The heavenly aroma of fine Italian wines and the irresistible flavour of Italian cuisine and cheeses are inseparable.
THEY are partners in eternal harmony. One can't exist without the other..the Gods created them, the ancient elders endorsed their permanence, the Italians swear and live by them. Italian wines and Italian cheeses (and cuisine, for that matter!). In all the world, nothing continues to fascinate food lovers, aficionados and connoisseurs of good cuisine as the synergetic alliance of cheeses and wines. Besides the occasional glorification, the gourmet partners truly deserve accolades for the sensory magic they play on your tastebuds, each time, every time.
A journey into the Italian hinterlands of great wine producing regions like Tuscany, Puglia, Piemonte or Veneto offers ample opportunities for the first-time traveller to savour and ingest real regional Italian gastronomic treasures. With dry winters and mildly hot summers, the hilly plains and lavaic terrain of each region nurtures premium vine stock and varietals that go to mature into those wonderful cellar vintages. My culinary explorations found me tucking into delightful home made recipes at small Osterias (family-run restaurants), Trattoria or Ristorantes in villages and towns, the climate and local hospitality expanding my appetite (and girth!). How do you then pick and choose Italian cheeses and the correct wines? Take a look at these recommendations... . you can enjoy a good Ricotta Goat cheese with a delicately refined Montressor Soave Classico DOC 2004-white wine with an almondy after taste, from the Veneto region in northeast of Italy, (DOC is the official regional appellation standard), alternately with a chilled Zardetto "Spumante" (lightly sparkling) Prosecco Brut (a white from the Conegliano area in Veneto), exhibiting effervescing fruity bouquet of acacia flowers, strawberries and ripe golden apples. Try matching the grand flavours of earthy-flavoured Gorgonzola or Gran Padano cheeses with a well-chosen ruby red Montressor Valpolicella Classico DOC 2004 (red wine from Veneto-Valpolicella region) with aromas of violets, oaks and iris. To create adventure, go for the medium-hard Emmental or the matured Parmigiano Reggiano cheeses combined with a medium bodied classic Tenuta Coppadoro Pescorosso Primitivo IGT Puglia 2003 (red wine from the Puglia region) displaying a bouquet of chocolate and roast coffee beans. The great Italian cuisine experience offered by visiting celebrity chefs from Italy to Mumbai recently for the Festa Italiana 2005 was an education in that trademark Italian culinary wonder - the Pizza. Organised by the Indo-Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Mumbai, Festa Italiana 2005 featured Master Pizza Chef Francesco di Massa from Naples who demonstrated the authentic art of making the original Neapolitan pizza (born in Naples) the way his grandmother did it... sun-baked wafer-thin crusts layered with cheese, topped with tomatoes, vegetables, olives and fish.
I met up with Chef Francesco who fondly reminisced about his pet passion, "Our fisherwomen used pizzas for the hardy seafaring community as a handy, easy-to-cook, easy-to-eat dish. Our sailors went out to countries like India to return with basil, garlic and pine nuts from the Himalayas to garnish and enhance our cuisine!" And to top up, Chef Francesco suggests a well picked red wine, maybe a fine Batasiolo Rosso-DOC 2001 from Asti-Piemonte.Italian cuisine is necessarily and essentially moistened, irrigated and washed with appropriately selected regional wines to balance the flavours and aid digestion... so they say. Ask Robin Wodehouse, MD of VinInternational and he'll elaborate, "The acidic, tannic properties of great wine varietals with their spicy, peppery, earthy and berry-accented bouquets are mellowed and tempered with delectable cheeses that coat the intestinal lining with yeast, cutting the sometimes harsh character of wines you drink. Besides, cheeses are a great source of protein and energy". Robin offered select tastings of his "Bottled Sunshine" from various wine producing regions of Italy... during the Gusto Italiano food fest of Festa Italiana 2005. hHs finely dry, fruity and lightly aromatic rose Pino Grigio (wine from the Piemonte region) scores a hit with a Ricotta cheese on a Crostini (dry toast-like bread) capped with Black Olive Tapenade, and his classic Gagliole Toscana Rosso IGT 2003(a great Tuscan red wine) is a runaway hit with Pepperoncino(spicy olive oil)marinated red chilly stuffed anchovies! Among the privileged pleasures of the earth, one of the distinguished experiences one can hope and live to cherish is the journey of culinary symphony of Italian cuisine and Italian wines... it's a concerto decked with a spectrum of encores. Buono Apetito!