Apart from tea, the only other beverage I’m partial to is wine. For me a perfect meal is complete with a glass of wine which complements the food. Given my love for this extremely complex drink with a rich history, it was only natural that I even made an attempt to study the art and science of wines. I couldn’t possibly keep swirling glasses, and not knowing what exactly I was doing!
Anyway, you’re now talking to a wine aficionado (I won’t call myself a connoisseur yet, given I probably still have to complete a few more levels!).
But while on my favorite topic of wines, let me talk about a particular varietal that I discovered on one of my journeys and have enjoyed (amongst many others). Some of my favorite wines come from regions in are France, Argentina, Chile, Spain and Italy.
This particular wine I stumbled upon while traveling in Spain last year. I really enjoyed it; the rich flavor and the strong character of the wine were what made it memorable for me. I made notes to myself to find out a bit more about this wine.
I’m talking about Barolo wine (also one of Italy’s official DOGC wines) produced in the famed region of Piedmont in northern Italy, whose rolling hills, quaint medieval towns and dramatic mountain vistas make it one of the most stunningly beautiful wine-producing regions in the world. And one I’ve put on my travel map; hopefully I’ll get a chance to actually see and experience this particular region someday.
I was quite intrigued by this wine, especially when I found out that it also had earned the monicker of “king of wines” over the years.
Up until recent times it was commonly believed that Barolo wine was originally a sweet wine, due to the fact that harvest comes in October and the temperatures in Piedmont a month to two months later would drop enough to stop fermentation; but it’s said that a French winemaker began producing the dry version. More recently, it was accepted that it was Italian winemaker Paolo Francesco Staglieno who produced this quality dry wine that became the favorite of the nobility of Turin and the House of Savoy.
Barolo wine is made from the nebbiolo variety of grape (100% nebbiolo according to DOGC regulations). The grape tends to produce a unique mixture of flavors depending on the vintage, which include camphor, chocolate, dried fruit, damsons, eucalyptus, leather, licorice, mint, mulberries, plum, spice, strawberries, tobacco, white truffles, and must have a minimum 13% and maximum 15% ABV.
As many of you know, pairing food and wine is quite an art and there have been tomes written on this particular subject. For my level 1 certification course, we were given a bit of a primer into the essential tips to keep in mind when choosing a wine.
While I’m still waiting for a chance to visit Italy, I hear that the foods of northern Italy’s Piedmont region are historically as flavorful and tasty as its wine, and the local dishes make for perfect pairings to a bottle of Barolo. Great pairings include: feathered game, such as partridge, pheasant, and pigeon, roast goose, carne cruda (or steak tartare made in the local fashion), grilled filet steak, risotto, truffles, and cheeses amongst other yummy delicacies.
And wait, there’s more. You can cook with Barolo wine. I’ve tried wines for making the pasta sauce quite successfully, and it also works with meat. The richness and tannic qualities makes it a fantastic wine to cook with, as it creates unctuous reduction sauce that work best when braising meats. One tip I learnt: like with most braised dishes, the Barolo sauce gets better over time, so be sure let your dish sit for a day or two before serving it up.
There’s a lot to discover in the world of wines (I already have my reading material and books lined up) and it gets quite complex as you delve deeper into the various varietals, but one thing is for sure – you can’t go wrong once you’ve got a good glass of wine in your hands!
My wine education continues. If you’re interested in knowing more about wine, here’s a great place to start.
(Image courtesy: Sbardella, used under the Creative Commons License.)