Italian Food and Wine Almost An American Tradition

John Crisafulli, Village Vino Kensington
Metro View: Community Home Journal, Kensington/Talmadge Edition, September/October 2017

Over the years we have had guests at Village Vino and at our events and tastings express their lackitalian wine glasses of knowledge or experience with Italian wines, so their solution is to avoid them when they are on a wine list. Someof this apprehension is based on a bad Italian wine selection or fear of the unknown. This all stops today as we share the basics of Italian wines and demonstrate how they have become part of the fabric of the American food and wine scene. With the numbers of Italian restaurants and pizza joints dotting our American landscape, there are surely Italian wines to enjoy at the same tables.

ITALY’S TOP WINE REGIONS

Piedmont sits high and tight in Italy’s northwest corner. Home to some heavy duty red wines and the ever popular, light-hearted bubbles of Moscato, this particular Italian wine region is dominated by three key grapes: Barbera, Nebbiolo, and Dolcetto. The highly concentrated, ultra-dry red wines of Barolo and Barbaresco (named for the towns their grown around) are both built on the late-ripening grape of Nebbiolo.

Tuscany is picturesque Italy with rolling hillsides, medieval castles, walled cities, and endless vineyards. Tuscany’s wines are based on the Sangiovese grape, bottled as Chianti, and come in various levels of quality and price. Super Tuscans represent a unique “renegade” wine that’s blended with Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot (as well as other Bordeaux varietals).

Alto Adige is an area tucked into the base of the Italian Alps, locally dubbed the Dolomites. The wine region of Alto Adige has to be home to the world’s most stunning vineyard views. White wines are most famous in this wine growing region with Pinot Grigio being the most predominant varietal. Cool, crisp nights and warm sunny days allow for impressive temperature changes between day and night and give rise to excellent acidity in the grapes.

PAIRING FOOD WITH ITALIAN WINES

To simplify the options, you can divide Italian wines into two main categories: Table Wines and Highend selections. Italy’s table wines tend to be less expensive red or white wines that are produced to be consumed in the casual atmosphere of an Italianstyle family dinner, like many of America’s Italian Family restaurants and pizza shops. Table wines are often fruit-forward wines, some are sparkling, most are light-medium bodied and all carry an affinity for regional Italian fare.

High-end Italian wines range in quality designations, from good to superior. With over 2000 native grape varieties covering varied terrain, growing in forgiving climates, you can imagine that the resulting wine combinations would be just as diverse as the subcultures that surround them. Super Tuscans, Barolo, Barbaresco, Chianti Classico Riserva, and Amarone will lean towards the higher price points.

The wine to pair with everything from spaghetti and meatballs to backyard BBQ fare is Chianti. Or consider Dolcetto d’Alba as another solid red table wine that is made for Italian fare. If you are looking to crank on some steak or other heavy red meat, then take a turn with Piedmont’s Barolo or Barbaresco wine finds. Both are built to handle high fat, high protein with full flavors, powerful tannic structure, and incredible acidity. While many are not cheap, they are perfect for special occasions where the Italian meat dish is at the center of the plate. Pinot Grigio is Italy’s most popular white wine variety and for good reason. It highlights incredible acidity and makes for easy food pairings. Perfect for seafood, an assortment of appetizers and favorite poultry picks, Pinot Grigio is Italy’s predominant white wine.

Below are a few of our favorite selections to get you started at your next Italian dinner party or when making pizza and flatbreads. Now with this short tutorial about Italian wines you can feel more comfortable making them part of your new American Tradition and at your dinner table.

2015 Ceraudo Pecorello, Calabria

2016 Terenzuola Vermentino Colli di Luna

2015 Terenzuola Vermentino Nero

2009 Ottoventi Nerello Mascalese, Sicily

2012 Brezza, Barolo 2014 Castello di Verduno, Barbaresco

2015 Masseria Furfante, Bombino Bianco, Sicily

2015 Ka Mancine, Rossese Di Dolceacqua Galeae, Liguria

2014 ‘Askos’ Susumaniello, Salento, Puglia

2014 Selvapiana, Chianti Classico

2015 Casanova Di Neri, Brunello di Montalcino

 

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