When it comes to Italian Food and Wine it can stand you in good stead to remember that generally, what grows together goes together.
Granted you can get into the science of tasting... “does the acidity of the tomatoes neutralise the taste of the wine......, etc, etc.” But as a simple rule of thumb, wines that come from the same region as the dishes on the menu tend to make a good pairing partner.
There are few countries that have made such an impact on global cuisine as Italy, and within that each region deserves a specific mention. With recipes and wine producing techniques dating back to classical times and passing through centuries of fine tuning, the output of the Italians is as phenomenal as it is enjoyably to indulge in!
I enjoy hosting wine tasting events and am always keenly interested in good food and wine pairings. So in this article, I take a look at three classic dishes and some great wines that go with them as suitably as a horse and rider at the Siena Palio!
Let’s jump right in....
Langhe Nebbiolo and Brasato Al Barolo
Piedmont is the first such region to deserve it’s own mention. Bordering both France and Switzerland it is surrounded on three sides by the Alps including Monviso and Monte Rosa.
Lowland Piedmont is fertile agricultural land. Main produce includes cattle, milk, maize and of course, grapes for winemaking.
Langhe Nebbiolo is one of Piedmont's great Barolo & Barbarescos. A DOC product, it’s recipe is derived from the Nebbiolo grape that is rarely seen outside of the borders of Piedmont. Indeed it is a grape that flourishes on south facing slopes and well the drained cancerous marls abundant to the North and South of Alba.
These wines contain a powerful and elegant flavour. Earthy but with bright cherry and rose notes and a slight hint of leather to the nose.
Braised beef, with a cut from the highly prized Piedmont breed of cattle makes for a great accompaniment. The hearty Piedmontese Brasato Al Barolo is typically made with beef or veal broiled in Barolo wine.
Given the premium produce and that the meat requires 24 hours to be marinated in the wine, this dish is usually reserved for special occasions. One way to stretch the budget is to prepare enough meat for left over dishes such as cottage pie, or to use a wine slightly less wallet busting than the Barolo such as a Nebbiolo or Barbera Superiore.
Oltrepo Pavese and Cotoletta Alla Milanese
And so to Lombardy where the wines of the Oltrepo Pavese are most commonly a blend of local grapes such as the Barbera, Uve Rara and Pinot Nero. Soft and medium in body these wines tend to be fruity and acidic, affordable and best served chilled.
Cue the Cotoletta Alla Milanese - the Italian equivalent to the Wiener Schnitzel! This breaded veal cutlet hails from Northern Italy, but takes roots in Austria too. Remember this region was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire during the nineteenth century and up until the First World War.
The name Cotoletta, means “Little Rib”, and tastes great with a potato salad or a side helping of Pasta. Sipping a slightly chilled Oltrepo Pavese with a “Little Rib” will have your taste buds dancing a Waltz in no time at all.
Montepulciano D’Abruzzo and Salsiccia e Broccoli
Abruzzo is another celebrated Italian region for food and wine in Italy thanks, in part, for the renown of Montepulciano D’Abruzzo. Ask any small time food enthusiast to name a decent Italian Wine, and chances are they will give you either this one or Chianti.
The interior of Abruzzo is a land of mountains, forests, ancient villages and wild bears. There is an abundance of truffles, fantastic spicy sausage and saffron.
The grapes planted on calcareous clay benefit from warm and significant sun exposure that is ventilated by dry breezes from the Adriatic. This DOC wine is simple, typically dry with soft tannins and usually consumed young.
Salsiccia e Broccoli
Montepulciano is great with strong cheeses and red meats, but my particular favourite pairing is with Penne Salsiccia e Broccoli. The dish contains a good quantity of chili, which along with the spicy sausage is tamed by the soft fruit of the wine - the perfect house mate for the redolent flavours of Abruzzo.
About the Author: Toto Mascalzone is event and marketing manager at Mascalzone restaurant. He is an Italian wine writer and educator, blogger, and food and wine enthusiast currently living in London. He is author of the wine and lifestyle blog, and was a co-editor, together with Italian wine writer, a blog devoted to news from the world of Italian wine.
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