Wine pairing for Italian meal
Hoping for some pairing assistance for a summer Italian meal.
-fried zucchini flowers, maybe a bit of fresh ricotta, parm, fresh herb stuffing
-seared beef carpaccio, it will have a bit of truffle oil,truffle salt and some shavings of parm
-ricotta gnocchi with italian sausage and fennel (tomato sauce base)
-vin santo ice cream with almond biscotti
I'd like to keep the pairings Italian if possible. Have on hand a vernaccia, a rose, some decent chianti and a couple of tuscan blends but I have time to shop for others.
Thanks for the help!
Herbed Zucchini Flowers: Soave Superiore or an Italian chardonnay
Seared Beef Carpaccio w/ Truffle Oil: Nebbiolo (barolo preferably)
Lemon Sorbet: The ultimate here is Sauternes, but if you need an italian... Moscato d'Asti, especially if you're serving it at this point in the meal as a palate refresher.
Gnocchi in Tomato /Sausage sauce: Barbera
Ice Cream: Vin Santo. Otherwise madeira or a richer muscat (de beaume de venise or liqueur) are both interesting with this dessert.
Zucchini flowers: Prosecco
Beef carpaccio: (Sparkling) Rose/Blanco of Pinot Noir (eg. Torti); Full bodied but lightly or non-oaked white, eg. Dettori Bianco or one of the top Friulians (Miani SB, if you can find it)
Ice Cream: Vin Santo or, depending upon how it is made, even a Moscato
Before I even read your pairings, I thought what I'd do, and that almost mirrors what you say:
Zucchini -- Very high-quality Prosecco, Champagne, definitely something with bubbles or spritziness
Carpaccio -- Sparkling Rose, Rose, Pinot Nero (like a Hofstatter Barthenau), or, if you add more fresh truffle, Sagrantino (but not Arnaldo-Caprai because it's too heavy and oaky) for the truffle connection
Sorbet -- nothing; it's a palate cleanser.
Gnocchi -- Barbera
Vin Santo Ice Cream -- Vin Santo, I like the Monsanto, or if you can afford it, the Avignonesi, the best I've ever had
re: maria lorraine
re: maria lorraine
could you elaborate on why these particular choices? i haven't wrapped my head around reasons behind food pairings.
for instance would you choose prosecco for all fried things, or is there something particular to zucchini flowers? And why the sparkling rose or pinot nero with beef carpaccio -- is it the beef part or the raw aspect? and for the gnocchi, is it the tomatoes or the doughiness, that suggest a barbera? what part of the barbera taste spectrum is enhanced with the gnocchi?
This is a tougher question than it sounds. I don’t really think about one flavor really complimenting one particular wine and have a “if ingredient A then wine B spreadsheet” in my mind; I just think about what the dish is likely to taste like overall and what sort of wine I think would compliment it.
Fried zucchini flowers: I am imagining something that tastes floral, herbal, and salty, but with a fair amount of fat. I guess I chose a sparkling wine because I find them to pair well with salty and fried foods. I chose a Prosecco because despite the fact that this dish is fried, I’m guessing it is lighter-weight in its flavors – literally floral. (Not only is the zucchini flower a, well, flower, but assuming fresh ricotta is used – which is the option I would go with as opposed to the Parmesan – I find that to have floral components as well.) I would find a good Champagne (particularly one with age on it) to overpower the dish. If I did go for a Champagne, I would go for a lighter-styled, younger, Blanc de Blancs, I wouldn’t want the rich yeasty, Sherry component that I love about some Champagnes interfering. (To be fair, a Champagne such as Selosse or the ’95 Taittinger Comtes, which both taste like sparkling Chablis to me, would work well, too.) Also, good Proseccos definitely have a floral component to them which I think would pair nicely.
