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Jul 17, 2008 04:59 PM

Bistecca alla Fiorentina

I am not an oenophile.......I need some suggestions for appropriate wine pairing with Bistecca alla Fiorentina, as well as another wine for antipasto. Several of the guests are oenophiles. I need help. I am not trying to impress, but I do not want to bomb either.

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  1. Well, my ideal pairing would be a Brunello di Montalcino, but almost any high quality Tuscan red wine will do the job.

    If these people really know *Italian* wine, I would go with a Sangiovese-based wine. A Brunello, if it is not price prohibitive for you ($45+, sometimes +++). Otherwise a good Chianti Classico (for $24, the 2004 San Giusto a Rentananno is excellent) or a good Rosso di Montalcino, may of which can also be found in the twenties.

    My favorite Brunello and Rosso producers are:

    Siro Pacenti (very favorite)

    Then, in no particular order...

    Ciacci Piccolomini
    Sassetti (Pertimali)

    When in doubt, flip the wine bottle over and see if it says "Marc de Grazie" on the back, his selections are usually very good and also a bit more modern in style.

    On the other hand, if these people know wine, generally, but are not necessarily connosieurs of Italian wines, while the above recs are still fine, you might consider a wine with some Cabernet and/or Merlot in it from Tuscany. Especially as you go up in price, these wines get more famous and flashier in their flavor profiles as well. People who are into more "obvious" wines will tend to prefer these to the subtler and more aromatic / earthy wines I mentioned first.

    There are so many producers here it is hard just to name a few, but, if you were willing to shell out some serious $$$ ($75ish) I'd tell you to seek out Tua Rita Giusto di Notri. For about $35, I really like the Ciacci Piccolomini "Ateo" and for $19 there is a wine whose name escapes me but if that is more your price range I can find it for you -- I really dig that wine a lot actually, I wish I recalled its name.

    Antipasto = Prosecco. Just ask your favorite wine store for their best Prosecco. But, to me, the best widely available one is Adami. (There are many better, smaller, producers, however.)

    7 Replies
    1. re: whiner

      Whiner, I've been enjoying 2002 Siro Pacenti Rosso di Montalcino ($26) lately. Do you know if they skipped production of Brunello in 2002 and put it in the Rosso? This sure taste like Brunello to me and might be an economical choice for the OP.

      1. re: BN1

        Thanks for your expertise!

        1. re: BN1

          Thanks for the suggestion...............but what do you mean by "OP"?

          1. re: rpaessun

            "Original Poster", i.e., the person who started the thread.

          2. re: BN1

            Dunno if he skipped '02 Brunello. '02 was a horrible year and if the Rosso tastes so good I guess that is a distinct possibility. SUCH a classy winery in every regard...

          3. re: whiner

            Siro Pacenti is one of my favorites too.

          4. The original comment has been removed
            1. My favorite varietal here, with a bullet, is Nebbiolo.... just a beautiful match with steak in general but also particularly nice with the rosemary notes typical of Fiorentina...

              Reminds me of a steak and red wine showdown I attended a few years ago. We BYOB'd a bunch of different reds to match with some very nice prime steaks at a joint in Chicago...

              While almost every wine was interesting, the standout match was a Barolo...

              Given the garlic and rosemary here it's my first choice...

              Also really like the brunello rec too...

              BUT... honestly there's a bunch of other reds that would work well here also... Zinfandel, Cabernet, Merlot, Shiraz, and Tempranillo among them.... Take this list of recs into your wine vendor and ask them what the best they have in your price range is. I'd much rather match this steak with a great Rioja than a poor Barolo, for example...

              2 Replies
              1. re: Chicago Mike

                I agree that Barolo pairs extrodinarily well with rosemary. I dissagree that rosemary is an essential component of a bistecca. I also don't *love* the pairing of nebbiolo with grilled or roasted beef. I think it is good, but not great. Also, and this is me being a little nitpicky. But if you are going to *call* your steak a bistecca alla Fiorentina... come one... REALLY?! You're going to serve a wine from Piedmont, not Tuscany!?! ;-)

                But yes, technically a lot of different reds would work.

                1. re: whiner

                  In this case I don't find regionality to be a compelling flavor factor.... it doesn't appear to be a tipico full-course tuscan MEAL the poster is trying to match, just a dish .... I'd pair Barolo with this Tuscan steak just as quickly as I'd pair it with a classic american charcoal-grilled t-bone.

