In Italy what grows together, goes together. This is one reason Italian wines are so food friendly. Another contributing factor to the ease of Italian wine-food pairing is the landscape of the Italian Peninsula – northern mountains trail down its spine, lush green plains and forests, rolling hills, ancient volcanoes, and two distinct islands, all surrounded by seas. This geography creates diversity in the wines – making them ideal to pair with summer cuisine.
When thinking Italian wine, first thoughts often go to Piedmont, Tuscany and Veneto. The red wines of the north are full-bodied and powerful. However, in a country that produces more indigenous grapes than any other, northern red wines are a small part of the Italian wine story. Journeying through the country two things become evident – there is a wine to pair with every type of food, and Italy is much more than bold reds.
Summer offers an array of meal options. Hot days call for a lighter meal such as seafood, shellfish, or salad. But summer is all about cook-outs, burgers, steak, and bbq. Summertime wines have to run the gamut to keep up with all these foods. Italian wines are ready for the challenge.
2016 Luca Bosio Vineyards Cortese di Gavi DOCG ($16): Pale lemon; notes of acacia, tropical fruit, stone fruit, citrus, and dried herbs; crisp and refreshing with pronounced acidity that makes the mouth pucker. This wine pairs well with seafood, pork, chicken, and summer salads. Visit Wine-Searcher to locate.
2016 Luca Bosio Vineyards Langhe Arneis DOCG ($15): Pale lemon; white flowers, peach, pineapple, lemon zest; penetrating acidity resulting in a refreshing wine that is crisp and inviting; Arneis is one of my favorite white Italian grapes; pair with chicken, seafood, shellfish, and cheeses. Visit Wine-Searcher to locate.
2014 Luca Bosio Vineyards Moscato d’Asit DOCG ($13): What’s summer without a little sweet effervescence? Dazzling floral notes mingle with bright citrus and stone fruit; light on the palate with an irresistible sweetness, balanced with high acidity, that begs for goat cheese with pistachios and honey, hazelnut cake, or strawberry shortcake. Visit Wine-Searcher to locate.
2015 Tascante ‘Ghiaia Nera’ Nerello Mascalese Sicily DOC ($20): Produced from grapes grown in volcanic soil on the slopes of Mt. Etna; bold aromas of dark fruit, baking spice, dusty cocoa, licorice, and savory herbs; it is bold and focused yet elegant and round; full-bodied, high tannins and acidity that is balanced with a long finish; give a good decant and enjoy with grilled red meat, pizza, and pasta. Visit Wine-Searcher to locate.
2016 Gran Passione Rosso Veneto IGT ($13): Crafted of 60% Merlot and 40% Corvina; made in the Amarone style of appassimento – drying of the grapes; this process results in notes of dark and baked fruit, baking spice, dried roses, dusty cocoa, worn leather, licorice, and vanilla; bold on the palate, high tannins that are well integrated and smooth, high acidity, balanced, long rich finish, this is an incredible value wine. Pair it with three meat pizza or a peppered bacon burger. Visit Wine-Searcher to locate.
2016 Luca Bosio Vineyards Barbera d’Asti DOCG ($11): Bright red fruit, roses, baking spice, medicinal, cedar, vanilla; elegant and approachable, medium+ tannins that are smooth on the palate, medium+ acidity; a great weeknight wine to pair with pizza, burgers, or meatloaf. Visit Wine-Searcher to locate.
2015 Tenuta Alzatura Montefalco Rosso DOC Umbria ($11): Layered aromas of dark fruit, spice, red flowers, mushrooms, and dried herbs; elegant and approachable; medium+ body, medium+ tannins and acid, balanced and linear, juicy on the palate with balanced earthiness; an easy summer sipper, chill and enjoy with cookouts, and pizza. Visit Wine-Searcher to locate.
2008 Antonelli Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG Umbria ($26): Dried and baked plum, black cherry, blackberry, baking spice, cocoa, worn leather, dried herbs, tobacco, black pepper; bold and rich; full-bodied, pronounced grippy tannins, high acidity, beautiful length and structure, long finish; this is a well-priced wine that over-delivers. Pair with a juicy ribeye. Visit Wine-Searcher to locate.
A great aspect of Italian grapes is they grow well in other parts of the world. No, they do not taste of the terroir of their home, but many are flexible and adapt well to different locations. United States’ wine regions such as Texas, Arizona, parts of California, and Southern Oregon to varying degrees have warmer, Mediterranean style climates. You may not expect to see Vermentino from Texas or Montepulciano from Oregon, but one taste of these wines and you will be glad you discovered them.
2016 Troon Vineyard Montepulciano Kubli Bench Applegate Valley Oregon USA ($25): pomegranate, cranberry, and black raspberry mingle with black tea, dried roses, and cured meat; medium bodied, medium tannins and acidity, elegant with a hint of Italian rustic grape quality that feels familiar yet different at the same time because it is an expression of Applegate Valley instead of Italy, a savory wine begging for food, yet delicious to sip and enjoy. I could drink this wine all summer long. Montepulciano from Oregon – I say absolutely! Visit Troon Vineyard to purchase.
2016 Troon Vineyard Sangiovese Kubli Bench Applegate Valley Oregon USA ($25): they have done it again; inviting notes of fresh cherry, black raspberry, pomegranate, blackberry, dried roses, savory herbs, kiss of spice, medicinal, and black pepper. A medium bodied wine with great lift off the palate, medium tannins and acidity, medium finish. It has that familiar rustic nature of Sangiovese, but is less dramatic than its Italian counterpart. Visit Troon Vineyard to purchase.
2014 Duchman Family Winery Aglianico Oswald Vineyard Texas USA ($30): this grape is indigenous to Italy’s Campania and Bascilicata regions; it is a rich red wine with notes of baked red and black fruit, baking spice, worn leather, cedar, licorice, and black pepper; full-bodied, medium+ tannins with medium acidity, integrated and balanced with great structure; the family considers gambling on a lesser-known grape one of their proudest moments. It was a gamble worth taking and a wine worth drinking. Pair with summer cookouts (grilled lamb chops), pizza, or pasta. Visit Duchman to purchase.
2016 Duchman Family Winery Vermentino Bingham Family Vineyard Texas USA ($20): this is your US summertime Italian white wine; notes of acacia, fresh picked citrus, stone fruit, almonds, and lime zest; on the palate it is round with medium+ acidity and refreshing; coming from the island of Sardinia, Vermentino is a great wine for summer seafood, shellfish, and lighter pastas such as linguine with clams. If you haven’t had wine from Texas, this is a good place to start. Visit Duchman to purchase.