Know your Wines
In the second half of the 20th century, Italy decided to establish a series of laws to safeguard the quality and authenticity of their wine. Italian Wine certification falls into three categories of decreasing strictness:
DOCG, DOC, and IGT.
Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG): Seeing this on the label of your wine bottle means that the wine producers followed the strictest regulations possible to make that wine. The wine was tested a committee that then guarantees the geographic authenticity of the wine and its quality. There are currently only a handful of Italian wines that qualify for DOCG status.
Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC): DOC wines are much more commonly found. The rules governing quality and authenticity are still very strict, but they're a little more generous than those for DOCG status. For instance, the geographic zone might be a little bigger or the rules about what kind of grapes might be a little more relaxed.
Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT): This designation was created a little after the DOC and DOCG designations in order to accommodate growers who couldn't meet all the DOC or DOCG regulations for one reason or another, but were still producing great wines
Tongue, Meet Tannins
Tannins are a naturally occurring substance in grapes and other fruits and plants (like tea, for example). The taste of tannin is often described as bitter, causing a dry and puckery feeling in the mouth.
Tannins end up in your wine when the vintner allows the skins to sit in the grape juice as it ferments. This is also how wines get their color. Wines that have little or no skin contact end up pink or white, with far fewer tannins.
Wines that ferment with the skins for a longer period end up red, with high tannin content. As you’d imagine, red grape skins have more tannins than white grape skins.
Fun fact: you can get a white wine from a red grape by removing the skins from the juice immediately. All the color comes from the skins—even red grapes are white inside
Wine Flavors and Pairings
While a perfect balance where both food and wine are equally enhanced is theoretically possible, typically a pairing will have a more enhancing influence on one or the other. This means either the food or the wine will be the dominant focus of the pairing, with the other serving as a complement to enhance the enjoyment of the first.
Light to medium body with an aroma reminiscent of black and/or red cherry, raspberry
> Great option for meat and the other fish such as duck and mushrooms and salmon or tuna
Suggested Menu Item: Anatra Croccante, Ravioli ai Funghi
The color is cherry or ruby red with a fruity perfume, strongly reminiscent of blackberries. The flavor is dry, slightly acid, rounded, warm and full-bodied
> Great with Eggplant Parmigiana
Suggested Menu Item: Vitello alla Milanese, Gnocchi Alessia
Deep color with more intense, powerful fruit
> Partners well any meaty dish such as grilled or roasted pork and goes perfect with Bolognese
Suggested Menu Item: Maiale Saltimbocca, Spaghetti con Polpette
Medium-bodied with firm tannins and medium-high to high acidity. Floral, cherry and light nutty notes.
> Pairs best with tomato-based red sauces but will also work with cream- or oil-based sauces. Roast lamb with rosemary and garlic, Roast or braised veal, especially with mushrooms, Bistecca, T bone or ribeye steaks.
Suggested Menu Item: Pollo Amaretto, Lasagna
Aromatic, tannic and with low acidity. Earthy notes, black berries and has an inky-deep purple color. It can be described as "rustic" which is less pronounced when the wine is paired with food.
> Italian immigrants drank Montepulciano d'Abruzzo with their meatballs and spaghetti
Suggested Menu Item: Pollo Giuseppe
Fresh fruity flavors of strawberry and a little spiciness, but it readily takes on oaky, even tarry, flavors when aged in barrels. Often has a flavor profile of sour red cherries with earthy aromas. Wines made from Sangiovese usually have medium-plus tannins and high acidity.
> A Sangiovese with high tannins will work perfectly with rich roasted meat, cured sausages and hard cheeses.