                  That said, Brunello definitely imparts a tuscan "ambiance" and would be great with this steak, as would a number of other reds... matching grilled beef, garlic, and rosemary just isn't that tough to do.

              2. When we have grilled rib eye with mushrooms, like I enjoyed tonight, I always look to Nebbiolo. I had a nice Zin open and tried it too, but the Barbaresco I opened was wonderful. The tannins clear out the grease and leave you ready for the next bite, so much so it’s hard to quit eating. I bought this wine because it was $33 and asked the clerk if it was any good. “YES” was his answer and “drinkable now”. At home, I looked it up in the Gambero Rosso and found: 2004 Cantina del Pino - Tre Bicchieri 2008. Yes!

                But whiner is right, a Tuscan steak calls for a Tuscan wine, IMO.

                1 Reply
                1. re: BN1

                  I'll keep an eye out for that one, thanks for the rec!

                2. Bistecca alla Fiorentina! YUM! a couple of times, at the late restaurant Maremma, we enjoyed Cesare Casella's excellent rendition of that dish with a Morellino di Scansano, an intense Tuscan wine from the Maremma.

                  Here's a little more info on the wine: Morellino di Scansano is a DOCG Italian red wine made near the village of Scansano, in the Maremma, which includes a part of the coast of southern Tuscany. Morellino is the local name for the Sangiovese grape varietal. This wine was granted DOC status in 1978, and upgraded to DOCG status from the 2007 vintage, is made from at least 85% Sangiovese (which is also the basis of the other Tuscan red wines: Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano).

                  As for your antipasto, Prosecco is a safe choice, since you haven't mentioned what components you are including. I often like to serve a crisp still Italian white like Tocai from the Friuli region.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: ChefJune

                    I like means "little cherry." I simply consider it the Chianti of western Tuscany. It's slightly different from the Sangiovese of Chianti, and different still from the Sangiovese of Brunello or Rosso di Montalicino, but still
                    tasty Sangiovese.

                    I love Barbera or Barbaresco with antipasto. The Piemonte are the appetizer kings of Italy.

                    1. re: maria lorraine

                      For that matter, I'd be happy with Barbera for the steak also, especially given it's affinity for the rosemary....

                      1. re: Chicago Mike

                        Since the dominant flavor notes are beef and then beef, with a touch of lemon and parsley, many red wines will work. Many red wines will work.
                        Even peasant red wines. But a Brunello would sure be nice, or a Chianti Classico Riserva.

                        In fact, the dish was originally consumed with rustic (meaning, rough) red wines, and the lemon squeezed on the steak made the rough edges of the wine magially smooth (a relative acidity thing).

                        BTW, I've never seen rosemary with bistecca alla fiorentina -- either when grilling or served -- and think it most probably is a minor note, if one found at all, when it is used. In Tuscany, Chianina beef is more wonderful, but more delicate in flavor than corn-fed beef. So, the rosemary, unless very minor, might be a distraction from that.

                        1. re: maria lorraine


                          I had never heard of rosemary with the dish either so I checked online and apparantly there are a few recipies calling for it (though most I saw do not). I've had the bistecca in Lucca, Florence, San Gimignano, and Siena and I do not recall it coming with rosemary in any of those places.

                          1. re: RicRios

                            Yes, server malfunction it seems.

                            1. re: whiner

                              As usual, different visitors to Tuscany will have different memories.... Here's one excerpt:
                              "....Taken as a whole, Central Italian grilling is remarkably simple....The fire is either charcoal or wood burned down to coals (oak is considered best, though the choice is to a certain degree dictated by what's available; olive wood is also used, and some cooks also add herbs to the coals as the meat cooks, especially sage or rosemary). Marinades? They tend to be simple, if used at all -- olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, rosemary..."

                              And of course there are different recipes for this dish... as for specific bistecca fiorentina recipes w/ rosemary notes:

                              Here's Mario Batali's to start you off:

                              Here's the Recipe from the Castello Di Gabbiano winery in Tuscany (note the rosemary-herbed grilling oil):

                              Here's the recipe from Ristorante Medici, 2004 Ivy Award Winner, as used by the Culinary Institute of America:

                              Here's one from Italian Home Recipes, with the sprig of rosemary clearly visible on the steak:

                              Here's another from Italian Foodies with sprigs clearly visible:

                              Lastly, here's the recipe from the Bistecca Fiorentina Tuscan Steak House in NYC (note they prepare it with "..brushed with Tuscan olive oil, garlic and rosemary..."):

                              Just makes your mouth water doesn't it!

