Opinion Advocates for ideas and draws conclusions based on the author/producer’s interpretation of facts and data.
In this, the third installment of my family adventure in Tuscany, I present to you a backdrop on the wines offered at restaurants. Stay tuned next week for our adventures at our two favorite restaurants (in Tuscany, it’s difficult to rate any wine, food or restaurant as a singular favorite).
Oh, and did I mention: After we departed the villa, my wife and I took the high-speed train to the Amalfi Coast for a few add-on days of food and wine exploration. More to follow on this excursion.
Many of you are familiar with the influences that gave birth to the unique culture of this region. These include the role of the Catholic Church in the skyline-dominating duomos in many localities, the fortifications constructed during medieval times to protect citizenry from marauding invaders, the rise of the Renaissance and its inspiration for the birth of a new era of art, sculpture and architecture.
Through all these eras and evolutions, a constant has been the wine. The early Romans began planting vines and crafting wines in Tuscany over 2,500 years ago. Today’s winemakers carry this influence in their DNA, as they ply their trade with a modern sensibility.
The White Wines
The ubiquitous Vernaccia, produced in the hills surrounding our villa, were in every restaurant wine cellar. And they were stocked in our villa wine cellar, produced by the villa property owners and ready to be pulled from the ages-old shelves. We certainly availed ourselves of this convenience (at eight Euros). This wine has a distinct aroma of flowers, a hint of citrus and minerality that pairs well with a number of dishes.
The wines of Campania were quite popular. The holy trinity of Falanghina, Fiano and Greco di Tufo proliferated on nearly all of the wine lists at local restaurants. Why? Perhaps the price-quality combination? Perhaps they are ready to enjoy while young? Perhaps the winemakers of Campania are still feeling the effects of prior recessions and maintain lower prices to ensure a viable cash flow?
Whatever the reason(s), we were the beneficiaries for pairing at each of our meals. Each of these wines had distinct characteristics that, when considered as a group, please most palates and pair well with lighter dishes, with profiles that run from soft and dry to bold and fruit-forward.
When we returned to New York, we found excellent representations of all four of these wines, at affordable prices. This is not typically the case; many readers complain that the wines they enjoyed in Italy are difficult to find in New York, and furthermore, the aromas and flavor were not the same as the local versions in Italy. It is no longer as difficult to replicate the Italian experience back home.
The Red Wines
Chianti Classico dominated every wine list with which we were presented. Our villa was located just outside the Town of Greve, one of the centers of the Tuscan geographic area where the Sangiovese grape is cultivated.
As we ventured through the narrow, winding roads each day, we passed winery signs for wines that invariably were included in the restaurant wine list later that evening. In this area, the vineyards present picture-perfect landscape photos suitable for enlarging and framing. Yet, as close as the wineries are to one another and as similar the terroir of each, we appreciated the fine distinction of each bottle we consumed. The subtleties were in the balance of fruit and acid. One wine was redolent with black cherry aromas, which influenced, but did not dominate, the wine’s tannins. Another wine captured the essence of plums, which was sublimated by an elevated acidity.
We found ourselves seeking advice from the family that owned the restaurant so that we could best pair a wine with the dish selected. The family’s generations-old familiarity with the generations-old wineries made for a perfect match every time.
The wines of Chianti Classico have risen in esteem – and popularity – in recent years. I encourage you to seek them out for your culinary pairings.
Nick Antonaccio is a 45-year Pleasantville resident. For over 25 years, he has conducted wine tastings and lectures. Nick is a member and program director of the Wine Media Guild of wine journalists. He also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sharingwine.