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Buzzing Around Caluso with Andrea Bianco

Buzzing Around Caluso with Andrea Bianco
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Buzzing Around Caluso with Andrea Bianco 

A bees’-eye view of the quaint mountain town with one of Italy’s most respected honey makers.

Italy plays home to some of the globe’s most coveted ingredients and creations – glorious seafood, rare truffles, and pizzas and pastas galore. But true gourmands will also know that among these culinary titans, Italy is also responsible for producing some of the world’s top honeys, prized for their inimitable quality, flavor and diversity.

At the top of the hive sits Andrea Bianco, one of Italy’s most renowned honey producers. His honey, bearing the name of his late father Mario Bianco, is sold in select gourmet shops throughout the country, as well as in Japan (having bested 26 other Italian honey makers for the opportunity). For decades, Rosenthal Wine Merchant has been the sole importer of Mario Bianco honeys in the United States. Andrea remembers meeting Neal when he was just five years old.

We arrived into Caluso on a perfect September day; the sun shone down on the tops of the mountain range and the picturesque town without a cloud in sight. On our drive from the train station, Andrea pointed out the different mountain peaks, stopping to make sure we spotted Gran Paradiso National Park – Italy’s first national park and a prime cultivation spot for some of his most special honeys.

Our first stop on the tour was at the family’s vineyard. Enroute, Andrea explained that the Biancos have a long history in wine production. Caluso itself is home to one of Italy’s first D.O.C white wines – Erbaluce – while his family specializes in Passito, a sweet wine crafted from grapes that have been laid out to rest for months after harvest.

Grapes reserved for Passito at the Bianco family vineyard.

The family has taken their gift and nuance for wine’s sensibilities and applied it to honey with great success. Mario Bianco was a gifted oenologist with a resounding passion for the bees and flora of his home in Italy. Andrea continues his legacy with pride; he is what you might call a honey “sommelier” – a well-respected member of the National Honey Tasting School in Bologna since 1999. When we sit down for a honey tasting at his home, we know we are in good hands.

Bianco’s full range of honeys offer a rainbow of tasting experiences.

As with most tastings, we start from the lightest honey before moving on to more robust creations. With each honey (which are equally delicious yet remarkably different in flavor, texture and color), we learn more about the production process and the seasonality of the entire operation. We learn about the rarity of rhododendron honey, how Japanese cherry blossoms don’t yield honey but Italian ones do, how wild lime honey is more delicate than that produced from conventional lime strain, and more. Andrea’s expertise on bees and honey never failed us, as he answered all of our questions ranging from how exactly the bees convert nectar into honey to why some honeys are clear versus creamy (it all comes down to the fructose to ­­glucose ratio apparently).

A honeycomb at the Bianco facility.

After a quick visit to all of the Mario Bianco honey production facilities, it is highlighted just how special these honeys are. Never heated, never refined and with no additives whatsoever, these honeys are a pure and unfiltered representation of the bounty of Italy’s seasonal blooms. With 400 hives near his home in Caluso, 200 in Tuscany and 200 in Sicily, the Bianco honeys offer anyone lucky enough to taste them a sweeping tour of Italy’s diverse and delectable landscape.

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