You really should be drinking wine with Italian food and its cugino, our beloved Italian-American food. And wines from Italy are a natural pairing for both, usually making both types of cooking taste even more enjoyable. These wines keep getting better and better, and also the range of quality wines available are much more diverse, as Italian wineries are reviving long-neglected varietals. So, there is even more reason now to be enjoying Italian wine at the restaurant.
This was very much on display at a recent Gambero Rosso event. Gambero Rosso is a leading Italian wine publication that recently made a stop in my city of Houston as part of a world tour (Mexico City and Osaka I think were on tap for the during the next week) showcasing some of the quality and uniqueness of the wines of Italy.
Though the daytime job prevented me from sampling more of the producers, I attended a very informative two-hour tasting – and spitting assiduously – that ran through 30 wines that Gambero Rosso had given high marks to. These ranged from sparkling to dry whites to light and effervescent reds then to blockbuster, tannic and deep red wines made from partially dried grapes. All were obviously well made and almost all tasted very Italian, often the interplay of fruit, bitter notes and usually noticeable acidity and some minerality for the reds, and a noticeable vibrancy for the better whites and sparklers.
Here are some of the highlights of that tasting, which might be useful to keep in mind when perusing the wine list along with American retail prices and the region of origin since many lists are organized that way these days:
- Ruggeri Prosecco Extra Dry Giustino B. 2013 ($28) – Veneto – a bit sweeter and longer lasting than the typical prosecco and much more enjoyable
- Barone Pizzini Franciacorta Brut Nature 2011 ($20 in Italy) – Lombardy – lightly carbonated for the style and especially and easy to drink featuring pleasant fruit notes from a winery that is reputed to be among the most sustainably operated in Europe
- Agricole Gussalli Beretta Franciacorta Extra Brut Lo Sparviere 2008 ($26 in Italy) – Lombardy – enjoyable effervescent with an elegant and complex nose, this is made with 95% Chardonnay
- Le Monde Pinot Bianco Friuli Grave 2013 ($18) – Friuli – notable for its exceeding long finish and notes of apple and lime with a lot of complexity and mineral tones
- Livon Fruilano Manditocai Collio 2013 ($42 in Canada) – Friuli – from one of the signature grapes of this area, this wine is unlike any Friulano I have ever had, a sharp nose leads to a fleshy and funky wine that I really enjoyed; I did not taste this at the winery when I visited, but I did have some other excellent, different wines including an amazingly vibrant 25-year-old Pinot Bianco
- Jermann Tunina 2012 ($40) – Friuli – slightly effervescent, fresh, full mouthfeel and beautifully balanced and terrific wine
- Otella Lugana Superiore Molceo Riserva 2012 ($30) – Veneto – fresh, light and bit fruity, but with a sustained finish making very pleasant
- Lunai Bosoni Vermentino Lunae Et. Nera 2013 ($16) – Liguria – expressive nose, balanced with a mouth-filling taste
- CasalFarneto Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Crisio Riserva 2012 ($18) – Marche – an interesting bouquet led to a very pleasing initial impression on the tongue and nice, long finish from a beautifully structured white with lively acidity and evident aging potential
- Medici Ermete & FIgli Lambrusco Concerto 2013 ($24) – Emilia-Romagna – grapey, but dry and wonderfully alive on the palate while finishing sharply; probably perfect with prosciutto di Parma
- Marchesi di Barolo Barolo Cannubi 2009 ($85) – Piedmont – from the most important cru in Barolo this a big, powerful and tannic wine that is very smooth with nice acidity and balance; certainly great aging potential
- Velenosi Rosso Piceno Roggio del Filare 2010 ($50) – Marche – seemingly very big on first encounter, but it is something different but approachable; aged in small French oak barrels, this was touted as being “a great Malbec replacement”
- Di Majo Norante Aglianico Contado Riserva 2011 ($14) – Molise – lighter version of the most important varietal of the Italian south, this is made in the modern style with help from enologist Riccardo Cotarella; very nice and tannic, and a wine the Robert Parker likes
- Allegrini Amarone 2010 ($65) – Veneto – more rounded and smoother and longer-finished than most Amarone of this relatively young age; featuring the signature touch of bitterness, this was described as “an expression of the fruit” for this style.
The wines with prices listed for Italy and Canada were not yet distributed to the United States, though I imagine that might have changed after this multi-city tour.