Feature Story: Italian Wine & Food

If there’s one thing Italy is known for, it’s food and wine. No, that’s not a typo – we’re comfortable calling food and wine “one thing” because that’s precisely what wine is in Italy: an integral part of the meal. Here, we tour a half dozen Italian regions and sink our teeth into its wines, with food pairings to boot.



This mountainous, coastal south-central Italian region is called “the greenest place in Europe” because nearly half its territory is devoted to national parks and protected nature reserves. Abruzzo’s famous flora also features wine grapes. Its signature white wine, Pecorino, is crisp, vibrant and versatile with foods – including the local cheese with which it shares its name – and is a gorgeous accompaniment to herbed pork roast.



Nestled amongst the Alps along the northern border with France and Switzerland, Piedmont is home to Nebbiolo, the most famously long-lived red wine variety in Italy and perhaps the world. The wine’s hallmark structure, elegance and earthy red fruit complement a range of foods including the regional specialty, truffles. Any of the three wines featured here would be marvellous with mushroom risotto and brasato al Barolo (beef braised in red wine).



The largest island in the Mediterranean Sea has a long, cosmopolitan history as a stopover along trade routes dating back to ancient times. It also has a long, cosmopolitan history of growing local and international wine grapes. In sun-drenched Sicilian vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon makes for ripe, dark-fruit-forward wines that are equally suitable for sipping or the dinner table. Arancini di riso has the richness and flavour intensity to match.



Birthplace (or is that rebirth-place?) of Renaissance art and architecture, Tuscany is equally renowned for consummately food-friendly wines – especially those bright and brilliantly elegant ones made from the region’s signature red wine grape, Sangiovese (a.k.a. Morellino). It’s tough to go wrong pairing these wines with food, but a few options for going quite spectacularly right are ribollita (Tuscan bread soup) or lasagna.



Between the seas of olives and the olive-green seas of this stiletto-shaped southern Italian peninsula, Puglia’s vineyards are where you’ll find the Primitivo grape (known in California as Zinfandel) soaking in the sunshine. The wine’s big, bold berry flavours and subtle, smoky spice make it a good choice for Mediterranean classics like melanzane parmigiana (eggplant parmesan).



Stretching from the Alps to the Adriatic in northeastern Italy, Veneto is known for ingenuity with its indigenous wine grapes. Specifically, the region is famous for perfecting the appassimento process by which elegant, spicy-fruity Valpolicella wines are transformed into slightly richer Ripasso or big, powerfully rich Amarone using dried grapes. Valpolicella pairs wonderfully well with pepperoni pizza; Ripasso with spaghetti and meatballs; and Amarone with rabbit ragù.

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