Posts tagged ‘barbera d’alba’

Pairing Italian Wine and Food with the Experts

The Classic Risotto with Vegetables – what Italian wines work with this dish?

Everyone loves Italian food and naturally wants to pair Italian wines with this cuisine. What are the best pairings of Italian wine and food? I went to three authorities in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago and asked them what Italian wine (or wines) they would pair with some classic Italian dishes. The three wine and food authorities are:


Charles Scicolone – New York City

If you want to know anything about Italian wines – especially those made during the 1950s and 1960s- ask Charles. He is a wine consultant, writer and educator and has been specializing in Italian wines for more than 40 years. He was the wine director for I Trulli Restaurant in New York City for 10 years and today consults for various Italian restaurants in the city. He authors the blog Charles Scicolone on Wine and is also the wine editor for He has lectured about Italian wines for the Italian Trade Commission and is often hired by regional Italian wine departments to make presentations about their wines. He also is one of this country’s leading authorities on pizza, especially the classic pizza margherita from Napoli.


Piero Selvaggio – Los Angeles

Long before today’s fascination with Italian wine and food in America, Piero Selvaggio was educating Americans on the glories of these products. Born in Sicily, he arrived in Brooklyn in 1964 and soon learned how different Italian-American food was from that of his native Italy. He attended college in California and worked at several restaurant jobs – everything from busboy to waiter to assistant manager.

He opened the restaurant Valentino in Santa Monica in 1972 with a friend. Praise for this restaurant was extraordinary right from the start; it is no exaggeration to write that this was the first great Italian restaurant of the modern era in the United States. Along with using the finest ingredients, Selvaggio emphasized the best wines from all over Italy.

He has since opened a Valentino restaurant in Las Vegas and Houston and continues to explore the ever-changing relationship between Italian wine and food.


Jason Carlen, Chicago

Early this year, Jason Carlen took over the wine program at one of America’s temples to Italian food, Spiaggia Restaurant in Chicago. Carlen is the newest wine director here, following the magnificent work of Henry Bishop and then Steven Alexander. While the Italian wine program here does not have the most selections in the country, it is as thorough and eclectic as any in America. Before coming to Spiaggia, Carlen spent four years as sommelier at The Inn at Palmetto Bluff, an Auberge resort in Bluffton, South Carolina.


I will also be adding my thoughts on the pairings. I have made 49 trips to Italy over the past ten years and have enjoyed wonderful meals throughout the country, from humble trattorie and osterie to two-star Michelin ristoranti.

Here are the foods and the recommended pairings from these gentlemen:


Risotto with Vegetables (pictured above)

Charles Scicolone: “Classic vegetable risotto with peas and carrots calls for a Soave. This white wine with good acidity from the Veneto will work very well with the richness of the risotto and the mild flavors of the vegetables.”

Piero Selavaggio: “Part of the fun of pairing wine with certain food is always the originality, the nuances, the way salt of food and acidity of wine dance well together. Here is a new partner in the contest. For the risotto, I picked a wine of exemplary elegance: Grifola. It is from the small Marche region in central Italy by Poderi San Lazzaro.” (note- this is a Marche Rosso IGT produced exclusively from the Montepulciano grape – TH.)

“It is a wine of dark black fruit, yet fresh and elegant in the finish able to enrich and complement the richness of the cheese and the butter that ties the risotto and sustains the simplicity of the veggies.”

Jason Carlen: “As for the risotto, I would love a Trebbiano by Valentini. I think the purity of those wines and slight oxidative quality are reminiscent of Puligny-Montrachet. I love pairing the richness of a risotto with an equally rich wine that is perfectly balanced with acid.”

Tom Hyland: I am in agreement with Charles on this one. A Soave Classico from a top producer such as Pieropan, Ca’ Rugate or Coffele has the ideal flavors that pick up on the risotto, while the aromatics of the Garganega grape blend ideally with the vegetables.


The classic margherita pizza – this from Kesté Pizzeria in New York City

Margherita Pizza

CS: “Pizza Margherita is not only the perfect pizza, but also the perfect food. The wine I like to drink with pizza is Barolo, one from a traditional producer. Barolo of this type has subtle fruit, hints of tar, tobacco, etc. with good acidity. This is a perfect combination for the tomato sauce, the mozzarella and the basil of the margherita.

PS: “For pizza, I always think Sangiovese. From Umbria, I like the Falesco; it is bold and supple, jammy and easy, just like the pie. An alternative is always a good Chianti, like Felsina, Ricasoli or Fattoria La Massa in Panzano. These are the type of new Italian wines that made people fall in love with Italian gastronomy.”

JC: “I think there are so many directions you can go with a margherita pizza.Personally I prefer a red with enough acid to cut through the fat of the cheese and to hold up to the tomato. Perhaps the COS, Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico 2008. I love the sweet herbaceous cherry fruit in this wine, the chalky tannins and the bright acidity.”

