Sometimes opposites attract, but not always with wine and food. It’s not necessary to always get to mixed up into “what must be drunk with what” according to some wine aficionado’s. Go with Chef Michael Chiarello’s motto of “like what you drink and drink what you like.” Still, it’s important to remember to always match similar flavors and textures and make sure the intensity of the wine contributes to the flavor of the dish…not over-power it.
First, match wine with foods that have similar richness and texture. Think about what is going to bring out the characteristics of both. A nice acidic Chainti will pair perfectly with a tangy tomato based pasta with a pungent cheese, like parmesan. A light, crisp and fragrant Vernaccia white from San Gimignano in Tuscany is well suited for all seafood dishes, and light cream sauces. Vermentino, a white grape varietal grown in Sardinia and other areas along the Mediterranean coast, makes another perfect seafood pairing.
Balance tastes. Remember that salty and sour tastes in food will make wines taste milder (fruitier and less acidic), whereas most sweet and savory tastes make wines taste stronger (drier and more astringent).
Always try to balance the acidity of the food to the wine. Pinot Grigio’s are great with citric based foods like lemon chicken or light and floral soups or stews. If you’re drinking a desert wine that is very sweet like a Vin Santo, have a nice biscotti or torte. The wine should always be just as sweet, or sweeter than what you’re eating.
Light, Medium and Full-bodied wines: When you are cooking, remember that light body wines like Pinot Grigio or Soave go well with steamed, lightly sauteed, or poached foods. Medium and full-bodied wines like Montepulciano d’Abruzzo,Brunello or Barolo go better with grilled, roasted, or baked dishes that have intense flavors. Acidic wines like Barbera from the Piedmont region work well with salty dishes. Try to work with the body of the wine and the depth of the meal.
Poultry: Game birds such quail, turkey, duck, and squab have earthy flavors that are more robust than chicken. Because of this, you should pair them with wines that can pick up those characteristics of spice and earth. A beautifully balanced Amaronepairs extremely nicely.
Fish and Seafood: There is a myth that seafood must be paired with white wine – but it does not always have to be. Chianti is such a diverse wine with a dry-body that it will not ruin and hide the flavors of the sea. Mix it up a bit and explore the flavors. Some shellfish, like oysters – are excellent with sparkling wine like Prosecco,Lambrusco or Asti. The salt from the sea and carbonation from the sparkling wine make a delicious combination.
Consider the region. Look at the region where the wines come from and pick foods or ingredients from that area. Italy is as diverse in its wines as it is in its cuisine. Take note of vegetables and spices that are popular in the region where the wine was sourced and seek out dishes with those characteristics. Remember that the soil that the fruits and vegetables grow in, and the grass the native animals feed upon, is the same base for the vines. They feed off the same nutrients and will therefore have similar flavors. There is a simple old food and wine pairing adage, “If it grows together, it goes together”.
When in doubt, remember rules are there to be broken…but in wine, these are simply guidelines, not musts. If you’re eating Italian food, think about having an Italian wine. This isn’t a requirement, but often helps simplify the decision.
Produced in the undulating hills of the Tuscan countryside between Florence and Siena, the famous Chianti Classico wine is known and celebrated all over the world. Tidy rows of vineyards set amidst historic villages and silvery-green olive trees are a scenic backdrop.
Stop in Greve in Chianti with its picturesque, asymmetrical main piazza. It is lined by a succession of palaces, porticoes and loggias with the rebuilt church of Santa Croce at one end, housing beautiful Renaissance paintings from the School of Fra Angelico. At the other end of the piazza stands a statue of the explorer, Giovanni da Verrazzano, who discovered New York Harbor.
Then head to the Casaloste Vineyards, known for their fine Chianti Classico and Riserva wines and visit their cellars. Then head to the cellars of the Setriolo Estate in Castellina in Chianti to learn how grapes become wine . . . Fantastico!
Stretched across a Tuscan hill, Siena offers one of Italy's best medieval city experience. Red-brick lanes tumbling every which way, the town is an architectural time warp, where pedestrians rule and the present feels like the past.
Five hundred years ago, Italy was the center of humanism. Today, the self-assured Sienese remember their centuries-old accomplishments with pride. In the 1300s, Siena was one of Europe's largest cities and a major military force, in a class with Florence, Venice, and Genoa. But weakened by a disastrous plague and conquered by her Florentine rivals, Siena became a backwater for six centuries.
Siena's loss became our sightseeing gain, because its political and economic irrelevance preserved its Gothic-era identity, most notably its great, gorgeous central piazza — the Campo. People hang out as if at the beach at this tilted shell-shaped "square" of red brick.
Most Italian cities have a church on their main square, but the Campo gathers around Siena's city hall, symbol of rational government, and a 330-foot municipal tower (open for climbers). Nowadays, the city hall tends a museum collection of beautiful paintings. The 14th-century town council met here in the Sala della Pace ("Room of Peace") under instructive frescoes reminding them of the effects of bad and good government: One fresco shows a city in ruins, overrun by greed and tyranny; the other fresco depicts a utopian republic, blissfully at peace.
If the Campo is the heart of Siena, the Duomo (or cathedral) is its soul. Sitting atop Siena's highest point and visible for miles around, the white and dark-green striped church is as over-the-top as Gothic gets. Inside and out, it's lavished with statues and mosaics. The heads of 172 popes peer down on all those who enter.
Great art, including Michelangelo statues and Bernini sculptures, fills the church interior. Nicola Pisano carved the wonderful marble pulpit in 1268. It's crowded with delicate Gothic storytelling — get up close to study the scenes from the life of Christ and the Last Judgment.
Hiding between the Duomo and the Campo are intriguing back streets, lined with colorful flags and studded with iron rings for tethering horses. Those flags represent the city's neighborhood associations (or contrade), whose fierce loyalties are on vivid display twice each summer during the Palio, a wild bareback horse race around the Campo (held July 2 and Aug. 16 every year).
Because Siena's steep lanes go in anything but a straight line, it's easy to get lost — but there's no rush to get found. As you wander, you'll be tempted by Sienese specialties in the shops along the way: gourmet pasta, vintage Chianti, boar prosciutto, extra virgin olive oil, and panforte.
In six hundred years, not much has changed. Life in Siena is good.
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Tony Moglia's grandparents immigrated from Italy in the early 1900's. He's a dual citizen who has traveled extensively throughout Italy for 40 years. He's happily married to a vibrant dancer who together have two children and three grandchildren. Tony has dreamed of Villas of Italy since his first trip to Italy, and now he shares his dream with you.