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Italian wine pairings needed

We are having a special lunch with friends this week - a sort of private cooking class with a local chef. He wrote:

We’ll start with Polenta with Mascarpone and Fresh White Truffles, and move on to Duck Sauce over Pappardelle.

I am in charge of getting the wine pairings - as it is a Tuscan meal, he suggested a wine from that region. I actually thought I might get as much as two or three wines - maybe a sparkler to star and then a wine for each course. The problem is that I know very little about Italian wine. As time is short, I will be buying from my local wine store - here are their Italian listings:
http://www.empirewine.com/region/italy/

I'd like to keep the bottles in the $20-$30 range if possible, as I will likely need 3-5 bottles or our group.

Thanks!!!

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  1. Let the chef know that mascarpone cheese and white truffles are both from Lombardia, not Toscana. Black truffles are found in Toscana. Tuscans eat duck as well as papardelle. This is to say that you have a wide latitude in choosing wines from Piedmonte, Lombardia and Toscana. Do you want one bottle for each course or a bottle for both?

    4 Replies
    1. re: chefdilettante

      Interesting.....I am not sure if I will out hiom on teh geography of his cuisine, but I certainly find it interesting!

      I wouldn't mind a different wine for each course - we will have 6-8 people there, so we will have no problem drinking it all.

      1. re: chefdilettante

        White truffles can be and are found in parts of Tuscany, as well as northwest Italy. The white truffle hunting area around San Giovanni d'Asso in southern Tuscany was written up in the NY Times a couple of years ago. I have seen the little white truffle museum in that town.

        1. re: DavidT

          The reason I like Chowhound is because I'm always learning something new. DavidT, you're correct and I stand corrected. Further reading schools me that San Miniato is the white truffle capitol of Tuscany. I gotta tell you, though, for all the time I've spent in Tuscany, it's always been black truffles that I've seen. I'm gonna stand behind the origin of mascarpone, though--that's Lombardia. Anyone taken the Pepsi challenge on Tuscan vs Piemontese vs Lombardia white truffles? Only sampled Alba myself.

          1. re: chefdilettante

            Blacks ( T. melanosporum, uncinatum, aestivum) most, if not all, nowadays farmed. Procedence mostly Italy, France, Spain. Off-season from southern hemisphere as well: New Zealand, Australia, ...

            Whites ( T. magnatum ) not cultivated yet, experts estimates a 5 year horizon to cultivation. Sources vary, but mostly Umbria, Molise, Croatia, Tuscany, Piemonte, although not unusual in Serbia, Poland &etc.

            Caveat Emptor re. fakes (T. borchii a.k.a. bianchetto, oligospermum, maculatum, indicum, ... ). Given the time of year, most probably the OP is getting some from this group.

            Place of purchase won't guarantee place of origin, since stuff travels all the time. Actualy, somebody said the dog is the only one that can guarantee origin...

      2. Without choosing specific wines, I would suggest asking your wine merchant for a good Barbera (a wine from the Piemonte region) in the $15-$25 range to go with the polenta and a good Chianti Classico (a Tuscan wine) in the $25-$35 range for the pappardelle.

        For a sparkler, you should be able to buy a drinkable Prosecco for no more than $15.

        1. Fresh white truffles in March???

          3 Replies
          1. re: RicRios

            Ugh - you guys are making me cringe.

            I have certain concerns about this menu/class as well, but we bought the class at a charity auction, so we are determined to make the best of it and have a good time with friends. There are certainly worse ways to spend a Sunday. :)

            Here are some things I am considering:

            Giacomo Grimaldi Dolcetto D'Alba 2006
            Fattoria di Felsina Chianti Classico 2006
            Marchesi de Frescobaldi Nipozzano Chianti Riserva 2005
            Castello del Terriccio Tassinaia 2004
            Marchesi de Frescobaldi Nipozzano Chianti Riserva 2005
            Sette Ponti Tenuta Crognolo 2006

            I also saw this and thought it might be fun for dessert:
            Villa Puccini Vin Santo 500ml

            1. re: meg944

              A Dolcetto would also work with the polenta.

              The Frescobaldi Nipozazno Chianti Riserva is usually a very good wine and a good value as well.

              1. re: meg944

                Among those you are considering, let me recommend the Tassinaia with the duck/pappardelle. The wine is about one-third each of sangiovese, cabernet, and merlot. 2004 was a very good vintage for Tuscany. My second choice for that dish would be the Crognolo.

                For the polenta, from your list go with the Dolcetto (even though it isn't from Tuscany).

            2. BEst thing to do Meg is to have fun with it and not worry about the particulars unless you plan on entertaining the Pope. Sounds like a great menu with some well though out wines. Most people do not know the particulars, ex: white truffles are from here, black from there. It will be a learning experience and a fun one at that.

              1. On the store list in your price range, here are some I know and like very much:
                Siro Pacenti Rosso di Montalcino -- wonderful producer, check the vintage for drinkability; I love this wine
                Nozzole Chianti Riserva
                Avigonesi Vino Nobile
                Nicodemi Notari
                Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro (gold) -- good price on this
                Castello di Bossi Chianti Classico -- excellent producer, though not a riserva

                If you wanted a white,
                the Vietto Roero Arneis, or any Roero Arneis, from Piedmont

                For dessert,
                Dievole Vin Santo

                There are others, but those are the ones that stick out for me as I quickly scanned the pages.