What to drink with Italian Food
When thinking of Italian food, it is the color red that dominates people's imagination, tomato sauce and red wine being the first delicacies to come to mind. In truth, and we all sort of know it already, there is much more to Italy's cuisine than that and, also, there is much more to Italian wines that a bottle of red.
Italy is home to delicate, refreshing white wines, bold and powerful or fruity and subtle reds and, of course, to delicious sparkling wines to be enjoyed as an aperitivo or with dessert. Let's look at some of the best wine-food combination the Stivale has to offer to its visitors and lovers.
Italy, as most of Europe, eschews American-style, before-dinner cocktails in favor of what is known as aperitivo, or a glass of wine. Particularly refreshing is the Bellini, a mixture of sparkling wine, peach juice, and peach liqueur, created in Venice at the "Harry's Bar." Another favorite among Italian aperitivo lovers is a glass of Franciacorta, the country' s premier sparkling wine, and the only one crafted using the classic "methode Champenoise." You may also like to try a glass of light, sparkling and delicious Prosecco to accompany some pre-dinner nibbles.
Another singularly Italian starter is vermouth, a distillation of herbs, spices, and bark. Primarily used in North America as an ingredient in the perfect Martini (to which vermouth's most iconic producer, Martini e Rossi, from Turin, gives its name) vermouth in Italy is drunk alone, in small cordial glasses.
Northern Italian Cuisine
The North-Western region of Piedmont is famous for its pungent white truffles, found in everything from soups to egg dishes, during the Fall and the early Winter months. The region also favors braised beef, lamb, and rabbit dishes. Beautiful, full-bodied Barolo, Barbaresco and Dolcetto are perfect accompaniments for these earthy and rich delicacies.
North-Eastern Italy's Amarone, usually produced in the Valpollicella area of the province of Verona, is ideally paired with winter foods, such as roasts and game, or even hard cheeses like asiago and parmesan. Prosciutto, especially the amazingly sweet San Daniele, produced in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, can be enhanced by a glass of fruity, floral white wine, such as Tocai or Ribolla Gialla. Delicate trout pulled from Alpine crystal clear rivers, or the fish stews popular in Liguria both pair well with Trebbiano-based Lugana wines.
Tuscan food can be really summarized in its essence by the Meditteranean triad: bread, olive oil, and wine. Tuscan bread is some of the best in the world and the region finds dozens of uses for it, including a peasant bread salad, the famous panzanella, and bread soups. Tuscan bread is peppery and slightly salty, perfect for the region's Sangiovese-based wines.
Without shadow of a doubt, the most popular meat dish from Tuscany is the honored and revered bistecca alla fiorentina, a large slab of grilled beef, ideal with a full-bodied Chianti Classico Riserva Brunello di Montalcino, or Vino Nobile di Montalcino.
Red Sauces and More
Chianti, made with Sangiovese grapes, is the quintessential tomato-sauce wine. This spicy and slightly salty wine stands up, and even adds to, the taste of tomato sauces and dishes, such as the classic osso bucco or pollo alla cacciatora.
Desserts and After Dinner
Italy produces a wide variety of after-dinner libations. Among them is Tuscany's Vin Santo (literally "holy wine"), a distilled grape product that ranges from dry to sweet. Another perfect ending to a meal is a glass of sparkling, semi-sweet Moscato d'Asti, the traditional Piedmontese, Christmas toasting beverage.
By Sandy Mitchell