Seared beef Carpaccio: This is a seriously earthy dish. Yeah, it is meat-based, but the flavors I am thinking of are those of… earth. Here, unlike with the flowers, I WANT something with a Sherry component, maybe. I find Pinot Noir without the skin – whether in Champagne / Sparkling or in a still format often to capture the earthy tones that I admire in Sherry. Next time you go to Biondivino, ask Ceri for the white Torti and for both of the sparklers ($19, $23, and $24) and you will see what I mean. Certainly, when it is a rose it also is may have some floral and (red) fruity characteristics, but I don’t see those detracting and may well compliment the beef flavors -- and certainly would compliment the Parmesan flavors. (I think Parmesan pairs better with reds than with white wines.)
Gnocchi: This one was a no-brainer. I was thinking up my response to the last item even before I was aware that I had typed an answer to this ;-) Everything here is screaming Barbera. I want something fruity and floral to pair with the ricotta, something with high acid to cut through the tomato sauce, something red for the sausage. (For this, you can consider the fennel simply a detail of the sausage, but fennel goes well with Barbera, too.) Also, I want a lot of fruit for the sausage because it is going to be spicy. Sweetness from glycerin in the fruit can replace sweetness from residual sugar as a good compliment to MODERATE spice SO LONG AS that sweetness doesn’t mean the wine is very high in alcohol and/or low in acid – in those cases you may wind up adding to the heat in your mouth in a way you do not want – and certainly, the pairing won’t be as good. So, for the sausage, while something like a good Nero d’Avola would have worked, the fact that that this is with ricotta gnocchi, rather than with Parmesan and pasta strongly pushes it toward the Barbera for the brighter fruitiness and floral components. Plus, Barberas are even higher in acid, generally, which I like for cutting through the acid in the tomato sauce.
The Vin Santo connection to the Vin Santo ice cream should be obvious ;-)
Hope this helps!
I'm going to try to respond even though I'm extremely tired.
Overall, it's an Italian meal, and I like to keep with a theme once it's established, hence I've recommended mostly Italian wines.
--Additionally, there is something known as geographic pairing -- generally the foods from a region tend to go with the wines from a region. It's a classic pairing rule (there are about five or so) and probably the easist rule to remember: match the region of the food with a wine from the same region. It's a general, not absolute rule, but one that works very well.
--The most important rule is to match intensity. Light foods with lighter wines -- lighter in flavor, lighter in weight -- and heavier foods with more strongly flavored wines, wines with more heft and body. There's a reason this works -- you wouldn't drink a heavy Cab with a delicate fish because the flavor of the wine would drown out the flavor of the fish. Likewise, a delicate white wine wouldn’t have enough oomph to pair well with a hearty meat stew – in that case the wine would get lost.
So, onto the menu:
Fried Zucchini Flowers
-- Match intensity – a lighter, delicate appetizer, so a lighter wine: white wine.
-- Another pairing rule: Fried foods almost always mean bubbles, as in Champagne or Sparkling wine or Proscecco. With bubbles almost always comes high acid – and acid and fat work really well together in the mouth. The acid cuts through the fat and clears it from the mouth. You know the reason that pretzels and potato chips taste good with Coca-Cola? It’s the same rule – bubbles love fat and salt.
A personal thing: I prefer the method of making Champagne (methode champenoise) and the resulting tiny, fine bubbles in the wine that result from that method, to the larger, harsher bubbles from the charmat method used to make most Prosecco. Some of what I would call the higher quality Prosecco is made using the Champagne method, and that’s why I specified that.
--Another pairing rule: mirror flavors.
Champagne/Prosecco has a very subtle delicate green-ness in the flavor, in the manner of celery, cucumber, things like that. The squash blossom and the wine share this delicate greenness, so there you have flavor commonality, or flavor mirroring.
Beef Carpaccio With Truffle Oil And Parm Shavings
Just a little clarification: Carpaccio is raw, not seared. Buy the highest quality beef you can and have the butcher slice it for carpaccio. If you sear it, you can't call it carpaccio.
