@BistrotWineMan, Stephen Barrett, takes a look at the cuisine and wine in Italy
Italy is certainly one of the world’s most exciting country for cuisine and wine with 20 regions or provinces all offering unique dishes and wines from both humble or fine origins.
I have been most lucky having visited many of Italy’s regions finding a treasure trove of amazing regional dishes with wines and spirits to match. The difference in climates, soils and altitude determine the style of dishes and wines that suit the regions with hundreds of years of experience passed down (normally through ‘Mamma’) So it’s not all Pasta and Chianti as the new developed Italy now proudly offers regional dishes and wines that rival anywhere in the modern world.
A brief tour might include the North Western region of– Piedmont with its unrivalled hearty dishes such as Hare (Lepre alla Piedmontaise) marinated, slow-cooked and served with local red wine such as Barbaresco, Barolo or Barbera (lighter) for a seasonal match. Another favourite is Pappardelle – Hare (or other game) Ragu with this chunky Pasta.
Moving north-eastwards to Trento you will discover a fusion of German, Italian and Central European (Austria, Hungary etc) providing the gourmet a completely different style of dish. This is also the land of great local cheeses with herds of cattle, sheep and goats grazing freely in the majestic Dolomites. So many cheeses such as Stelvio (PDO) an aged cheese often used when making Polenta. Sparkling wines are truly excellent in this region and are happily consumed with many dishes.
Heading south and east to Emilia-Romagna and its capital Bologna probably the most famed of all Italy’s regions/cities with great dishes, sauces, fish, cured hams and cheeses not forgetting the beautiful Olive Oil. It’s a cornucopia of flavours and textures including the famed Lasagne, with rich egg pasta, creamy Béchamel and of course Parmigiano grated throughout. It’s become an international dish one which many of you are conversant with but what of the wines in and around Bologna. The position of Bologna on the Adriatic coastal region is home to a myriad of wines that are consumed with gusto in the region.
The difference in climates, soils and altitude determine the style of dishes and wines that suit the regions with hundreds of years of experience passed down
I have just found an excellent Wine Company based in the UK that are able to offer a range of wines mainly under the Romagna Appellation of the district. www.gardenofitaly.co.uk are a westcountry based outfit offering the wines of Montaia including sparkling, rose, white and red wines from their regional portfolio. My favourites were the beautifully packaged Rose Spumante with (100% Sangiovese) It’s unashamedly Summer Fruit nose and taste create a real glugger. Then Diverso, a Chardonnay (and a surprise!) offering a delicious ripe fruit note with great texture, proving a versatile white for everyone. Next the funky-labelled Scaraboce laced with Sangiovese (85%) it’s a sure-fire hit especially if you are looking for the lighter Cherry-scented Rosso that is hidden in this bottle. It could take a chill served cool on summer months. Lastly another surprise with Cubera, a Cabernet Sauvignon of depth and character reeking of cassis but with an elegant spice (allspice and nutmeg) lingering in this classy drop. For up-to-date vintages and prices contact www.gardenofitaly.co.uk nationwide delivery.
Heading south to Sicily the traveller will be truly astonished with the ancient and historic monuments that colour the entire country. Beautiful blue and green seas are the home of eclectic fish, shellfish and seafood cooked simply (often with a hint of N African spice) in the manner suited to the heat and beauty of the Island.
One of Sicily’s most famous fish is Tuna, harvested all around the island and cooked in many guises. I truly enjoyed their fearless Pesce Crudo (Raw Fish) marinated in fragrant lemon juice laced with fruit-laden olive oil or grilled on an open fire with fiery chilli and tomato dips. Heavenly is the only word!
The wines of Sicily have, in the past ten years or so, been acknowledged as seriously quality wine. Regional vineyards are producing top wines throughout the range. Two of my favourite wines now in the UK are the excellent Cortese Nostru Catarratto Lucido and Nostru Nero d’Avola both showing how well these indigenous white and red grapes/wines fair in modern wine making hands. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org for Independent wine merchants expecting around £12.99 per bottle.
So my little ‘jolly’ of some of Italy’s most famed regions has come to a close but not before remembering many other Provinces, Cities and Towns are able to offer the traveller a warm reception with truly amazing hospitality like no other place.
Stephen Barrett is a Wine, Food and Travel Writer based in Plymouth. Stephen welcomes correspondence via his website www.stephenbarrett.com Or via Twitter and Instagram @bistrowineman Facebook and LinkedIn as Stephen Barrett