Fall and winter dishes are some of my favorite dishes for wine pairing. Hearty comfort food with a delicious hearty wine with family or friends is what life is all about. Mrs. B and I just moved into a new home October 1st and wanted to have our families over for a house warming dinner. We did what our families always do, eat good food and drink good wine over good conversation.
For best results make the ragu up to 24 hours ahead of time before adding in pasta. It gives the sauce time to sit so flavors can come together.
I’ve been on an Italian kick lately, and because this is really a dish rooted in Italy I thought why not bring out some Italian wines that were made for braised dishes. If there’s a wine that was really made to serve with braised dishes it’s Nebbiolo. Often referred to as Italy’s answer to Burgundy, Barolo’s and Barbaresco’s from the Piedmonte region offer some of the best Nebbiolo wines from anywhere in the world. When young, Nebbiolo can be perhaps too tannic and too acidic but the rewards of patience pay off over time as those tannins mellow out giving way to great complexity in the wine tenured with finesse. Look for ripe fruits and dried fruits, earthy undertones of freshly picked mushrooms that haven’t been cleaned yet along with a menagerie of underbrush, fresh/dried flowers and fresh/dried herbs.
2007 Michele Chiarlo Reyna Barbaresco – $35 2007 was a good vintage in Piedmonte for Nebbiolo wines and some of the modern producers have wines that are just now entering the window of drinkability. Chiarlo is a classic producer utilizing more traditional methods of winemaking which include longer macerations and the use of large oak casks. This is a classic Barbaresco, which is often thought to be the more feminine expression of Nebbiolo in Piedmonte.
In the glass look for garnet/ruby color with the standard orange rim variation and layers of complex ripe and dried cherries along with notes of dried flowers, freshly picked mushrooms, mint, lavender, tar, leather and dried fall leaves. The finish seems to linger for a while, then gracefully rides off into the sunset. It’s a beauty, and it really goes well the dish—like REALLY well.
2007 Prunotto Barolo – $45 Another 2007 vintage recommendation for the same reason as the Chiarlo above—it was one of the better available vintages that’s really starting to come around. If Barbaresco is the more feminine expression of Nebbiolo in Piedmonte, Barolo is the masculine. Prunetto is a top producer using shorter macerations and barriques to get the wines approchable sooner. Maceration is when grape skins sit with juice during fermentation—since grape skins provide a bulk of tannins, shorter time with skins means shorter time to absorb tannins.
The semi-opaque ruby color fades out to the edge of the glass where the rim turns a vibrant salmon-orange color. Get your nose in there and breath in the bouquet of fall aromas. Fresh ripe Choke Cherries, dried black cherries, dried rose petals, dried potpourri, fresh turned earth, leather and even some chocolatey mocha notes emanate out of the glass offering a glimpse of what’s ahead for your palate.
Go back and read that last sentence again. It’s not a bunch of wine review mumbo-jumbo, it’s a portrait of how complex Nebbiolo wines can be. Few grapes in the world can deliver so much, yet be so delicate which is part of the allure. Served with the Pork Ragu, it’s be a complete symphony in your mouth.
Biondi Etna Rosso ‘Outis’ (Nerello Mascalese) – $35 Although Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo’s can be some of the most complex and delicate wines in the world, the good ones can be a little spendy. If you want all the complexity and joy of drinking complex delicate wines, but don’t want to spend the money, look to Etna Rosso made from the Nerello Mascalese (and a bit of Nerello Cappuccio) from Sicily.
You might see Sicily on the map and think to yourself it’s a hot growing region with bigger style wines. There are parts of Sicily that are hot and desert-like but that’s on the western side of the island where Marsala is made. Over on the eastern side is where you’ll find the cooler climates near Mount Etna, Europe’s tallest volcano. Believe it or not, Mount Etna gets snow in the winter and there are vineyards planted on the side of this active volcano as high up as 3,000 feet. Nerello Mascalese is one such wine that gets its elegance and structure from these conditions.
Pinot Noir lovers are starting to discover the wines of Etna Rosso. Light ruby colors in the glass represent the cooler growing region—and like Nebbiolo, there’s complexity. Red and black fruits with hints of balsamic vinegar and subtle hints of oak mingle together nicely and unfold into layers of enjoyment with a seamless finish.