Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Polenta and Ticino Wine at Grotto Bundi in Ticino, Switzerland

Picture: Polenta at Grotto Bundi in Ticino, Switzerland

As part of the 2014 Digitul Wine Communications Conference in Montreux, Switzerland, I explored the wines of Ticino during a post-conference press trip. This is the third of a series of postings (see below) emanating from my visit of Ticino. It is the first posting that does not focus on wine, but on food – polenta.

Exploring the Wines of Ticino in Ticino, the Italian Speaking Part of Switzerland
Touring (and Tasting the Wines of) Brivio Vini SA and Gialdi Vini SA in Mendrisio, Ticono, with Guido Brivio, Switzerland
Polenta at Grotto Bundi, Mendrisio, Switzerland
Touring and Tasting the Wines of Cantina Kopp von der Crone Visini, with Anna Barbara von der Crone and Paolo Visini, Switzerland
Visiting and Tasting the Wines of Tamborini Carlo SA and Lunch with Valentina Tamborini, Switzerland
Touring and Tasting the Wines of Vini e Distillati Angelo Delea SA, with David Delea, Switzerland
Touring an Tasting the Wines of Agriloro SA and Diner with Owner Meinrad Perler, Switzerland
Touring and Tasting the Wines of Vinattieri Ticinesi, Switzerland
Lunch at Ristorante Montalbano in Stabio, Switzerland

Wine Producer Switzerland

Switzerland is a small wine producer with about 15 000 hectares of vineyards only. This is about 15 percent of Germany’s total winegrowing area and a bit more than 1 percent of that of Spain. Only less than 2% of the wine is exported, mainly to Germany.

Picture: Map of Switzerland

Switzerland's particular situation - in between four wine-producing nations (France, Italy, Germany and Austria) and itself divided into four different areas with different languages and traditions - has resulted in an extreme diversity of its wines.

Switzerland has an extensive range of grape varieties. Among the white grapes, the Chasselas is the most widespread. Müller-Thurgau, cultivated above all in the German speaking part of Switzerland, and Sylvaner are also popular. The main red grape varieties are Pinot Noir, which can be found in all the wine-producing regions of Switzerland, and Gamay, which predominates in the Valais; Merlot has found a second home in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland, the Ticino.


Ticino is a quite distinct winemaking zone in Switzerland, totaling 1000 hectares. The canton Ticino (and the wine region Tecino) is divided into two regions by the dividing line of the Monte Ceneri Pass: Sopraceneri in the north and Sottoceneri in the south. The Sopraceneri soils are rather stony with a full complement of silt and sand, while the Sottoceneri soils are limestone and deep, rich clays. Ticino's climate is Mediterranean.

Picture: Annette Schiller, ombiasy PR and Wine Tours, and Christian Schiller in Ticino, Switzerland

There are a total of about 3600 grape growers in Ticino and 200 or so winemakers, including a co-operative. The 200 or so winemakers range from pure negociant-type producer (who buy all the grapes the use for their wine) to winemakers that only use their own grapes for making wine. Vineyards are generally small, steep plots of between 3 ha and 6 ha and yields are at 70 hl/ha. 15 winemakers account for about 80% of the total production. The co-op produces 1 million bottles annually.

Merlot is the dominant grape variety. The Ticino Merlot ranges from easy drinking, including white, Merlots to ultra-premium Merlots that can compete with the best in the world (including Bordeaux) and cost US$50 to US$150 per bottle.

Guido Brivio, Brivio Vini SA and Gialdi Vini SA, and Polenta Dinner at Grotto Bundi

In an interview, winemaker Guido Brivio, Brivio Vini SA and Gialdi Vini SA, was asked: What traditional dishes would you recommend to drink with your wines? His answer: Polenta and risotto are traditional dishes. We have a north Italian culture here. What restaurants do you recommend in the region? If you want rustic food then the tavern, Grotto Bundi (, located on a road full of ancient wine cellars, is a must. Grotto serves the best polenta in the world, in my opinion.

In fact, after the tasting with Guido Brivio, see here: Touring (and Tasting the Wines of) Brivio Vini SA and Gialdi Vini SA in Mendrisio, Ticono, with Guido Brivio, Switzerland, we were treated to a fabulous Polenta Dinner at Grotto Bundi.

