Perfect Pairings: The Principle of Place in Tuscany

1st course for xx
Pairing food and wine…simple, right? Chicken goes with white wine, beef goes with red. Cheese is great with anything. Easy!

For sure, it takes a bit more effort to create a “perfect pairing” than simply choosing between an entrée meat (or vegetable) and a white or red wine. But the principles are clear and the results are amazing!

This is the second post in a four-part series on matching food with wine using menus from the Spring 2013 “Perfect Pairings” series created with The Painted Chef at The Grotto in Mt. Adams.

The series is anchored in the principle of place: terroir.
TUSCANY is arguably the best known and most popular of Italy’s 20 wine regions. Dash those bad memories of mass-produced Chianti sold in a straw-covered jug (which made a better candlestick holder than wine vessel!). Expand your food horizons beyond spaghetti and meatballs. Tomatoes may rule in Tuscan cuisine, but try them on pici, a thick hand-rolled Tuscan pasta specialty, or with Florentine steak. Some of the world’s best wines are produced in Tuscany, and they marry so well with the simple and elegant flavors of Tuscan cuisine.

The names of Italy’s estimated 2,000 different grape varieties may be mysterious and mind boggling, but the king of Tuscany is the red grape Sangiovese. Vast vineyards of Sangiovese grapes anchor a golden triangle of amazing wines from the DOCG regions of Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Chianti Classico, all to the south of Florence and Siena. Often overlooked, however, is the white grape Vernaccia from the DOCG commune of San Gimignano to the west of Sienna. It is crisp and refreshing with bright citrus notes and a slightly bitter mineral finish owing to the soil on steep sandstone hillsides.

Chefs Dave Cioffi and Brady DeLong created a Perfect Pairings menu to showcase the deeply satisfying flavors of Tuscany with the region’s great wines, using the fresh approach that distinguishes their gourmet catering business.

Montenidoli Vernaccia di San Gimignano “Fiore” 2009
Fava been salad closeup
The crunchy texture of spring fava beans, flavorful toasted croutons and pungent Pecorino Toscano cheese is a perfect complement to crisp Vernaccia di San Gimignano wine. Olive oil and lemon bridge the entire dish to the wine with mouth-watering perfection.

Perfect pairing: Winemaker Elisabetta Fagiuoli, who is 87(ish), has been making wine in San Gimignano since 1971. Montenidoli produces three different styles of Vernaccia. The “Fiore” is matured for an extended time on lees to give the wine more flavor and complexity. Light straw yellow in color, the wine exudes elegant floral notes and earthy aromas followed by lemon grass flavors and a concentrated stony mineral finish.

Riecine Rosato 2010
Heirloom tomatoes
No Tuscan pairing would be quite right without tomatoes. And it couldn’t officially be springtime without rosé. We chose raw tomatoes to celebrate spring with rosé because they are more acidic than cooked tomatoes, and should be served with crisply acidic white or rosé wine. Fresh buffalo mozzarella, salty prosciutto and basil chiffonade completed the texture and flavor experience with the wine.

Perfect pairing: We started the march toward the king of Tuscany with a 100% Sangiovese rosé grown in Chianti Classico DOCG vineyards. A sweet perfume of wild strawberries, raspberries and blood orange citrus followed by an earthy, savory tartness was a “wow” with the tomatoes.

Tenuta di Collosorbo Brunello di Montalcino 2004
Beef with mushrooms Tuscany
Red wine with beef…”you had me at hello.” It’s hard to find the right words to explain the exquisite lift that a savory combination of earthy mushrooms, truffles and creamy cheeses gives to the relationship between beef and Brunello. It is, quite simply, perfect!

Perfect pairing: 91 points from Wine Advocate. “A deceptively medium-bodied wine that nevertheless packs quite a punch in its perfumed dark fruit. This Brunello exhibits lovely balance, with notes of smoke, tar, licorice and new leather that linger on the refined, refreshing close.”

The Painted Chef

The Grotto
1101 St. Gregory St. Mt. Adams

Photo credits: Map of Tuscany; food and wine photos Game Day Communications.

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