We’ll move on to Italy today, flying from Zurich to Venice where we will spend the next 2 nights before boarding the cruise ship on Sunday. I’m sure there have been adventures worth sharing, and people worth bestowing kudos upon, but it’s impossible to know those things in hindsight, taking two parts of my normal three-part Friday post away!
What I can offer you this Friday is an extended Wine for your Weekend post. We’ll call this the Italy edition. When we visited Rome in 2016, we took a wine/food class with a wonderful sommelier who was a genius in putting together traditional Italian wine and food pairings. For this post, I dug out my notes from that first trip to bring you six traditional Italian combinations to add a little international flair to your weekend!
Wine for your weekend – The Italian edition
Mionetto Prosecco – I wish I would have taken better notes on this one because Mionetto makes a variety of proseccos, and I failed to note the style or vintage. What I did note was PEAR EVERYWHERE. On the nose, on the palette, in the finish, this might as well have been pear wine, which was light, refreshing, and very dry. Food pairing – Try Mionetto with fresh mozzarella cheese with sun-dried cherry tomatoes or a fresh caprese salad.
Tocai Friulano – So here’s an interesting fun fact. Tocai is a type of grape native to Italy, however, after Hungary joined the European union, the Hungarians successfully argued that there was too much potential for confusion between the Tocai exported from Italy and the Tokay exported from Hungary. In Italy there hasn’t been much agreement on what to call the wine instead, so when we were served a bottle as part of our class, it was still branded as Tocai Friulano. In other places it may show up as simply Friulano, a reference to the region in Italy where it is produced. Elsewhere, it’s sold as Sauvignonasse, a reference to its relation to Sauvignon Blanc. However you find it labelled, expect a dry, acidic, white wine with leafy notes of bitter greens. Food pairing – Try it with goat cheese and fresh basil pesto on a simple table cracker. Great for appetizers and small plates.
Noto Rosso – This is a Sicilian wine, and the influence of the salt and sea on the vineyards producing it make for a complex and interesting flavor experience. Sicily is hot, and the plants must be hardy in order to survive. This produces a wine that’s heavy and bold on the palette with notes of cherry, chocolate, and an earthiness that our sommelier described as iodine, which is a product of the salt in the soil from the sea. Food pairing – Overwhelming I recommend fish. The bite of “saltiness” in the wine played beautifully against the small bites of tuna (a fatty fish) that we were served.
Cesanese di Olevano Romano – Silene 2014 – Vintage was important on this one, for some reason related to climate and drought which our sommelier talked about in detail, but about which I took very few notes. So aim for 2014 if you can find it! This is a hearty, red wine with notes of spices, smoke, and oak that linger on the nose and palette. Food pairing – We started with prosciutto, thinly sliced with plenty of fat, and then moved to homemade pasta in fresh marinara sauce. It was everything that is good about Italy!
Barolo – Barolo is known as the Wine of Kings, and is considered the creme de la creme of Italian red wines. Barolo is made from the Nebbiolo grape grown in the Piedmont region of Italy. Barolo can be compared to Pinot Noir, and have a lot of tannins and acidity. Barolos are oaky wines, spending two years in an oak barrel before bottling, and then aging for a third year aging in the bottle itself. After five years of aging, a bottle can be sold as “reserve.” We actually sampled two bottles of Barolo, a 2012, and a second bottle that was brought out special, a 1996. Oh what a difference 20 years makes! The only condition on opening the 1996 was that we had to finish the bottle because, unlike our other bottles, the restaurant wasn’t sure they’d be able to sell the remaining pours if we didn’t. No problem! My most prominent tasting note: “Rose on the nose,” as the aroma was akin to a bouquet of flowers. Food pairing – This was considered our “dessert” and we alternated bites of parmigiano cheese and dark chocolate with sips of wine to see how the flavor profile changed.
So go Italian tonight! I’m not sure what we’ll be drinking in Venice. We have a penchant for ordering whatever the house wine is and then drinking a lot of it! There’s no such thing as a red wine headache in Italy. It’s magical. Whatever it is, however, we’ll raise a glass to you, and hopefully, you’ll raise yours in return!