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Viva Italy

Italy is as wine-and-food complex as it is culturally rich. In England its copycat pizza, pasta, polenta and risotto tend to be washed down with Chianti or Valpolicella (in red) and Pinot Grigio or Soave (in white). We use parmesan, or rather, Parmigiano-Reggiano, to sprinkle atop and it adds to the magic. In Italy other regions outside of Parma and the parmesan producing provinces use their own magic dust giving them regional nuances, washed down with regional wines. In the northern region of Piedmont, for example, the local white truffle is sprinkled over risotto – giving the otherwise simple dish a distinctly Piedmontese character; and it is enjoyed with the local, perfumed and fruity reds of Dolcetto or Barbera. In central Italy it is the black truffle which reigns supreme – and here they grate it on pasta and wash it down with the local dark and juicy Montepulciano reds. We would do well to tinker a little to achieve such nuances. Certainly the best wines have evolved from roots in food with regional differences – and since much of the food is rich and vibrant, so naturally are the wine flavours to match. Siciliy`s Nero d`Avola with Puttanesca, for example – note the punchy acidity and spice in the wine, equal to the dish. In Piedmont the difficult Nebbiolo grape comes into its own, giving us savoury Barolo and Barbaresco reds with rich beef stew. In Tuscany it`s Sangiovese yielding the red wines of Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino – served with simply grilled steak, cooked in nothing but olive oil and salt. The white wines (and even some Proseccos) are also food-wines, more often than not mineral-rich, matching the local fish. Always the emphasis on local ingredients simply prepared and wines to match – perhaps with fresh herbs and garlic for flavouring. And then there is Italian sweet wine – Veneto`s pale gold Recioto di Soave wines, Tuscany `s deep, orange-coloured Vin Santos … and the happy practice of dunking biscotti. Oh my, … viva Italia!

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