Category Archives: Wine Pairings

Green Bean, Olive and Goat Cheese Quiche – Recommended Wine Pairing

Francesca’s delicate green bean, olive and goat cheese quiche can be successfully complemented with a medium-bodied white wine with good acidity and either effervescence or noticeable minerality.

Based on the above, my suggestion is either a quality Prosecco or a Pecorino. Let’s quickly discuss each of these two wines and include some actual recommendations.

Prosecco. Among the average consumers both in Italy and abroad, there is a lot, and I mean A LOT of misinformation about Prosecco. Let’s try to get some facts straight regarding this much talked about wine.

Italy, like other countries, produces several sparkling wines which are made either according to the Classic Method (also known as “Methode Champenoise“, because it is the traditional production process of French Champagne) or according to the quicker and cheaper Italian Method (also known as “Methode Charmat” or “Metodo Martinotti“), which is known to maximize primary (or varietal) aromas although it generally sacrifices the wine structure and the finest perlage. Franciacorta DOCG and Trento DOC are examples of two Italian appellations that are reserved to Classic Method sparkling wines.

Prosecco, instead, is a white wine that can be made either in the still or sparkling version: for the purposes of this quick overview, we will only focus on the sparkling wine variety, which is also the one that generally yields the best results in terms of quality. So, Prosecco sparkling wine is generally made according to the Italian Method (although there are a few exceptions, such as Valdo‘s Prosecco Brut Metodo Classico Numero 10 DOCG, which is a solid 100% Glera sparkling wine made according to the Classic Method) in the three appellations which permit production of such wine: Prosecco DOC (which encompasses a larger territory in the regions of Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia), Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG and Prosecco di Asolo DOCG (which both encompass a much smaller territory near the town of Treviso, Veneto).

Prosecco is made from 85% or more Glera white-berried grapes, which are also known as Prosecco grapes, although nowadays Prosecco is technically a trademark for the wine, and no longer the name of the grape variety. Prosecco sparkling wine can be made available in in any of the following varieties, as far as residual sugar content is concerned: Brut, Extra Dry, Dry and Demisec. Under no circumstance, should Prosecco be confused with Asti Spumante, which is a totally independent and different sweet sparkling wine made according to the Italian Method within the homonymous DOCG appellation in the region of Piemonte, Italy, out of Moscato Bianco grapes: it simply has nothing to do with Prosecco.

Hoping to have somewhat set the record straight for Prosecco, let’s move on to acknowledge a few among the best Prosecco sparkling wines that are available on the market. This is a particularly important exercise because unfortunately, due to the worldwide notoriety that Prosecco wines have recently attained, there are producers that just tried to seize the opportunity and put out there a lot of really low quality Prosecco at a very cheap price point, which is something that has been tarnishing Prosecco’s reputation in the eyes (but especially in the mouths!) of those consumers who happened to purchase any of such inferior quality labels.

Among the best Prosecco’s on the market are Adami, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore Brut “Bosco di Gica” DOCG (95-97% Glera grapes/3-5% Chardonnay grapes, with aromas of wisteria, pear, apple, peach, Mirabelle plum and herbs); Bepin De Eto, Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore Brut DOCG (100% Glera grapes, with scents of rose, wisteria, apple, pear, peach, bread crust and minerals – commendable is the investment made by the owners to achieve a very good density of 4,000 vines/HA); Marsuret, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore Brut “San Boldo” DOCG (100% Glera grapes, with aromas of mint, broom, elder blossoms, apple, citrus and minerals); or Montesel, Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore “Riva dei Fiori” Brut DOCG (100% Glera grapes, with scents of elder blossoms, wisteria, pear, apple, lime and minerals). One last noteworthy mention is much deserved by the more expensive, exquisite Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCG by Nino Franco: a 100% Glera Italian Method Prosecco made in the finest sub-zone of the appellation (called Cartizze) and displaying fine aromas of jasmine blossoms, passion fruit, citrus, herbs and minerals.

Pecorino is a wine made 85% or more from Pecorino white-berried grapes, a variety that is indigenous to the Marche region in Italy and that had almost completely been abandoned because of the limited productivity of Pecorino vines.  Fortunately for us all 🙂 in the early Eighties Guido Cocci Grifoni, a winemaker in the Marche region, became aware of a minuscule vineyard owned by an old farmer which still had a few Pecorino vines, which he bought and transplanted in his own vineyard thus saving this grape variety from extinction and starting commercial production of Pecorino wine in the Nineties. If you want to know more about Pecorino grapes and their rediscovery, check out this interesting write up on Tenuta Cocci Grifoni’s Web Site (after you open the PDF file, keep scrolling as there is an Italian version first and then one in English).

