Top-notch wines to accompany traditional Italian cuisine

Italy… just saying the word conjures up images of delicious food, beautiful landscapes and beautiful people. Italian cuisine is so dedicated to fresh, local ingredients that it’s hard to replicate outside of Italy, but it can be done.

I wrote recently about an Italian wine dinner I was hosting with wine importer Enrico Fantasia and it turned out to be a brilliant success. Enrico worked with the chefs to make sure everything tasted like it was cooked by his Nonna in Venice.

The green apple zing of SaltaTempo Verdicchio (MacCurtain Cellar, Sheridans) cuts through the creamy starch of pea risotto, making the taste of peas even fresher.

Bulli Sampagnino fizz from Emilia-Romagna was served with a selection of antipasti: roasted sweet peppers with anchovies, creamy vitello tonnato, fried meatballs and classic Venetian sardines in a sweet and sour sauce – he did brilliantly with all of this.

Dogliani Dolcetto hails from Piedmont where superstar Nebbiolo and minor celebrity Barbera attract much more attention from Piedmont winemakers. The variety is native to the region, first mentioned in the press in 1593 in connection with the town/commune of Dogliani – now a DOCG dedicated to it. Dolcetto has been called the Beaujolais of Piedmont and Dolcetta d’Alba and Asti can have bright cherries found in the best entry-level Beaujolais. Dogliani DOCG is however more serious, better thought out like Morgon or Fleurie with darker fruits and notes of bitter chocolate.

Dogliani can only be made with Dolcetto and this San Fereolo is considered one of the best. Winemaker Nicoletta Bocca created the San Fereolo estate in 1992 and cultivates biodynamically. She has the particularity of aging her Dogliani for about three years before its release. This was served with a lamb and artichoke stew – the sweetness of the fruit paired perfectly with the lamb, fitting beautifully with the tannic thrust of the artichokes and enhancing the bittersweet notes.

Here, too, are some old favorites that do just as well with pizza and pasta as they do with barbecued chops with buttered new potatoes.

Italy… just saying the word conjures up images of delicious food, beautiful landscapes and beautiful people. Italian cuisine is so dedicated to fresh, local ingredients that it’s hard to replicate outside of Italy, but it can be done.

Wines under 15€

Cantine Rallo Ciello Bianco Catarratto, Sicily — €13.95

Cantine Rallo Ciello Bianco Catarratto, Sicily — €13.95

Resellers: L’Atitude 51, Green Man Wines, Bradleys, World Wide Wines, Baggot St. Wines, Le Caveau, Redmonds

The Catarratto grape from Sicily is a grape variety to watch. It doesn’t have the best reputation as it is high yielding and rather neutral if left to its own devices (it is used for Marsala).

Careful winemaking can, however, produce delicious, fragrant wines like this – aromas of white peach, orange zest and lemon oil, textured and creamy on the palate with herbal notes and a crisp finish. Delicioza.

Postcards Pinot Grigio Rosé della Venezie, Veneto, Italy — €11.96
Postcards Pinot Grigio Rosé della Venezie, Veneto, Italy — €11.96

Postcards Pinot Grigio Rosé della Venezie, Veneto, Italy — €11.96

Dealer: O’Briens

An organic Pinot Grigio from the same family that makes the excellent Musella Amarone. This one is reduced from €16 and has a salmon-pink hue, aromas of red currants, pomegranates and rose hips – textured and ripe with lemon-tinged acidity and orange peel to balance the notes floral and fruity.

If only more Pinot Grigio could mature and be made into wines like this.

Delibori Bardolino Chiaretto Classico 2019, Veneto, Italy — €14.49
Delibori Bardolino Chiaretto Classico 2019, Veneto, Italy — €14.49

Delibori Bardolino Chiaretto Classico 2019, Veneto, Italy — €14.49

Resellers: DrinkStore.ie, Nectar Wines, Vintry, The Corkscrew – www.thecorkscrew.ie

Chiaretto comes from the hills around Lake Garda and uses Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella as found in Valpolicella, Bardolino or Amarone.

Crisp cherry and floral aromas, crisp and supple with crisp acidity and citrus notes of pink grapefruit.

Campagnola Chiaretto direct from Forrestal Wines is also worth a look (and a bit cheaper) forrestal.ie

Wines Over 15€

Bulli Sampagnino, Rosé Frizzante
Bulli Sampagnino, Rosé Frizzante

Bulli Sampagnino, Rosé Frizzante, Emilia-Romagna, Italy — €17.99

Resellers: MacCurtain St. Wine Cellar, FallonandByrne.com, Lennox St. Grocer, Green Man Wines, Sheridans, boujee-booze.com

The small town of Piacenza is halfway between Parma and Milan and in the hillsides surrounding it you will mainly find sparkling wines that perfectly match the gastronomic richness of the region.

It is slightly sparkling with aromas of roses and red fruits and a very dry mouthfeel with tangy grapefruit acidity and bitter cherry skins on the finish.

Scala Cirò Classico, Calabria, Italy — €21.50
Scala Cirò Classico, Calabria, Italy — €21.50

Scala Cirò Classico, Calabria, Italy — €21.50

Resellers: MacCurtin Wine Cellar, Vintry Rathgar, Station to Station Wine stationtostationwine.ie, NeighborFood.ie

Cirò is the main DOC wine from Calabria at the foot of Italy and wines must contain 80% Gaglioppo – it’s 100% and it’s organic and low intervention. Crunchy red fruit with hints of spice and some nice crisp black fruit on the finish: the fruit is balanced by the acidity and it has a touch of lightness with quite a bit of elegance.

Their Rosé is also recommended.

San Ferelolo 'Valdibà' Dogliani Superiore Dolcetto 2017, Piedmont — 29€-30€
San Ferelolo ‘Valdibà’ Dogliani Superiore Dolcetto 2017, Piedmont — 29€-30€

San Ferelolo ‘Valdibà’ Dogliani Superiore Dolcetto 2017, Piedmont — 29€-30€

Dealers: Fallon & Byrne, Lennox St. Grocer, Sheridans

Dogliani is just south of Barolo and dedicated to the Dolcetto which probably originated here.

This reference biodynamic wine does not see any oak and is aged in the bottle for 3 years before being marketed. Aromas of dark berries and violets, ripe and fruity on the palate with crisp blackberries and chocolate-tinged ripe black cherries on the finish. It worked brilliantly with lamb and artichokes at the Fallon & Byrne dinner.

Cider of the week

Stonewell Rós Apple & Rhubarb Cider, 5.5% ABV, 330ml — €3.49
Stonewell Rós Apple & Rhubarb Cider, 5.5% ABV, 330ml — €3.49

Stonewell Rós Apple & Rhubarb Cider, 5.5% ABV, 330ml — €3.49

Dealers: 1601, Bradleys, Castle Tralee, No. 21 Group, Wine Centre, McHughs, Blackrock Cellar, Baggot St. Wines, selected restaurants and pubs.

I always look forward to this seasonal cider from the ever-creative Stonewell – I’m a fan of everything they do…even their experimental releases.

Made from a blend of rhubarb wine and Jonagold apple cider with everything sourced from Munster – the 2022 release seems even more fragrant and balanced than previous years.

Rós pours with just a hint of a pale pink hue, aromas of rhubarb and custard with lively notes of green apple in the background: tender apple and rhubarb fruits hit the palate first, followed by fruit apple reds and a pleasant tangy finish. Still so delicious.

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