Last Tuesday I had an excuse to serve a small range of Italian wines launching the Italy-Wine and Food Tour 2011 downtown in Brisbane’s Il Centro restaurant; just on dusk on a day which did not rain!
It’s always important to take a little of the seriousness out of the occasion by having some frivolity. This lightening of the air was in the form of serving some unpretentious Italian sparkling wine with lots of bubbles.
La Riva Dei Frati Prosecco NV is from Treviso although the growing part is right in Valdobbaiadene where this grape thrives; (+++); 11.5%; pale green, beautiful fresh and fruity nose, crushed grape aromas are all over it, then crushed lime fruit flavours, dry palate, no sugariness and a pleasant gulp. Guests enjoyed it too.
As the tour will go essentially to two regions, Tuscany and Piemonte, the standout red grape varieties were served: barbera, nebbiolo and sangiovese wines.
The cicchetti (small bites in Italian) or cocktail nibbles were likewise centered around the two regions with Il Centro owner Marcia Georges (a self-confessed Italophile with all the food passion) directing the menu.
It has become a tradition on Uncorked and Cultivated to serve Prosecco as a welcome drink; and on this occasion pair it with small wheels of smoked salmon enclosing mascarpone and caper filling, or, a small serve of seasoned chicken liver pureed to fit on crostini.
The latter wine is widely served in both Tuscan and Piemontese circles.
If these tantalising tastes did not fit the event, then the tiny slices of fig wrapped in prosciutto waved the flag for the myriads of preserved meats made in Tuscany (and many places elsewhere).
The Burlotto Barbera D’Alba 2009 Piemonte; (+++1/2); 14%; is modestly-coloured, heavily infused with dried herbs, earth and forest floor aromas (just like the smell of the air in an early morning Albanese truffle dig); jam nuances then a tapered palate where the pointy end of the taste is crisp acidity.
That’s barbera; and another morsel of cicchetti will balance up your mouth flavours.
Roving around the eager palates were tartlets of porcini; paper thin and aromatic from a topping of truffle and wash rind taleggio (origins a little further north in Lombardia but now widely made from cow’s milk); or tortellini filled with potato and walnut (soft crunch) and a truffle salsa over a bed of radicchio (served in spoons).
White truffle enjoyment is a big part of the enjoyment during this tour.
As the flavours got bolder, so did the wines.
Burlotto Langhe Nebbiolo 2009 Piemonte; (+++1/2); 14% is the pale russet-edge but brick colour of this grape (don’t be fooled by that); lots of baked sugar, toffee from ripe grapes, hot year, exceptional conditions; then a long silky palate with a twist at the end-drying tannin grip and bold acidity.
Served was arancini (rice balls) flavoured with saffron sitting on top of a grilled tiger prawn.
The final wine was Castellare di Castellina Chianti Classico 2009Tuscany; (+++); 13.5%, medium coloured, rabid with heady wild herbal aromas, full-on savoury and testing tannins of the sangiovese grape (and a little canaiolo nero) which demand a mouthful of food at the same time, quite mature for 2009, drinking best now.
Served were tiny pizzas (pizette) of vine ripened tomato (how can you miss them in both regions, hanging on their vines even when the season has closed off, leaves missing). The savoury topping was bagna cauda or anchovy dip sauce.
For tour itineraries try Uncorked and Cultivated Italy Wine and Food Tour 2011.
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