                              If you need any other recipes, just let me know !

                              1. re: Chicago Mike

                                In Tuscany, rosemary is never a flavor note in bistecca.
                                The classic way the Tuscan dish has always been prepared is simply to grill the beef and serve it with lemon or parsley. Simple, minimal, no gratuitous ingredients. Again, the lemon squeezed on the steak was/is for the wine. When rosemary is used, it’s only a flavoring in the olive oil used for grilling, if it's used at all. More than a tiny touch of rosemary (which is why it's not often used) will eclipse the flavor of the prized Chianina beef.

                                In the above recipes – Americanized versions of the Italian dish, which includes the Gabbiano recipe for American wine drinkers -- rosemary is also a minor flavor note. Rosemary is used, but again it’s only in the oil for grilling or in the marinade (marinades aren’t often used in Tuscany). The biggest difference between the Tuscan and American versions of the dish is the more strongly flavored American beef, and it can stand up to a touch of rosemary. But again, only a very small amount so that none of the beef flavor is compromised. Rosemary might provide an additional flavor link to wines that had an herbal component, but not as much as in the case or rosemary-roasted potatoes going with a Cab, for example.

                                As I get the chance in the next few days, I'll write to my chef contacts and food writers in Italy (including the winemaker at Gabbiano, a friend) and ask them about the dish. Will report back.

                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                  "....In Tuscany, rosemary is never a flavor note in bistecca..."

                                  Interesting, nobody ever told Castello di Gabbiano, one of the largest wineries in Tuscany...

                                  .... Or Mario Batali, who obviously has a fair amount of experience having lived and cooked all over Italy.....

                                  Of course this should come as no surprise, given the abiding connection of herbs to Tuscan cuisine. Rosemary is so prominent that you'll often hear travellers referring to it "scenting the air"....

                                  Back to the subject, why I find it important is that matching wine to the SECONDARY and even TERTIARY notes of the dish can really marry the flavors. If you are using Rosemary (as Mario Batali, Castello di Gabbiano, and the Culinary Institute among many others do), then IMO that will enhance the enjoyment of Nebbiolo with the Bistecca... if you don't use it, then that softens nebb as my first choice here, although it's still wonderful with even the plainest version of the dish...

                                  1. re: Chicago Mike

                                    None of Batali's versions of bistecca are Tuscan bistecca though they all use the Tuscan bistecca as a base to riff on.

                                    This is in spite of the fact that Batali is a true Italophile, as am I. He and I have both spent time (him a lot longer) with the same butcher in Panzano in Tuscany, Dario Cecchini, without question the most famous butcher in Tuscany and probably in all of Italy.

                                    So that’s what I’ve observed and tasted at many restaurants and wineries in Tuscany itself, where I’ve spent a great deal of time. And, of course, Dario is THE source.

                                    Batali's recipe above is a bigger, badder, Batali-ized bistecca, and it uses 1 tablespoon each of rosemary, sage and thyme that's chopped and packed on 3 to 3-1/2 pounds of American t-bone before grilling. How much herb flavor ends up in each bite of steak after grilling I don't know, but I'd like to find out!

                                    Agree that "herbage" is a flavor note in this dish, though not distinctly rosemary. But this Batali steak is not Tuscan bistecca.

                                    Batali does another version of bistecca that uses a big quantity of pork fatback, lots of garlic and rosemary. You'd never find that in Tuscany either. It's another bigger, badder, Batali-amped riff on the humble, simple Tuscan bistecca. Not Tuscan, but extra good.

                                    In the only Italian recipe you’ve referenced, the one from Gabbiano, the tiny amount of rosemary used is not even in the final dish, but in the oil used to grill the dish.

                                    The actual quantity is about 1/4 teaspoon for FOUR T-bone steaks. (It's part of one teaspoon of mixed dried herbs.) Not enough rosemary to register as a flavor note -- though a tiny note of "herbage" may be present in the final dish.

                                    And again, what Gabbiano does is not representative of the simple, humble version of bistecca found throughout Tuscany. Regular olive oil is used, not rosemary-flavored olive oil. But, as I said above, I'll check with the winemaker at Gabbiano -- a buddy, and with a few chefs and food writers who live and work in Italy.

                                    Wine-pairing: You could use herb flavor as one of the minor pairing considerations when pairing a red wine with an Americanized bistecca. In Tuscany, this would never be a consideration, as the herb flavor (other than the fresh parsley) is not in the dish, and for decades the wine drunk with bistecca has been vino da tavola.