TH: I agree with Charles about Barolo with the margherita pizza, especially when it comes to a traditional style of Barolo. I also think a traditional Barbera d’Alba with plenty of spice can work well, while an Aglianico-based wine from Campania or Basilicata can also pair well with the pizza.


Duck Breast with raisins and sweet onions from Ristorante Groto di Corgnan, Veneto

CS: “With this dish I would drink an Amarone. I would prefer one with good acidity and the characteristics of a table wine, as opposed to some Amarones with intense flavors and aromas that can make it more like a dessert wine. The gaminess of the duck will not be overwhelmed by the Amarone and the raisins and onions will enhance the flavors of the Amarone.”

PS:  “For the sauteed duck breast I like a Veronese Ripasso: Palazzo della Torre by Allegrini. A young wine that has been blended with Amarone-style raisiny juice. It is robust and concentrated, yet showing the elegance of the Corvina grape, that should wrap well with the sweetness of  the  sauce.”

JC: ” I normally like to pair duck with a pinot noir but in this case I am thinking a Gattinara would do the trick nicely. With the fat of the duck I think a more polished Gattinara would work well. The little bit of tannins would made docile by fat of the meat and the sweetness of the raisins would help to bring out the fruit in the wine. A favorite right now is the Anoniolo “San Francesco” Gattinara 2006.”

TH: I also like a Ripasso or Amarone with this dish. I would also love to pair this with a Dolcetto from Diano d’Alba – the Fontanafredda “La Lepre” is a tantalizing example of this wine. The black cherry and cranberry fruit flavors are spot on here, while the tannins are not very strong and do not overpower the duck.


Do you have any thoughts on what Italian wines you would pair with these dishes? Do you have other Italian wine and food pairings you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you!

Text and photos ©Tom Hyland

September 27, 2011 at 1:25 pm 5 comments

Best Values of the Year – Italian Reds

Last time, I listed a few of my favorite value white wines from Italy in 2010; now for the reds:


This is a beautiful blend from Antinori’s wine project in Puglia, cleverly named for the first two letters of the three red varieties: NEgromaro, PRimitivo and CAbernet Sauvignon. It displays tasty black fruit and good spice with moderate tannins. It’s eminently rinkable right now with all sort of foods. In other words, a fun and uncomplicated wine! Priced anywhere from $8-12, how can you go wrong?


Aglianico is the wonderful red variety of Campania that is used to produce the classic Taurasi, one of Italy’s most distinguished wines. Many wineries produce a lesser, fresher version of Aglianico that is released earlier for younger enjoyment and Mastroberardino generally produces one of the most consistent bottlings. This 2008 Re di More is from an older clone of Aglianico and the wine delivers excellent complexity with flavors of black raspberry and mocha. Medium-full with polished tannins and light black spice, this can be enjoyed with lighter game and most red meats (especially grilled) over the next 3-5 years. (note- this wine is not imported in the US at the present time, so look for the winery’s Aglianico Campania IGT offering, which is also quite good at $20.)


There are so many beautiful examples of Chianti Classico from this excellent vintage; this from one of my favorite producers, is a steal at $20. Red plum and currant aromas, light black spice, very good acidity and moderate tannins combine to make a very typical and very drinkable Chianti Classico that will be a fine match with pastas, pork and veal dishes over the next 2-3 years.


No surprise here, as this has been one of my favorite bottlings of Dolcetto d’Alba for some twenty years now; combine that with the 2009 vintage, a year of excellent ripeness and depth of fruit and you have a recipe for something special. Gorgeous perfumes of mulberry, cranberry and toffee backed by impressive persistence, very good acidity and moderate tannins, this is delicious! Pair this with pastas or even duck breast (cherry or orange sauce) or many poultry dishes and you’ll have a great experience, especially considering you only have to spend about $22 on this wine!

Paolo Veglio, Cascina Roccalini (Photo ©Tom Hyland)



After reading notes about the wines from this new artisan estate in the commune of Barbaresco, I contacted importer Terence Hughes in New York who was kind enough to arrange an appointment at the winery  with owner Paolo Veglio and winemaker Dante Scaglione, I am eternally grateful to Terence for that, as the wines here are brilliant. Veglio used to sell his grapes to Scaglione when he was winemaker for Bruno Giacosa; now he keeps them for his own label.

The Barbaresco is aged only in large oak casks and is elegant with a beautiful sense of place, while the Dolcetto is amazingly fruity and delicious. The Barbera is the best of all – there is subtle spice, but this is all about varietal purity and outstanding concentration. This has layers of flavor and outstanding complexity and is a impressive a Barbera as I’ve had in years. This is not only an excellent value at $27, it’s also one of the best wines of the year!

December 17, 2010 at 2:43 pm 2 comments

Una gran azienda nuova in un territorio storico

Paolo Veglio and his winemaker, Dante Scaglione (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

One of the most exciting things about Italian wines is discovering a great new estate that produces honest wines – wines that truly represent their territory. Cascina Roccalini in Barbaresco is the newest and most dynamic of this group of small estates in Italy that I discovered on my recent trip to Piemonte.

