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  Corkscrew Issue 11, September 2003   
Matching Food with Red WinesMatching Food with Red Wines  Contents 
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Matching Food with Red Wines

Red wine has always had a relevant place in the table, companion of the rich and robust food, it is rich of nice surprises and it can also become a good ally of fish

 When one thinks about red wine in a table adorned by foods, it is almost impossible not to imagine succulent roasted meat, game, tasty cheese and elaborated recipes. Perhaps this is also the reason why red wine is considered the “wine par excellence”, the real one, the image of a rich and tasty cooking probably makes it appear more important than others. However there are not just full bodied and robust red wines, the ones, to tell the truth, considered more important than others, often they are so robust which is almost impossible to match to any food, and there is also a countless family of light and less structured reds that, besides being pleasing to drink, are very versatile and useful in the matching of foods.

 Thanks to the richness and vastness of gastronomical cultures of the world, made of rich and tasty foods, as well as lighter and less elaborated foods, it is possible to discover, or better to say, to rediscover, the agreeability of those red wines, wrongly considered as “lesser”, because of the lacking of important structures they are often considered lightly. Thanks to these light red wines, fresh and pleasing, it will be even possible to try one of the most unusual matching known, that is the type of matching, according to one of the most common senses, which needs white wine: fish.

 

Many Reds From All Over the World

 Red wine is currently the most produced one and the most demanded style from consumers and every country offers a wide and rich possibility of choices, from light and fresh red wines to robust and bodied wines. The grapes mainly used for the production of red wines are the so called “international” ones, in particular Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, which are found, alone or together with other grapes, in a very high number of red wines. Whether the reason of this trend is because of the effect of a fashion or because of their real qualities, it is hard to say, however the temptation to say it is because of a fashion is pretty strong. Anyway every wine producing country of the world can offer a wide selection of local red grapes which are not anything less than the others, for example the richness of Italy with its Sangiovese, Aglianico and Nebbiolo, just to mention few, as well as Spain with its excellent Tempranillo, and United States of America with Zinfandel. Of course, no one dares to deny the greatness of “international” grapes, however according to a cultural point of view, it is certainly interesting, and useful, to know the rich heritage of red wines produced with less known grapes.


Red Wine and Cheese: one of the many
classic matchings
Red Wine and Cheese: one of the many classic matchings

 The selection of red wines produced in France is surely rich and excellent, after all French red wines have been used as a reference model in every wine country of the world. Among French regions which produce wine, Bordeaux, Bourgogne and Rhône Valley are the ones having a primary importance. The region of Bordeaux, famous in every place of the world since centuries for its red wines, produces robust and elegant reds mainly with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes. Bordeaux's reds are very suited for the matching of elaborated and rich foods as well as with cheese. In Bourgogne, another excellent region producing red wines, is Pinot Noir grape to play the most important role of the scene: very elegant, refined and rich wines, examples of great class which can be hardly compared to the rest of the world. South from Bourgogne there is Beaujolais where red wines are produced with Gamay grape, fresh and fruity, these are wines to be drunk young and have an interesting use in the food matching. Going towards south there is the Rhône Valley, homeland of the Syrah grape, renowned for its excellent Hermitage, Côte Rôtie and Saint-Joseph, as well as for Châteauneuf-du-Pape which can be produced with even 13 different grapes. Another interesting grape of this region is Mourvèdre used to make particularly rich and spicy wines. Even French Provence offers a wide selection of red wines produced with Grenache Noir, Cinsaut and Carignan, as well as Bandol, a red produced with Mourvèdre grape. Among the other interesting areas for the production of red wines should be mentioned Savoie for its wines made with Mondeuse grape, and Corsica with its wines produced with Nielluccio and Sciacarello grapes, as well as Languedoc-Roussillon for its Vin de Pays.