While roasted beef or grilled beef would match with a hearty red wine, this beef is raw, so it’s lighter in flavor. Moreover, the beef used for carpaccio is usually silken, tender and more delicate. So while you might pair roasted beef with a Cabernet, here you must go with a lighter, less intense red wine than a Cab. Simplifying here, but the spectrum of lighter red wine to heavier red wine goes something like Rose to Beaujolais to Pinot Noir to Barbera to Chianti to Merlot to Cabernet to Petite Sirah.
So, to match the flavor intensity of carpaccio, something around a Rose or Pinot Noir level works pretty well. Italian wines (geographic pairing) in this vein would be Rosato or Ceresuolo, but oh, wait a minute -- sparkling Rose in amazing with rare beef. Pinot Nero (Italian for Pinot Noir) works very well with carpaccio and while I don’t usually care for most Italian Pinot Neros, I particularly like the Hofstatter Pinot Neros, especially the Barthenau. Sagrantino is an Umbrian wine, known for its lovely red fruit, medium body, and truffle aroma and flavor (flavor mirroring). I adore it with carpaccio and truffles – it’s one of the greatest pairings I’ve ever had in my life. It works even better when the truffles play a more prominent role than they might in the OP's carpaccio. This pairing is common in Umbria since black truffles grow there, so in this case this is a geographic pairing as well as one that uses flavor mirroring (truffle flavor in both the wine and food).
Remember how I didn't recommend the Arnoldo-Caprai Sagrantino above because it's oaky and too heavy? Typical Sagrantino has flavors of raspberry, cherry and truffle, and a similar intensity to that of the carpaccio and trufflles. But Caprai's wine is heavier and oakier -- so it's too much for this dish.
The point of a sorbet mid-meal is to cleanse the palate. That means no wine, no booze, no beverage with flavor. So still or sparkling water (like Pellegrino) only.
Ricotta Gnocchi With Italian Sausage And Fennel (Tomato Sauce Base)
Normally an Italian red tomato sauce with sausage would be tossed with pasta and served with any basic, Italian red wine. Chianti, Chianti Classico, something like that.
--Another pairing tip: cook with the wine you’ll be drinking with the meal. Easy to do there: Add a few glugs of the red wine into the tomato sauce and drink the same wine with the meal.
The totality of flavors created by the tomatoes, wine, herbs, and sausage with fennel has some intensity, and the flavor intensity of the Chianti matches well (matching intensity, geographic matching).
But gnocchi changes the picture: These ethereal potato pillows make the dish lighter. Using ricotta makes the gnocchi lighter still, so the red wine has to be adjusted accordingly. Keeping in the Italian vein, Barbera is less intense than Chianti, certainly less intense than Barolo. Moreover, the fruit of Barbera, with its stone fruit plumminess and pomegranate flavor, really goes well with tomatoes. I mean, really well. This isn’t quite flavor mirroring – it’s more like flavor similarity. The acid in both the Barbera and the tomatoes complement each other, even mollify each other (this is a food chemistry thing). The fennel fits in with the slight herbal component of the wine (flavor mirroring). If the Italian sausage has paprika, that pairs with the Barbera also (mirroring, similarity). The sausage and the wine also have an fat-acid synergy like the Fried Zucchini Flowers and the Champagne/Prosecco above. In truth, sausage by itself can go with either a red or a white wine (think Alsatian dishes or German dishes) but when it’s combined with tomato sauce that usually takes it towards red wine. Pairing rules used in the choice of Barbera for this dish: matching intensity, flavor mirroring, fat-acid synergy and geographic matching.
Vin Santo Ice Cream With Almond Biscotti
Vin Santo in Italy is nearly always paired with biscotti. You dunk the biscotti into the glass of Vin Santo. Vin Santo ice cream with a glass of Vin Santo would be…Vin Santo squared, Vin Santo in stereo. I recommended two Vin Santos I love – the Monsanto is reasonably priced, and the Avigonesi isn’t – but it is the best in the world.
Hope this has helped,
re: maria lorraine
Thanks for the very detailed help!