Remarkable Pecorino wines to definitely try out if you come across them include Tenuta Cocci Grifoni, Offida Pecorino “Colle Vecchio” DOCG (100% Pecorino grapes, with aromas of chamomile flowers, acacia and jasmine blossoms, hay, apple, caper and minerals); De Angelis, Offida Pecorino DOCG (100% Pecorino grapes, with scents of chamomile flowers, broom, hay, melon, citrus and minerals); Le Caniette, Offida Pecorino “Io sono Gaia (non sono Lucrezia)” DOCG (100% Pecorino grapes, with aromas of broom, apricot, exotic fruit, wax and minerals – to Le Caniette’s owners credit, they have invested energy and resources to achieve a very good density of 4,000 vines/HA); or Moncaro, Offida Pecorino “Ofithe” DOCG (100% Pecorino grapes, with scents of white flowers, elder blossoms, apple, citrus, almond and minerals).

As usual, enjoy and please share your experience if you decide to try out any of the above wines or if you wish to suggest a different wine that you think would go well with Francesca’s green bean, olive and goat cheese quiche!

Pumpkin Soup – Recommended Wine Pairing

To adequately complement Francesca’s elegant pumpkin soup, I suggest you pick a medium-bodied white wine with enough acidity to compensate for the inherent sweetness of the pumpkin. Here are a few solid options to choose from, all of which I have selected (as usual) because they present a very good quality/price ratio.

To offer a little extra variety, I am going to recommend wines from two very different regions in Italy: Piemonte (in the Northwest) and Campania (in the South). The wines I am going to discuss below are all DOCG appellations, are all varietal and they all reflect the territories of their respective regions: those from Piemonte are all made out of Cortese grapes, while those from Campania are made out of either Greco or Fiano grapes.

Cortese is a white-berried grape variety that is indigenous to the Piemonte region. The appellation “Gavi DOCG” requires that wines be made out of 100% Cortese grapes grown in the area surrounding the town of Alessandria. Gavi wines are generally medium-bodies, fairly light dry white wines with good acidity.

Among the best Gavi wines available out there are Batasiolo‘s Gavi Graneé del Comune di Gavi DOCG (with scents of herbs, citrus, peach and Mirabelle plum) or Broglia‘s Gavi del Comune di Gavi “La Meirana” DOCG (with aromas of white flowers, apple, pear and citrus) or the nobler and more expensive old vine “brother” Gavi del Comune di Gavi “Bruno Broglia” DOCG (with scents of jasmine, herbs, pear, citrus and minerals) or La Scolca‘s Gavi dei Gavi DOCG (with aromas of almond, walnut and minerals). A special mention goes to a phenomenal Gavi made by Nicola Bergaglio: the Gavi del Comune di Gavi “Minaia” DOCG, with exquisite aromas of pear, gooseberry, white currant and minerals. Unfortunately, as of October 2012, the producer does not have a Web site: should you be interested in reaching out to them, just drop me an email.

Moving on to Campania, Greco and Fiano are both white-berried grape varieties that are used in two appellations of that region, namely “Greco di Tufo DOCG” and “Fiano di Avellino DOCG.” These both require that wine be made out of at least 85% respectively Greco and Fiano grapes grown in specific areas near the town of Avellino.

Fiano’s history can be traced back to the XIII century, based on evidence of a purchase order of Fiano wine for Emperor Frederick II. The grape origins are still debated, with some believing that it originated in Italy, where it is said to have been called vitis apiana by the Romans (literally, “bee grapevine”) because of the sweetness of the grapes which made them a favorite of bees, and others maintaining that it was instead brought to Italy by Greek migrants during the Greek colonization of Southern Italy (so-called “Magna Graecia”) in the VI century BC. Greco’s history goes even farther back than Fiano’s, with evidence of its cultivation in Campania being found in a mural painting in Pompei dating back to the I century BC, which refers to the wine obtained from that grape as “Greek wine.” This is because Greco is a grape that is said to have been imported into Italy from Thessaly (Greece) by the pre-Hellenic people of Pelasgians as far back as the second millennium BC. So, Fiano and Greco have both roots that go so deep in the documented history of Campania that they can be considered indigenous varieties to that region.

