RAVENNA: a play of light – and original wines

It is the end of a warm day in September when sunbeams enter the western windows of the chapel of the S.Apollinare Nuovo church in Ravenna.

Picture: S.Apollinare Nuovo church in Ravenna
Picture: mosaics, detail1 2

 

The picture shows the light entering from the Gothic windows and reflected by the mosaics on both sides. In the forefront some very serious ladies are talking serious matters (who knows what they are talking about?). At the same place church service was being held since the 6th century AD, and the sunbeams probably entered in the same way. S.Appolinare Nuovo is a magnificent example of Byzantine art of 6th century. Ravenna, originally an Etruscan settlement, became capital of the western part of the Roman empire from 402 AD and became later the western capital of the Byzantine empire (553-751 AD). This was the hightlight period of Ravenna, which later fell into oblivion because of natural and other factors – water levels went down and the rise of Venice as a power.

Play of light in S.Apollinare Nuovo
I took some pictures of the interior of the S.Apollinare Nuovo church. How impressive are the Byzantine mosaics, showing long rows of portraits of biblical figures and some portraits! And then the play of light. Only after downloading the picture it becomes clear how intense the light is shining through the ship of the church. It seems as the persons are dissappearing in the light! Such is the intensity of the light of the sunbeams mirrored also by the mosaics. Was it the intension of the architects to concentrate the light? Definitively the church was build with the chapel in the direction to the East, which allow the late afternoon sunbeams enter the church from the west.

Picture: S.Apollinare Nuovo, sunbeams enter the church
Picture: a mosaic stone with a thin layer of gold

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Such was the refinement of the art in Byzantine times that a layer of gold was put on the mineral stones, which causes the unique reflections and play of light in the church. Of course only wealthy people could afford such expenses, but the most wealthy institute by the time was the state-dominated church!

Wines from Ravenna? Yes! A pretty anomaly…
The wine comes as a great surprise. The wine region of Bagnacavallo is only some 10 kms from Ravenna, and produces Ravenna IGT, white and red. It´s a nice surprise as the town once contained 13 monasteries and many noble palaces. Here vinayards are on sandy soils in exchange with some clay and alluvial soils. Clay or alluvional soils are not considered as suited for wine production, but Ravenna´s wines show the opposite. And because of the open situation near the coast, the cold Bora winds from Russia can easily enter the plains and affect the plants. Therefore the plants are trained in a different way to protect them from winter cold.

But the biggest surprise are the unknown local grapes Longanesi and Famoso. Both are indigenous and have no relations with other grapes. The local wine Bursôn is produced from Longanesi grapes: this grape was discovered in 1913 and cured by Daniele Longanesi´s grandfather, that´s why the name is registered with his family name. The grape shows unexpected density of tannins, extract and longevity and with a high resveratrol content. It is at its best after at least four years of aging, but better only after six. Who had thought of such a wine near Ravenna? A pleasurable anomaly, as Daniele Longanesi describes it!

Tasting note:
Longanesi, Ravenna IGT Bursôn 2008
Perfume of fresh blackberries, cherry-mint, despite the age it has kept its freshness. The taste is a big surprise, it presents some extract of blackberries, cassis, powerful and persistent, with a long finish.

Picture: vineyards near Bagnacavallo
Picture: Longanesi, Ravenna IGT rosso 2010  Bursôn

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Thanks to Emilia Romagna Tourist Board