Picture: Guido Brivio and Christian G.E. Schiller

Brivio Vini SA and Gialdi Vini SA are operating as a pure negociants-type winery under the same roof and management in Mendrisio. Together, they buy fruit from 400 farmers operating on 100 ha of land in the region and produce 100.000 cases.

See also:
Touring (and Tasting the Wines of) Brivio Vini SA and Gialdi Vini SA in Mendrisio, Ticono, with Guido Brivio, Switzerland
Exploring the Wines of Ticino in Ticino, the Italian Speaking Part of Switzerland

Polenta The word “polenta” has Hebrew, Greek and Latin (pulmentum) origins. Since the most ancient times, people have eaten some form of ground grain cereal (originally made from wheat, barley, millet, spelt (farro) or buckwheat), cooked in water or milk. In some areas of Italy polenta was prepared using course chestnut flour or flours made from dried legumes, such as fava beans, chickpeas, or cicerchia - a cereal similar to chickpeas but with a sweeter, earthier flavor still common in central and southern Italy. These different types of polenta, as alternatives to bread and pasta, have been basic to the diet of rural populations for centuries.

Pictures: Grotto Bundi

Beginning in the late 16th century - after the introduction of corn in Europe from the Americas (where it was known in Peru as “mahyz”) - polenta made from corn became the main source of nourishment for farm families in northeastern Italy. The importance of polenta in the everyday diet of northern Italians - especially in Veneto and Lombardy, where the climate and soil are well suited for the cultivation of corn cannot be overstated; historically, polenta has been as essential to the diet of northern Italians as the potato has been for the Irish and Germans. To this day, polenta is mainly associated with northern Italy and is a beloved element of the now celebrated “cucina povera” - meaning the “humble food” of Italian cuisine.

Pictures: Grotto Bundi - Sandrine e Stefano Romelli, Proprietari e Gerenti

For many northern Italians - particularly those who immigrated to South and North America - polenta evokes memories of family, warmth and winters around the fireplace when polenta was cooked in the paiolo - a copper pot used exclusively for the making of polenta.

Pictures: Polenta and Ticino Wine at Grotto Bundi in Ticino, Switzerland

Venetians in general, but also gourmands and people that love good regional food, still appreciate this wonderful way to accompany an infinite number of regional recipes - from Fegato alla veneziana (a delicious recipe based on veal liver and onions) to Baccalà alla vicentina (a unique stockfish recipe) to the various pasticci (a culinary term meaning a “delicious mess”).

Pictures: Starters

Grotto Bundi’s Polenta Recipe

Here is a polenta recipe that you can find on the web site of Grotto Bundi.

240 g di farina ogni litro d'acqua (per una polenta non troppo spessa)
240 g. of flour per each water liter (for a not too thick polenta)
200 g. of flour per water liter (for a very smooth polenta).
Salt as for pasta.
½ liter of water for one person.

Pictures: Polenta at Grotto Bundi

Procedure: Put a pot with a thick bottom and a lid on the burner. Salt water, when it starts boiling take it away from fire and pour flour using the whisk , paying attention not to form lumps. Put on the large burner until polenta starts boiling again.

Picture: Dessert

When boil lessens and the first “vapor volcanoes” appear cover with lid and finish cooking with low temperature for at least 45 - 60 minutes. You can cook it longer if you want: the longer it cooks the more it’s good and digestible. If polenta remains too firm add a little boiling water.

Pictures: Grappa Nostrana

schiller-wine: Related Posting

4 Wine Tours by ombiasy coming up in 2015: Germany-East, Germany-South. Germany-Nord and Bordeaux

Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy, 2014

Germany-North Wine Tour by ombiasy, 2014

Bordeaux Wine Tour 2013 by ombiasy

The 2014 Digital Wine Communications Conference (DWCC) in Switzerland 

The Wines of Weingut Saxer, a Winemaker in the German-speaking part of Switzerland

The Wines of Switzerland – Grand Tasting with (and Introduction to Swiss Wines by) Jancis Robinson and José Vouillamoz 

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