Unfortunately, a good selection of Italian wine is a bit hard to come by in Toronto. The best prosecco I could find is Nino Franco, if I remember correctly I don't think the bubbles are particularly fine. Would going with a dry champagne be better? No luck with an Italian sparkling Rose, have some Zenato Bardolino Chiaretto so will probably go with that.
I'd love to boost the "carpaccio" (blasphemy, I know, but I like the bit of flavor a very brief sear gives with the parmesan...) with fresh truffles but no decent ones available here at this time of year.
For the Barbera, I found a '04 Poderi Colla Barbera d'alba (again, not much to choose from at the lcbo...)
I have two bottles of the Monsanto, 1 for the dessert, 1 to drink. Glad to hear it is a good one.
You did just fine on the bubbles-- Nino Franco is widely considered to be one of the best producers of prosecco around. Prosecco is intrinsically a bit more rustically styled than Champagne. Since I'm imagining that you picked up his "Rustico", if you want a finer mousse on the wine, ask the wine shop where you got it if they can get their hands on his Prosecco Brut, which is a bit more elegant.
re: maria lorraine
Great post. I have to take issue with one thing, though (even though I recognize it as something that everyone says)
"Another pairing tip: cook with the wine you’ll be drinking with the meal. Easy to do there: Add a few glugs of the red wine into the tomato sauce and drink the same wine with the meal."
I actually think there is a lot that can be said about this. My first caveat I will give in the form of an anecdote that points to a problem here. The first time I went over to one of my wine-friend's houses he was roasting a prime rib and brussel sprouts and scenting it with Cabernet. He opened a 2002 Behrens and Hitchcock Kenefick Ranch Cab ($65, RP 96) we drank some, and he poured OVER HALF THE BOTTLE into the pan to scent the meat and veggies!
With dinner that night we had 1999 Araujo, 1999 Maya, 1996 Harlan Estate.
(I would have strangled him)
Beyond the problems of spending dozens or hundreds of dollars on wine that is simply going into a dish, I also think that there are many awesome wines out there that don't exactly lend themselves to cooking. For example, wines with lots of harder tannins. While I'm a huge fan of Barolo, even, in many cases young Barolo, I'd prefer to make my "beef braised in Barolo" with a Dolcetto or Barbera because they are fruitier and will impart a bit more of a flavor to the meat and also because I find... I don't know how to describe it, but... I just don't like it as much when I am using a very tannic wine for cooking.
The same problem I have with tannin applies to oak, too; especially in white wines. Even beyond the economic problems I'd have with cooking with a Kistler or Peter Michael, I wouln't want to impart any of the oakiness into, say a fish dish that I am making with butter. That oakiness serves me well when I am drinking the wine as it turns the wine (particularly in Kistler's case) more buttery and can pair amazingly well with fish in butter-based sauces. (I have no idea what would happen with an Aubert or Marcassin -- my two very favorite CA Chard producers -- or with a great Grand Cru white Burgundy, which do seem to soak up most or all of their oak treatment, but unless someone else wants to try the experiment, I'm satisfied never finding out.) I would genuinely prefer to cook with a decent $12 Chard aged in stainless steel than with a $150+ PM Point Rouge even if money weren't a factor.
Overall, my guide to cooking with wine is flavor matching to the wine I will be drinking with dinner, but it deffinitely doesn't need to be the same wine.
I thought about including your very good point about not using an expensive wine as your cooking wine, but my post was already getting too long, and I was so tired.
You are right. Cooking with some of the same wine as you will be drinking is just a tip, and there are disclaimers:
no expensive wine (you want to drink every drop),
no oaky wine
try to keep within the same varietal if you can,
and if not, just use a good fruity inexpensive wine.
Here are two sources on this:
Types of Red Wine for Coooking
And, the New York Times article about wine in cooking --
It Boils Down To This: Cheap Wine Works Fine
And yes, unresolved oak, other tannins, lots of brett, TCA -- wines that have any of these shouldn't be used in cooking.
Thanks for your addition.
re: maria lorraine