Great Italian Wines with Food
May 09, 2013 10:36AM
● By tina
Italian wines are some of the most complex and misunderstood wines of the world but are wonderful when paired with the right menu.
Sponsored by Patrizio Osteria
Written by Ken Kuczwaj, General Manager Patrizio Osteria
Italian wines are some of the most misunderstood wines in the world. I think most of us cut our teeth on cheap Chianti that has more acid than a marinara sauce on spaghetti and meatballs. Some of that jug wine (by the way, Ernest and Julio Gallo were from California) was better suited to peel paint. I love Italian wines and not just with Italian food. I will take an Amarone over a California Cabernet any day. Amarone is made with Corvina and Rondinella grapes, which are left to dry on a mat before pressed, resulting in an intense and slightly raisin taste. Paired with the Osso Buco we serve at Patrizio, it is a marriage made in heaven.
The most popular grape from Italy is the Sangiovese grape, which is found in central Italy all the way down to Sicily. Sangiovese is the grape found in Chianti, Brunello de Montalcino, Super Tuscans (along with Cabernet Sauvignon) and Morellino di Scansano. This is a grape that is lighter than a Cal Cab and more similar in structure to a Pinot Noir with some great nuances. As they age, they take on much more depth and complexity and are also the wine of choice for any pasta with a red sauce.
Once you have a great Super Tuscan like Sassicaia, Ornellia, or Tiganello, you will come to understand how great Italian wines are. These are some of the most expensive wines produced in Italy and are the French equivalent to a Bordeaux blend. Containing different blends of Cabernet Savignon, Cab Franc, Sangioves, and Petit Verdot, these wines are silky smooth and are amazing with meat, pasta dishes or just a plate of cured Italian meats with cheese.
Barolo, which is made from the Nebbiolo grape, comes from the Piedmont region of northern Italy. This is the one wine I hesitate to sell anyone — first of all, the wine needs to age 10 years or more before it shows its pedigree, and then it should be decanted for at least 5 to 6 hours. Also, these are food wines. They are not meant to be sipped before dinner. They can be rough, tannic and completely unlike any wine from California. Have you found any good Nebbiolos in California lately? However, when handled the right way and allowed to age, Barolos are some of my favorite wines. Great with anything from meat to seafood, a great Barolo is a true experience.
The best value wine in Italy comes from Sicily and is called a Nero D Avola. Similar to a Shiraz, these fruit-forward, low-acid wines are easy to drink and go great with the regional Sicilian cuisine. Another gem of a wine that is a reasonable value comes from the Primitivo grape, which is the original red Zinfandel. Find an ancient-vine, late-harvest Primitivo, and you are in for a treat.
Come see me at Patrizio Osteria. I have all of these wines and will be happy to guide you through the different varietals.