Notable Greco di Tufo wines include A Casa‘s Greco di Tufo “Bussi” DOCG (with scents of acacia blossoms, herbs, melon, pear, citrus and almond; noteworthy and commendable is the important investment made by the owner to achieve an excellent density of 5,000 vines/HA), Cantine I Favati‘s Greco di Tufo “Terrantica” DOCG (with flowery aromas of broom, mimosa, linden blossoms and walnut) or Mastroberardino‘s Greco di Tufo “Novaserra” DOCG (with scents of sage, apricot, peach, pear, apple, citrus and almond). A special mention goes out to the exceptional Pietracupa‘s Greco di Tufo DOCG (with exquisite aromas of fern, sage, nectarine, citrus, ginger and pepper): even in this case, unfortunately as of October 2012 the producer does not have a Web site: should you be interested in reaching out to them, just drop me an email. Note that all wines that we recommended above are entirely varietal, and therefore made out of 100% Greco grapes.

A few Fiano di Avellino wines that are worthy of mention are Le Masciare‘s Fiano di Avellino “Anbra” DOCG (with a bouquet of white flowers, herbs, melon, grapefruit and hazelnut), Cantine Antonio Caggiano‘s Fiano di Avellino “Bechar” DOCG (with aromas of wildflowers, hazelnut, pepper and chalk), Mastroberardino‘s Fiano di Avellino “Radici” DOCG (with scents of acacia blossoms, pear, pineapple, hazelnut, honey and minerals) or Feudi di San Gregorio‘s Fiano di Avellino “Pietracalda” DOCG (with aromas of wildflowers, apple, citrus, hazelnut, chestnut and chalk). Even in this case, note that all wines that we recommended above are entirely varietal, and therefore made out of 100% Fiano grapes.

As always, leave a comment and let me know your impressions if you have enjoyed any of these wines or if you wish to suggest another wine that could pair well with Francesca’s pumpkin soup!

Mac & Cheese – Recommended Wine Pairing

Go red to complement Nicole’s mouthwatering Mac & Cheese, pick something with medium body, good acidity and gentle but still noticeable tannins.

Recommended Italian wines to go with Mac & Cheese include a quality Chianti, such as a Castello di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Ser Lapo Riserva DOCG, a blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot with intriguing aromas of plum, wild berries, graphite and a slight foxy note, or a Geografico Chianti Colli Senesi Riserva Torri DOCG, a blend of 95% Sangiovese and 5% Canaiolo with scents of wild cherry, blackberry, mint, leather and tobacco along with subtle tannins, or even an I Sodi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG, a blend of 95% Sangiovese and 5% Canaiolo with aromas of violet, wild cherry, blueberry, blackberry jam, licorice, tobacco and soil.

Another very good option would be a Barbera from Piemonte, such as an enjoyable Pico Maccario Barbera d’Asti Lavignone DOCG, made of 100% Barbera grapes and with appealing aromas of rose, violet, raspberry and red currant, or a Batasiolo Barbera d’Alba Sovrana DOC, with pleasant scents of dried flowers, fruit jam and a slight toasty note.

If you prefer to stay in the USA, consider a nice, basic Merlot, such as a Bogle Merlot California 2009 (88 points, Wine Spectator) with cherry, herb and red currant aromas and distinct tannins, or a Kenwood Merlot Sonoma County 2008 (88 points, Wine Spectator), which is a blend of 96% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon with scents of cherry, raspberry, plum, tomato leaf and chocolate.

By the way, all of the above options have very interesting quality/price ratios.

And if you want to share your experience or have another wine that you would like to suggest, just leave a comment below!


Prosciutto and Fennel Salad: Recommended Wine Pairing

I would suggest that with Francesca’s intriguing prosciutto and fennel salad you pair a white wine from Italy’s Northeastern region Friuli Venezia Giulia, particularly a Friulano or a Malvasia Istriana. Below are a few recommendations of some of the best that the winemakers of that region can offer, all with a very interesting price point for their excellent quality.

Friulano is a varietal white wine made from Friulano grapes: these are the same grapes that up until 2007 used to be called Tocai or Tocai Friulano, but now cannot be called like that any more because of the outcome of a dispute before the European Court of Justice between Hungary and Italy as to the right to use the word Tokaj or similar (such as Tocai). Specifically, in 2005 the Court held that, despite Tocai Friulano’s long history, “in consideration of the Hungarian geographical denomination ‘Tokaj’, the appellation of the Italian grape variety ‘Tocai Friulano’ [could] not be used anymore for the designation and identification of some Italian wines” starting from 2007.

Genetic testing showed that there are two different clones of Friulano grape: one is the Sauvignon Vert grape and the other one originated from a French grape called Sauvignonasse that has not been planted in France since the XIX century but is still grown in Chile. Friulano has no relation to and is not to be confused with Hungarian Tokaji wine, an extraordinary botrytized raisin sweet white wine made of Furmint grapes in the Hungarian region of Tokaj.

