Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cin Cin! Two Great Wines for an Italian Dinner Party

Posted By on Thu, Nov 14, 2013 at 9:02 AM
  • Alexandra Payne/
Recently, I had the good fortune to be invited to a dinner party that featured Italian cuisine. I hesitate to call it a potluck since there was no casserole to be found, but each of us brought something to contribute to the group. I made a couple of loaves of bread as well as two Italian wines I was recently sent to evaluate. In other words, in comparison to those who made pasta and gravy from scratch, I got off pretty easy.

The first bottle was an Italian white, Arnaldo Caprai’s Grecante Grechetto dei Colli Martani (2011). I’m a sucker for the less-common white varietals, and this one did not disappoint. It was light and refreshing and perfect for pre-dinner appetizers of cheese and roasted eggplant spread. At 13.5% alcohol, I started to feel it by the end of the first glass. But it's a party, right?

Grecante is made from grechetto grapes from the Umbrian region of Italy. Grechetto grapes are harvested later in the season, which makes a sweeter grape. Typically, it’s mixed with in other varietals, but the the Grecante Grechetto dei Colli Martani is made from 100% grechetto grapes. Arnaldo Caprai was awarded the distinction of being Wine Enthusiast's European Winery of the Year for 2012, in large part due to its focus on indigenous varietals, particularly with the Sagrantino di Montefalco. The winery has also long had a focus on sustainable farming practices to protect both consumers and the integrity of the wines, as well.

The Grecante is crisp and has a fruity aroma with hints of citrus and a bit of peach. So, not only does it go nicely with light appetizers, it’s also appropriate for some pastas, seafood, and on its own as well, particularly in the summer.

For dinner, which was homemade pasta with rich tomato sauces (and meatballs for the omnivores), we had a Marchesi de' Frescobaldi Nipozzano Chianti Rufina Riserva (2009). Chianti is my favorite of all the red wines, though I usually go for a classico, which comes from the region of Tuscany where the wine originated. It’s just been my general preference. Though I very much enjoyed this Rufina, which, among wine connoiseurs is held in as high a regard as classico. Note that the Frescobaldi is also “riserva,” which means it was aged longer than other Chiantis, this one at two years before bottling.

The chianti is a deep, rich red with an aroma of berries. The flavor has a bit of cherry tartness along with clove and spice, but it is still quite smooth. It goes down easy (which is dangerous, since it’s also at 13.5% alcohol) and doesn’t bite. It doesn’t get you in the back of the jaw like some reds, though it does linger a bit on the palate. Overall, it was the perfect wine to serve with pasta and red sauce, though it would also be great outside of dinner when paired with strong, aged cheeses.

Both wines retail for under $20, making them solid choices for everyday dinners but they’re also interesting enough to take to a dinner party. Additional information and tasting notes for both wines are posted on The Reverse Wine Snob, a great resource for wines under $20.

If you're curious about the menu, our host, Alexandra of Sweet Betweens did a great wrap-up here..

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