Italian week in eastern Australia during June 2011 had an extra note of joyousness – it was also a celebration of 150 years of the Italian Unification.

Italians in Queensland took on a full swag of events which celebrated all things Italian; culture was to the fore as were vehicles, song and dance, dress and costumes, food, wines and water, Venetian glass and travel.

Author and wife Denise toast to the Illumination

The most spectacular start was the illumination of Brisbane’s Story Bridge in green, white and red, while the historic building, Conrad’s Treasury Casino followed suit.

My participation was a no brainer, partnering with Dolci Sapori’s talented Sicilian pastry chef Aladino Pozzebon by pairing his dolci with origins across Italy with my selections of sweeter Italian wines.

The Piemontese-based producer Gancia was another partner-of course why not – it produced Italy’s first sparkling wine in 1865, but not soon enough to toast the Unification so we do it today.

The pairings started with dry bubbles and savoury nibbles at the Commonwealth Bank Flagship Branch, 240 Queens Street in Brisbane. Even if you don’t bank with them, a trip inside enhances the new generation of banking experiences.

Gancia Prosecco Superiore Valdobbiadene Platinum NV (USD 32) 11%; +++; is lovely wine, unpretentious, pale, subtle, the grape aromatics restrained and delicate, closed fruitiness which expresses a little fresh yeast, then dry and pleasant, mild alcohol and a savoury end to a good drop.

Arancini pairing-Prosecco Platinum

Paired was arancini; served cold, Sicilian stuffed rice balls, rolled in breadcrumbs and in this case filled with a hearty beef ragu to provide the saltiness and the savoury notes to pair with this Prosecco. Bravo.

Gancia Moscato d’Asti 2007 (USD 26.50); 5.5%, +++; barely has fizz but comes over quite reserved to sniff, the taste is mild, grapey yes, but quite restrained, lemony from the fruity white moscato grapes but drying from its high acidity, 100 g/L sugar.

The Tuscan-origin dolce was Cantuccio di Siena paired with the moscato, Aladino’s rendition of an almond biscotti, served slightly soft due to his Sicilian touch, with orange zest cleverly integrated into the biscuit.

Anselmi’s wonderful late harvest wine, I Capitelli made from gargengna in the Soave region (Monteforte d’Alpone where I have visited) was paired with Aladino’s Pasta di Mandorla, a soft envelope of dessert pasta enclosing an almond filling, tacky sweet to balance the racy wine acidity.

Anselmi I Capitelli 2008 IGT (USD 47.75); 12.5%; ++++; pale green, attractive, aromas of the rack drying process, honey, lemon zest and oak-influenced sweetness, rich and delicious in the mouth, more honey, good dryness and minerality from a variety which has high natural acid, 200 g/L sugar.

Pasta pairing-Anselmi I Capitelli

Anselmi has renounced the DOCG status of similar mass-produced wines known as Recioto di Soave, using the more general IGT naming and branding the wine production method as “vino da uva stramature” or wine from dehydrated grapes. This is non-botrytis, withered berry, oak aged white wine making.

Gancia Modonovo 2007 Asti (USD 26.50); 9%; +++; pale, fizzy, grapey and effusive, then light textured, fine, minerally, limey acidity abounds with an expression of the canelli grape without any adornments; pure pleasure, sugars 80 g/L.

Cannoli pairing-Modonovo Asti

The dessert pairing was the most famous dessert of Sicily, cannoli di ricotta, this being fried wafers filled with sweetened ricotta and choc chip in this instance; there are many variations of flavour profiles but they all highlight the importance of ricotta on this large island.

Gancia Brachetto D’Acqui NV (USD 26.50); 6.5%; +++; cherry coloured sparkling red, native to Piemonte, and here in the Acqui area, charming aromas of red currants, a totally juicy mouthful of sweetness and varietal black fruits, ends off dry from the tannin, brachetto grape, 80 g/L sugar.

Chocolate pairing-Brachetto NV

Chocolate and sparkling sweet red are bedmates; the pairing on this evening being Amaretto e Cioccolata; almond amaretto with skin on, moist southern style centre, chocolate dipped. Chocolate plus sweet red fruits is heaven.

Peter Scudamore-Smith is a Brisbane-based Master of Wine, winemaker and educator

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