 Also Italy offers a rich selection of red wines, from north to south, vineyards are joyously colored by red bunches. Every Italian region has local red berried grapes capable of producing excellent wines for food matching, from light wines, with fresh and fruity aromas, to bodied and robust wines, with more complex and austere aromas. Vallée d'Aoste offers a good selection of red wines, in particular Donnas, Enfer d'Arvier, Torrette and Arnad Monjovet. Here are cultivated interesting local red grapes, such as Petit Rouge, Fumin, Neyret and Vien de Nus. Piedmont, associated to red wines since ever, in particular for Barolo and Barbaresco, as well as the less known, and certainly to be valued, Gattinara and Ghemme as well as the excellent Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato. In this region the main grapes are Nebbiolo and Barbera, anyway it is worth mentioning Dolcetto, Freisa and Grignolino. In Liguria are found interesting reds made with local grapes, such as Rossese di Dolceacqua and Ormeasco, name used in the region to refer to Dolcetto, as well as wines produced with Sangiovese and Ciliegiolo. Red wines of Lombardy are pretty different: to the north dominates Chiavennasca, name used here to refer to Nebbiolo and used to produce the excellent Valtellina's wines, whereas in the south, in the Oltrepò Pavese, Barbera and Croatina, as well as international grapes, are the ones mainly cultivated. Moreover, a special mention should go to the excellent wines of Franciacorta, partly produced with Nebbiolo and Barbera, as well as the wines from the area of Garda lake produced with Groppello and Marzemino grapes.


 

 In Veneto the leading role is played by the rich Amarone, produced with Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes, however there should also be mentioned other interesting wines produced in the region with Oseleta, Raboso, Marzemino and Pignola grapes. Alto Adige offers great wines produced with Lagrein grape as well as those produced with Schiava, and in particular, the ones produced with Pinot Noir. Also Trentino offers wines produced with Schiava grape as well as with Marzemino, however the most interesting grape of the region certainly is Teroldego. In Friuli Venezia Giulia, as well as wines produced with international grapes, there also are excellent red produced with Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso and Schioppettino. Emilia Romagna offers a good selection of red wines, including the renowned Lambrusco, lively and joyous, as well as more austere wines produced with Sangiovese. This grape is also present in Tuscany and it is used for the production of the famous Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino. In the region are also produced excellent wines such as Nobile di Montepulciano, Carmignano and Morellino di Scansano. In Umbria is the Sagrantino grape, with its powerful wines, to play the most important role, however the region also produces excellent red wines such as Torgiano, Colli Amerini and Colli del Trasimeno, where Sangiovese grape is found. In the Marches are Rosso Conero and Rosso Piceno the most representative wines, both produced with Montepulciano and Sangiovese grapes.

 Latium offers an interesting local grape, Cesanese, which should be valued more, as well as wines produced with Sangiovese and Montepulciano. Montepulciano grape is the queen of the excellent red wines produced in Abruzzo, a grape which is virtually found in every wine produced in the region. Molise, which is getting more and more renowned, produces red wines with Montepulciano, Sangiovese and Aglianico. Aglianico, superb grape of south Italy, is also found in Campania and it is used to make the renowned Taurasi, and another interesting grape of the region, although less famous, is Piedirosso. Aglianico is also the most important red berried grape of Basilicata, with this grape are produced the excellent wines of the Vulture. In Apulia are found two grapes of primary importance and used to make great wines, Negroamaro, in particular in the Salento area, and Primitivo, in the area of Manduria. Groppello is the main red berried grape of Calabria where Cirò is the most representative wine, however the region also produces an interesting but less known wine: Savuto. In Sicily is the Nero d'Avola grape to be considered the most important one for the island's enology: powerful, rich and complex wines. Also interesting the wines produced with Frappato grape. Cannonau is the most important red berried grape of Sardinia, however in the island are also produced interesting wines with Carignano, Bovale, Monica and Nieddera grapes.

 In Spain is the excellent Tempranillo the grape to dominate the enological scene of red wines, however are also produced excellent wines with Cariñena, Garnacha Tinta, Graciano and Monastrell grapes. Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Priorato are the main areas where the excellent red wines of Spain are produced and that can be used with success for food matching. Also red wines from Portogallo are very interesting, in particular the ones produced in the Douro region, homeland of the renowned Porto. Among the most interesting red berried grapes there are Tinta Bairrada, Tinta Negra Mole, Periquita, Tinta Roriz, name used in Portogallo to refer to Tempranillo, Touriga Francesa and Touriga Nacional.

