Italy provides tremendous diversity with each glass - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Italy provides tremendous diversity with each glass

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John Brown John Brown
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John Brown is president of Brown Communications in Charleston. He writes a monthly wine column for The State Journal.

I have often suggested to friends that my obsession with wine and food can be attributed to at least one-half of my genetic composition — the Italian half. 

I suppose I should credit the other half (Irish) with my penchant for exposition — or blarney — as those Celts would describe my usually long-winded descriptions of things most normal people just simply consume.

Ask an Italian what wine they consider to be best, and they will invariably suggest a local bottle produced from the vineyard on a hillside adjacent to their village. This is a country around which wine and food are the central components of everyday life. 

As a wine-stained graduate of Whatsamatta U, I am understandably partial to the vino made in Italy. As a matter of fact, what I love most about Italian wine is its tremendous diversity. Within the geographic confines of its 20 states, Italy produces a virtual sea of wine from a dizzying array of grapes.

The most famous wine states are Tuscany in central Italy and Piedmont in the northwest. In Tuscany, great wines such as Brunello di Montalcino and Ornellaia share the stage with the ubiquitous Chianti and whites such as Vernaccia Di San Gimignano.

In Piedmont, the prestigious vines of Barolo and Barbaresco (made from the nebbiolo grape) reign supreme, and are joined by Barbera and Dolcetto along with crisp whites such as Arneis and Cortese Di Gavi.

While these regions are the most famous, there are others with wonderful wines. Be sure to try the vino of the Veneto — famous for Valpolicella, Soave and Amarone, or Apulia where the zinfandel-like primitivo grape is a superb quaff. And Sicily has really come on strong as a quality wine-producing area too with indigenous varietals like nero d'avola (red) and grillo (white).

But you cannot mention Italian wine without mentioning the exceptional and varied cuisine of Italy as well as the influence Italian food has had on the rest of the world — even here in West Virginia where Italian immigrants settled in our state and shared their culinary traditions with us.

Restaurants such as Julio's in Clarksburg, Oliverio's in Bridgeport, Soho's and Paterno's in Charleston and Café Cimino in Sutton are just a few of the many excellent establishments presenting the cuisine and wines of Italy for our dining pleasure. 

And while you can always find the usual wine suspects such as Chianti, Barolo, Valpolicella, and pinot grigio in wine shops across the state, there are also some obscure, hidden gems on the shelves too. Here are three northern Italian wines (with my food pairing suggestions) that are available in the Mountain State but that you may not have had the pleasure of sipping. Enjoy!

 

  • 2011 Abbazia di Novacella Lagrein ($24) — Great to find this relatively obscure red grape from Trentino in the foothills of the Italian Dolomites. Lagrein (pronounced lah-graw-heen) is a deeply colored medium to full bodied wine, and the Abbazia is chock full of ripe, red cherry flavors with a mineral-like finish. Excellent balance in a wine that would marry well with a pork roast basted with a port-cherry sauce.
  • 2010 La Scoloca Gavi di Gavi Black Label ($24) — Gavi is a crisp and fragrant white produced in the northwestern state of Piedmont. Fresh, vibrant flavors of citrus and melon along with balancing acidity make it an excellent accompaniment to grilled or pan sautéed white fish in a Beurre Blanc sauce. 
  • 2009 Matteo Correggia Rosso Roero ($19) — Also from Piedmont, this red is made from nebbiolo — the noble grape from which the world famous Barbaresco and Barolo are made. Grown in an area of Piedmont (Roero) known mostly for the fresh and sprightly white called Arneis, the wine has a nose of cola and leather and ripe plum flavors. This is a great and inexpensive introduction to nebbiolo and tastes like a baby Barbaresco. Pair it with grilled flank steak spiced with black pepper, olive oil, garlic and kosher salt.