Suggested Menu Item: Pappardelle alla Bolognese
Plum and black cherry are among the most common fruit-based descriptors. Fruity, spicy. Very soft, less tannin than Cabernet sauvignon. Smooth, rounded and "easy drinking"
>Pairs best with tomato-based red sauces and meat such as; Osso bucco (braised veal shanks) and Duck which is a rich food that can stand up to a powerful wine, which makes Merlot a great match
Suggested Menu Item: Pollo alla Parmigiana
This wine is not meant for light and delicate dishes; in fact the wine will simply crush the meal, spoiling the flavors of the dish. Among its heavy duty flavors are blackberry, black currant, plum, eucalyptus, mint, violet, black tea, dusty earth, cedar, tobacco, coffee bean, mocha, chocolate, vanilla and cut wood
>Best with grilled dishes, as the charred nature of the meat mirrors the bitter edge of the tannin in the wine and ‘thick’ dishes like hearty beef stews, or braised rib
Suggested Menu Item: Vitello alla Parmigiana
Traditional pairings for Barbaresco are rich meat focused dishes like braised short ribs, beef roasts, lamb or veal chops. Here you’ll find that the smoke and earthy qualities of the wine are complemented by the dish.
The wine is also amazing with earthy dishes that have mushrooms or truffles, such as risotto with porcini mushrooms, or a grilled steak with a side of grilled mushroom. This will also pair well with earthy cheeses but try to stay away from rich sauces that might overwhelm the wine
Suggested Menu Item: Maiale Saltimbocca
"One of Italy's Greatest Wines" - Big, powerful, tannic wine.
> Will overwhelm food so best paired with pasta and veggies
Suggested Menu Item: Amatra Croccante
Classic Italian wines like Brunello Di Montalcino go very well with Chicken Parm —the tannin in the wine will cut through the fat and the cheese, while still keeping with the complementary flavors of the tomato.
Also pairs well with heavy meat dishes, such as steak, paired with mushroom sauces. They’ll bode well against heavy pasta dishes, rich stews and blue-veined cheese or Pecorino Cheese.
Suggested Menu Item: Bistecca Mare e Monti
"The Great Bitter" - Rich Italian Red wine
> Pairs well with steak, pork, veal and poultry
Suggested Menu Item: Vitello Marsala
Prosecco is a young and fresh sparkling wine that is a classic pairing with Seafood. The citrus notes act like a squeeze of lemon on the seafood. Great with anything fried and battered as the high acidity in the Prosecco cuts through the grease and cleanses the palate.
>This wine would pair great with a starter of Calamari Fitti
Suggested Menu Item: Caprese
Simple, light-bodied, dry and crisp complemented by aroma notes citing lemon, green apple and blossoms
>Best paired fish dishes such as mussels and great with cream- or oil-based sauces but can hold its own with tomato-based red sauces
Suggested Menu Item: Zuppa di Cozze, Salmone all Griglia
Sauvignon Blanc/Fume Blanc
Dry, tart and acidic with herbal flavors as well as tropical fruit.
>Typically, very light which make them a nice match for cream- or oil-based sauces, oysters and grilled vegetables
Suggested Menu Item: Torno Carpaccio , Cannellone di Verdane
Dry, fresh and well balanced. The color is an amber with hints of straw-yellow, greenish streaks. Fragrance is a field of flowers with a note of ripe fruit and a hit of apple.
Suggested Menu Item: Merluzzo alforno
Fruity, buttery, with a velvety feel that’s atypical to dry white wines.
>Best paired with cream- or oil-based sauces, but can also be served with a light, tomato-based red sauce, Risotto, Pork and Roasted Chicken
Suggested Menu Item: Melanzare all Parmigana
Extremely refreshing lightly sparkling wine with notes of fresh nectarine, melon and white peach. Delicate, slightly sweet with a long lingering finish.
Suggested Menu Item: (coming soon)
Light, fruity character with a pink color that can range from a pale orange to a vivid near-purple. Italy makes amazing Rosé that will have a bit of a fizz to them and are typically made by the Barbera grape.
>Anything high in fat/protein and low in carbs are amazing with this dry wine such as Pork, Ham, Salmon, and Eggplant
Suggested Menu Item: Spaghetti alle Vongole
Suggested Menu Item: (coming soon)