Italy is an incredible country. What is lacks in size, it makes up in its offerings. Italy’s total area is 116,350 square miles ranking it the 72nd largest country in the world. Compared to the United States, it is a bit smaller than California, which is 163,696 square miles. Italy has 20 administrative regions that produce wine. The Italian Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Italy has authorized over 350 different grape varieties but there are over 500 different kinds of grapes in circulation within the country and the wine is broken down into a hierarchy of quality including 500 DOCG, DOC and IGT titles.
As diverse as the Italian grape varieties are, so is the Italian cuisine. Italians love their food and their wine and apparently, so do Americans. According to a recent survey conducted by YouGov America, food from Italy, with an 88% popularity score, ranked 2nd after American cuisine (at 91%) for US residents. Each of the distinctive 20 wine producing regions have their own take on popular dishes, so it may be a bit overwhelming when trying to choose a pairing. But never fear, there is an Italian wine to go with every course.
Disclaimer: The wines discussed below were received as media samples. No other compensation was provided. Opinions and statements are my own.
Antipasto and CA DI PRATA Brut Prosecco DOC
- Sweet cherry peppers
- Marinated artichokes
- Kalamata olives
- Fresh mozzarella ciliegine or bocconcini
- Sharp provolone, cut into chunks
- Prosciutto, thinly sliced
- Italian dry salami
- Fresh rosemary, for garnish
- On a round plate or platter, arrange the meats in a pile in the center. Next, arrange the cheese around the meat and dot the olives over the cheese for texture. Finally, alternate the peppers and artichokes in a ring around the cheese. Tuck the rosemary around the outside of the platter for garnish.
The off-dry palate of this Prosecco is ideal for the saltiness found in an antipasto. Classification of Brut means that the residual sugar is less than 12g/L. Fruit is harvested from vineyards within the Prata di Pordenone province, in Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Produced using the Charmat method, the wine is 85% Glera, the remaining balance is Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay. It was fermented in stainless steel.
The sparkling is pale straw in the glass. Aromas of almond and white flowers. On the palate, white peach, pear and apple. Medium acidity, low alcohol and medium finish, 11% ABV. MSRP: $15.99
A Primo (first course) and 2020 Barone Montalto Pinot Grigio
- 1 1/4 cups of corn flour
16 oz of milk
16 oz water
1/2 cup of sweet gorgonzola
1 cup 36 months of Parmesan cheese
a few leaves of sage
1/2 cup butter
Sale to taste.
- To prepare the polenta dumplings, start by removing the crust from the gorgonzola and cutting it into cubes. Then grate the Parmesan cheese and pour the Accadì milk and half a litre of water into a saucepan. Boil, season with salt and pour in the flour a little at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon until the flour is completely incorporated. Cook the polenta in this way for 50 minutes, without stopping stirring. A few minutes before the end of cooking, add the pieces of gorgonzola and the grated Parmesan. Then place the polenta on a wet work surface and let it cool.
- Now wet your hands and start treating the polenta: remove small pieces and make balls. Arrange these balls in a baking dish in which you have spread 20 grams of butter. The remaining butter, however, put it in a saucepan with the sage leaves and melt everything well, then pour it on the dumplings. Finally, sprinkle some parmesan and bake for a few minutes, using the grill function, to form a light crust on the surface. Serve the dish hot and enjoy your meal!
Barone Montalto manages around 400 hectares of vineyards in Sicily. The majority can be found in Santa Ninfa, in the hearth of the Belice Valley, Agrigento and in Noto. Some of these vineyards are estate while others are sourced. Both, however, must fall under the “Montalto quality protocol.” The family collection fruit is harvested from vineyards in the Belice Valley. The soils are alluvial based with a mix of limestone and sand. In the glass, the wine pours pale golden straw.
On the nose medium aromas of lime, chalk and grapefruit. The palate shows more of the aromas along with wet stone. Medium acidity, low alcohol and medium finish. 12% ABV (SRP: $12)
Il Secondo (second course) and Riva Leone Barbaresco 2017
Chicken Saltimbocca by Winepairing with Dracaena Wines
1/2 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste
4 chicken breast halves, boneless and skinless
1 tablespoon sage
4 slices prosciutto
olive oil to coat pan
1 1/4 cup vermouth
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter, cut
1 tablespoon minced, fresh Italian oregano
4 slices of swiss cheese
1. Preheat convection oven to 425 degrees
2. Prepare chicken dipping station by putting flour into a deep bowl and pressing dried sage into chicken cutlets.
3. Coat chicken in the flour and put aside.
4. Pour enough olive oil to coat bottom of pan and heat. Cook chicken breasts until no longer pink inside and brown on the outside.
5. Remove from heat. Place on baking pan and put one piece of swiss cheese and one piece of proscuitto on each chicken.
6. Place in oven and cook until the cheese is melted and the proscuitto is crisp.
7. In the meantime, prepare the sauce. Over medium heat, stir the vermouth into the pan, scraping up the browned bits, and simmer until reduced to about 1/3 cup, Stir in the fresh lemon juice. Reduce heat to low and whisk in the butter and add the oregano.
8. Pour sauce over finished chicken and serve immediately.
Barbaresco is a wine produced in the Langhe region, which is located in Piedmont and is produced with 100% Nebbiolo. It has a minimum ageing requirement of two years and is required to remain in bottle for a minimum of 24 months before release. Riva Leone’s namesake was a fine wine trader in the late 19th century and was apparently a rather profligate individual. But I liked his thinking; whenever the mood suited him, he’d sit down and drink wine and if he enjoyed it he would holler out his enthusiasm. Eventually he decided he would bottle his own wine. The house displayed on the label shows his shop in Alba.
The wine pours medium garnet. On the nose the wonderful expected Barbaresco cherry and earth aromas. On the palate medium flavors of cherry, forest floor with high tannin. High acid and long finish. 14% ABV (SRP: $25)
Dolce (dessert course) and Acquesi Asti Spumante
- 1/4 cup (40g) whole almonds
- 1/3 cup (75g) caster sugar, plus extra 11/2 tbs
- 500g fresh ricotta
- 1/2 cup (125g) good-quality mascarpone
- 1 tbs very strong espresso
- 1 tbs amaretto liqueur (optional)
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 12 cannoli shells (from delis and specialty Italian food shops)
The Asti DOCG is located in Piedmont. The original DOC was created in 1967 but was upgraded to a DOCG in 1993. It is comprised of 4000 companies and entails 8,236 ha of vines and produces approximately 644,000 hl of wine per year. The entire region is dedicated to a single grape variety; Moscato bianco. The second fermentation takes place using the Charmat method. By regulations Asti Spumante’s internal pressure is between 4-5 bars and the alcohol is between 6% and 9%.
Straw color with a hint of gold. On the nose stone fruit, citrus zest and a touch of yeast. On the palate, medium (+) sweetness, medium body with flavors of citrus, honey and floral. Medium finish. (SRP: $16.99)