 Outside Europe the selection of red wines is interesting as well. In Australia are produced excellent red wines with Syrah grapes, here known as Shiraz, and other “international” grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, in particular in the Barossa valley and Coonawarra areas. New Zealand, characterized by a production based on international grapes, offers good wines made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir grapes. In South Africa must be mentioned, first of all, red wines produced with the local Pinotage grape, as well as wines produced with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, also here known as Shiraz. Among the regions to be mentioned there are Paarl and Stellenbosch. In the countries of the American continent, the grapes mainly used for the production of red wines are international. In the United States of America are produced excellent wines with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, as well as with the local Zinfandel, in particular in California, and the excellent wines produced with Pinot Noir from Oregon. In Chile and in Argentina the production of red wines is based on international grapes, in particular Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

Matching Red Wine

 Matching red wine, as well as for any other style of wine, requires the knowledge and the evaluation of the specific organoleptic characteristic about the wine to be matched. Contrary to other wines, in reds is found an organoleptic element that, besides being essential for wine's balance, is responsible for the tactile sensation of astringency: tannin. This element, naturally present in skins and usually passed to wine from casks during the aging period, whose presence, in particular the intensity of the astringent sensation, represents a factor of primary importance when a food is chosen for matching.

 In red wines, besides tannins responsible for astringency, there also are other elements common in other types as well: alcohol, acidity, sweetness and body; elements that, considered alone, have a determinant role in choosing foods. Acidity in red wines is usually low, an essential condition for a good balance, as acids and tannins tend to exalt one each other, therefore an acid wine cannot be tannic and vice versa. However acidity becomes clearly perceivable and important in some young and fresh wines, produced with grapes having a low content in tannins and not aged in cask, and besides allowing a lower serving temperature, they also allow the matching with those foods where the presence of tannin would cause an unpleasing tasting sensation, such as fish. One of the most common beliefs of the matching red wine with food is about fish. It is commonly believed fish should never be matched to red wine, indeed the two can make excellent matchings. The main reason red wine is not chosen for the matching with fish is the “metallic” taste, usually unpleasant, probably caused by a chemical reaction between phosphates present in fish and traces of iron bound to tannins, in particular pigments. This would explain the reason why tannic wines are usually unpleasant with fish, but this also shows that red wines not containing tannins, and there are so many out there, can be happily matched to fish. Wines produced with Pinot Noir, Freisa and Grignolino grapes are just few of the many red wines that can be matched to fish.

 Tannin is however useful for balancing the succulent sensation caused by salivation because of foods rich in proteins, such as meat and cheese, therefore tannins, by binding with food's proteins, will diminish salivation. Even alcohol has a similar action, because of the pseudo caloric sensation of burning, however its main role is to cleanse unctuous substances from the mouth, generally used for the preparation of rich and elaborated recipes based on meat. Acidity, despite it is less perceivable in red wines as opposed to white or rose wines, will have the useful effect of balancing the taste of fatty ingredients and the ones basically having a sweet taste, such as fatty meat, fat basically has a sweet taste, as well as recipes based on pasta and starches. In mature red wines, when the astringency of tannins becomes milder and softer, it will be possible to perceive an increased and agreeable roundness, an organoleptic quality very useful with tasty foods and basically acid or bitter foods, such as roasted or broiled meat.

 Taste olfactory persistence, abbreviated as PAI, is useful with foods having a similar sensorial quality as well as with foods enriched with spices and aromatic herbs, a characteristic often found in rich recipes based on meat, such as braised and stewed meats. A factor that should not be neglected is wine's body, light red wines will be matched to light and simple foods, whereas robust and full bodied wines will be matched to rich and elaborated foods. Thanks to this rule it can be understood that red wine is not always to be matched to rich and elaborated foods, this style of wine can also be happily matched to light and simple recipes, such as fish as well as to many recipes based on pasta or cereals.

 




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  Corkscrew Issue 11, September 2003   
Matching Food with Red WinesMatching Food with Red Wines  Contents 
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