One of the key agendas during my visit to Tuscany was to visit an Organic Goat’s Cheese making farm based in Greve, Chianti.
Greve is an idyllic location about an hour away from Florence. Green meadows extend for long stretches with the occasional vineyard or a farm being spotted along the line.
A short bus trip and we were in this place – literally in the middle of nowhere. Well, the idea was to combine a Vineyard visit with this Cheese farm and hence began our exploration of Greve.
The vineyard visit lasted quite a while and after a beautiful wine tasting session (detailed in an earlier post), we headed down the hill of the vineyard and commenced our hunt for this rather non-descript Cheese farm. The tough part was, there were absolutely no signs or boards highlighting this farm. Walking in either directions for quite a while, it was quite a task to actually find any sign of this place. There weren’t any houses or any people in sight where we could ask for directions. It was a place, as I said, literally in the middle of nowhere. A good half hour later, walking through the green meadows and climbing a small hill, we finally reached the Organic Goats Cheese Maker “Podere Le Fornaci” and were a bit stunned.
It was actually a rather small setup. In fact, it is what I would call a place that had started more out of passion and was very much “Artisanal” focusing on making cheeses only out of sheer love. Finding no person over there even, we walked a bit more and found a house there. A kind gentleman walked out with a small kid. We spoke to him and he guided us to the goat farm and then welcomed us to visit the cheese manufacturing set-up that they ran there. (He was, by the way, the owner of the place, which, we realized much later after leafing through a magazine in the place).
Trudging up a small hill again, we came across a shed that was quite rustic but well-planned out. We found quite a few goats in there, some eating, some lazing and others, just wandering about looking at us wondering what were we upto. A few were outside grazing on the greens. A board highlighted the feed schedules for all the goats and other activities.
We spent a bit of time wandering around here because it was quite relaxing being surrounded by these friendly Goats amidst the greenery. A short while later, we made our way to the cheese set-up hoping that we would get access to the manufacturing only to learn that it was a sterile area and no one else was allowed in there. Major heartbreak – this. I had secretly known that they wouldn’t allow anyone in there but there was that bit of hope somewhere in my heart but well, the good news was, they conduct Cheese manufacturing training courses but you need to get in touch with them well in advance. So, hoping that someday in the future, I get a chance to visit this place again and learn the craft of Goat’s cheese making.
Michele, a sweet young lady attended to us at the counter and acquainted us with the various cheese’s they manufactured. Quite an interesting lot, they had. A bit of Ricotta, a bit of Goat’s cheese, plain variants, ash-covered variants and a few others (Forgive me, but my Italian wasn’t really upto it at that time to understand all the offerings they had). They also had fruit compotes made using the local fruits to offer. We were invited to taste the produce and after a few samplings, we decided to opt for some Ricotta and my friend bought a compote (I got a Mandarin one).
This is when I happened to leaf through some magazines placed on the desk there and realized that while the set-up was extremely small, it was in its true essence a “Niche” operation. They were in true terms “Organic” and hence, had earned themselves quite a name in some selected European regions for their produce. Like, the magazine I was looking at was in Russian. I asked Michele about their sales and was told that they had tied up with a few select restaurants in that region for selling all their cheeses. Being Organic and Artisanal, they had crafted quite a high standard and thus, demand for their products
We parted ways with Michele with one last look at the Goat shed and with a dream of making our way back once again sometime in the future to learn the craft of Organic Cheese making from them. Might be years to that but the memories of this short visit will stay on till then.