I have to thank Terence Hughes of Domenico Selections in New York for this find; I just happened to be looking at a few blogs before my trip and came across his post (read here) on this estate; he will begin selling the wines this autumn. Terry put me in touch with Paolo Veglio, the owner, who was delighted to arrange a visit for two of my Italian journalist friends, Franco Ziliani and Roberto Guiliani, along with myself.

Paolo Veglio is a young man who sold his grapes for years to the Bruno Giacosa winert when Dante Scaglione was the winemaker. Dante is no longer associated with Giacosa and now consults with several estates; in fact, he approached Paolo about being his winemaker when he decided to produce his first bottlings at Cascina Roccalini.

The winery is named for the Roccalini subzone (known as a sottozona of Barbaresco); Veglio has 3.5 hectares (approximately 8.6 acres of Nebbiolo) and another hectare (2.47 acres) divided between Dolcetto and Barbera. The vineyards have optimal exposure and are located at approximately 200 meters above sea level. The view from the winery is an impressive one, with the Tanaro River and the Roero district to the west and the Barbaresco Tower only a few kilometers to the south.

There are many important things to note about the wines of Roccalini, but perhaps the most significant is the elegantly simple winemaking philosophy of Dante Scaglione. The Barbera and Dolcetto are aged only in stainless steel (with one exception of the Barbera Superiore), while the Barbaresco is aged solely in grandi botti of 10 and 22hl casks. Tasting through the wines, you are enveloped in the varietal purity as well as fruit persistence and elegance.

The soon to be released 2007 Barbaresco is very typical of the vintage, with pretty red cherry and plum fruit, graceful tannins and precise acidity. This is not a powerhouse wine, but a beautifully expressed wine that is very attractive now and will be at its best in 10-12 years. The 2008 Barbaresco, tasted from cask, is an even better wine, in my opinion. While 2008 was a cooler year than 2007, the conditions were optimal for Nebbiolo and this wine has tremendous length in the finish with finely tuned acidity and a beautiful note of fennel in the aromas. This is a more reserved wine, but one that I believe will age even longer than the 2007; look for this wine to peak in 15-20 years. The 2005 Barbaresco, from the first vintage of Roccalini, is also beautifully crafted, with notes of currant and mocha and is drinking well right now; it should offer pleasure over the next 7-10 years.

As is typical in this area, Barbera and Dolcetto are also produced. Now while many other producers of Barbaresco also make very fine examples of these wines, the truth of the matter is that the bottlings from some local estates are pleasant, though hardly memorable wines. That’s not the case at Cascina Roccalina – questi vini sono incredibili!

The 2008 Dolcetto d’Alba has gorgeous color and stunning aromas of boysenberry, black cherry and dark chocolate; there is excellent persistence and complexity with beautiful acidity and moderate tannins. This is a particularly complex Dolcetto that is absolutely delicious and remarkably elegant. The 2009, tasted from the tank, simply explodes on the nose and palate with beautiful ripe boysenberry and black plum fruit and notes of black mint. While 2008 with its long, cool growing season, may turn out the be a better year than 2009 for Nebbiolo, the opposite is true for Dolcetto (and Barbera) in this territory and this 2009 Dolcetto is a promise of the upcoming glories of this vintage. After tasting only these two wines, this is one of my top Dolcetto estates in all of Piemonte!

But the real star at Cascina Roccalini (at least it was to all of us on the day we visited) was the simple Barbera d’Alba. In truth, simple is a poor choice of words, as there is nothing ordinary about this wine. The 2008 Barbera d’Alba offers lovely myrtle, black plum and tar aromas with excellent concentration and superb acidity. The finish is long and very pleasing and there is tremendous fruit persistence. The 2009, tasted from the tank, is even better, with ripe black plum fruit and notes of anice; the acidity is precise, the varietal character is pure and the layers of fruit on the palate are remarkable. I can’t wait for the 2009 and I’m definitely looking forward to trying the 2008 several more times (I’ll have to contact Terence about acquiring a few bottles down the road – ditto for the Dolcetto!)

After the formal tasting, we were treated to a lovely dinner prepared by Paolo’s mother Luciana, which included a sublime spinach flan wrapped in Raschera cheese, a local cow’s milk variety; this dish rivaled the best I had all week long in the area’s ristoranti!

What a start young (34 years old) Paolo Veglio is off to with Cascina Roccalini! Of course, it also helps to have great vineyards as well as a superb winemaker such as Dante Scaglione. But this is no overnight success, as Paolo has been working these vineyards for many years, delivering great fruit to the cellar.

Keep in mind that this is a small estate – only 14,500 bottles are produced, so the wines are quite limited. Thanks again to Terry for helping me organize this visit – I would have been disappointed to miss this estate. Best of luck selling the wines – though I’m not sure you’ll need much of it, given the spectacular nature of these offerings!

May 23, 2010 at 9:23 am 6 comments

tom hyland

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