An excellent example of Friulano wine is Borgo San Daniele’s Friuli Isonzo Friulano DOC, a varietal dry white wine made of 100% Friulano grapes, with pleasant aromas of white peach, almond, wildflowers, and a slight smoky touch.

A quality alternative would be Blason’s Friuli Isonzo Friulano “Casa in Bruma” DOC, another white wine made of 100% Friulano grapes, with scents of white peach, pear and almond.

In the U.S., a commendable attempt to grow and make wine out of Friulano grapes is that of the Millbrook winery in NY State, whose Tocai Friulano, Hudson River Region, has pear, lemon, grapefruit and slight smoky aromas and is worth a try if you come across a bottle.

Instead of a Friulano, you could opt to pair Francesca’s prosciutto and fennel salad with a Malvasia Istriana, another traditional varietal white wine made in Friuli from Malvasia Istriana grapes. Malvasia Istriana is one of the many varieties of Malvasia (in Italian), Malvoisie (in French) or Malmsey (in English) grapes that exist in various parts of the world and centuries ago originated from the name of the Greek town of Monembasia.

A phenomenal example of Malvasia Istriana is Doro Princic’s Collio Malvasia Istriana DOC, a varietal dry white wine made of 100% Malvasia Istriana, which displays a complex bouquet of scents, including honey, peach, almond and magnolia and linden blossoms, coupled with delicate smoky hints and a long aftertaste.

An equally satisfying alternative would be Dario Raccaro’s Collio Malvasia DOC, another white wine made of 100% Malvasia Istriana, with aromas of magnolia and broom blossoms, white peach, citrus and pineapple as well as a slightly smoky finish.

Unfortunately, as of October 2012, neither of the two preceding wineries have a Website, in spite of the excellent quality of their wines. Should you wish to visit or reach out to them, feel free to drop me an email.

And if you have already tried out any of the wines mentioned above or wish to recommend another one that you think would go well with a dish like the prosciutto and fennel salad, please let us all know by leaving a comment to this post.


Asparagus Baked Pasta: Recommended Wine Pairing – by Stefano

I say bubbles! Pair the asparagus baked pasta with a dry sparkling wine with good acidity and intensity, such as a fine Italian spumante Methode Champenoise, like a Berlucchi Franciacorta Brut ’61 DOCG (90% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Noir; 18 months of aging on the yeast) or the simply delightful, although more expensive, Berlucchi Cellarius Brut DOCG (70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir; 30 months of aging on the yeast).

Other excellent alternatives are a Ferghettina Franciacorta Brut DOCG (95% Chardonnay, 5% Pinot Noir; 24 months of aging on the yeast) or the magnificent and more expensive Ferghettina Franciacorta Pas Dosé Riserva 33 DOCG (100% Chardonnay; 80 months of aging on the yeast) or finally a Ca’ del Bosco Franciacorta Brut Cuvée Prestige DOCG (75% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Noir, 10% Pinot Blanc; 28 months of aging on the yeast), just to name a few with a very good quality/price ratio, most of which can be found in the United States.

A few bits of “technical” information, if you are into wine: (1) “spumante” (pronounced “spoomantay”) is the Italian name for sparkling wine; (2) “Methode Champenoise” (AKA “Classic Method”) are French words indicating that a certain sparkling wine which is not Champagne has been produced using the same process as the king of all sparkling wines (i.e., Champagne); (3) Franciacorta is a region in the surroundings of the Italian city of Brescia, Lombardia, where the Italian Classic Method spumante that is probably most sought-after by wine connoisseurs is produced.

If you prefer to go USA, you may want to give a good New Mexico (yes, New Mexico!) Methode Champenoise sparkling wine a try: pick up a bottle of Gruet Blanc de Noirs (90 points, Wine Spectator) and enjoy its structure! Oh, in case you were wondering, Blanc de Noirs means a white sparkling wine that comes mostly, or exclusively, from the black grapes that are used to make Champagne or Classic Method sparkling wines (essentially, Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier). This is the opposite of a Blanc de Blancs which, as in the case of the Ferghettina Franciacorta Pas Dosé Riserva 33 DOCG, is a white sparkling wine that comes mostly, or exclusively, from the white grapes that are used to make Champagne or Classic Method sparkling wines (essentially, Chardonnay).

If you really insist on pairing a red wine instead, an option would be to carefully pick a good quality bottle of sparkling dry Lambrusco from Emilia Romagna, such as a Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Enrico Cialdini DOC or a Cavicchioli Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Col Sassoso DOC and enjoy them at about 14-16° C / 57-61° F.

If anyone wishes to share their views on any of the above wines or on any other wine they think would go well with a dish like the asparagus baked pasta, just leave a comment and let us all know.

Salute!  🙂