a recipe in Italian of vino cotto, try this recipe.