Nestled in the Italy’s northwest corner, surrounded on three sides by the mighty Alps, lies the gastronomical regions of Piedmont.
Unlike the rest of Italy, this is the land of butter and hearty fare due to a strong French influence from Savoy just across the border.
In Piedmont, the meal always starts with antipasti. Usually risotto or polenta, followed by braised meats as a main course.
Except in the case of risotto alla Milanese, made by adding beef bone marrow, flavoured by saffron and served as main course along Ossobuco, a classic Milanese dish of braised veal shanks, simmered with vegetables in white wine broth.
Arborio rice is most often used in preparation of risottos as it’s stickier than the long grain kind and able to absorb liquid and release starch quickly.
The magic of risotto starts by cooking the rice with onion and butter until well coated in fat, followed by a generous splash (or two) of either white or red wine, depending on the kind of risotto you are making.
Once all the wine is absorbed, a hot stock is added gradually, stirring constantly in between each addition until smooth, rich and lusciously creamy dish emerges.
When finding a perfect wine match for risotto, it is important to consider its flavouring. Wild mushrooms and prized truffles found in the dark oak forests of the region are often included either by adding a few drops of highly perfumed truffle oil or sprinkled with actual truffle shavings.
Scarlet-hued “Risotto al Barolo”, another great Piedmontese classic is both cooked and enjoyed with the region’s famous Nebbiolo based red wines; Barbera, Barolo and Barbaresco.
Next time you are enjoying a hearty risotto, try it with any of these great north-Italian reds:
Marcarini Barolo “Brunate” DOCG
This stunning Barolo hails from the hills on Piedmont; it is made with 100% Nebbiolo grape. It delivers intense aromas of forest fruit, sage leaves, licorice and sweet spice with a hint of vanilla and tobacco on a long, persistent velvety finish. Originally part of the Savoy Kingdom, Piedmontese cuisine is rich and earthy. Elevate your sipping experience to another level and pair this lovely red with a rich game dish or a wild mushroom risotto with truffles.
Folonari Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso DOC 2012
Vinified with the hand-picked corvina, rondinella and molinara grapes grown on the foothills of the Valpolicella Classico zone, just north of the city of Verona, in an ancient Veronese tradition of “ripasso”, by adding the unpressed skins of Amarone to impart extra flavour, alcohol and tannin. Dry and full-bodied, this is a rich red with an intense aromas and flavours of ripe black cherries, blackberries and raisins with a touch of vanilla on a long, lingering peppery finish. Well balanced and complex with smooth tannins. Perfect match for slow cooking roasts and mature cheeses.
Speri “Sant’Urbano” Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2008
This is an extraordinary wine with great complexity and elegance. Made in the Veneto region of Italy with Corvina Veronese, Rondinella and Corvinone grapes. Carefully selected best bunches from the prestigious Monte Sain’Urbano vineyards are dried for four months losing about 40% of initial weight. This created a wine with great structure, deep red color and intense bouquet with spicy aromatic and jammy notes of ripe black cherry, tobacco, smoke and leather. It has a rich palate and an impressive, soft and velvety finish. This is a truly special wine; curl by the fire, take a long sip and let all your worries melt away ………
Certified Specialist of Wine
As a child, Tania helped her parents pick grapes in her family’s Croatian vineyards, and then later with winemaking. As an adult, she lived abroad in London, England, Milan and Venice, Italy, and explored the food and wine cultures while traveling throughout Europe.
While living in Toronto, Tania completed studies with the International Sommelier Guild (ISG). She continued her wine education with the prestigious, internationally-recognized Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET), based in London, England. In 2007, she achieved the WSET Level 3, Advanced Certificate in Wine and Spirits.
In 2013, Tania was awarded with a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) designation by The Society of Wine Educators, based in Washington, DC. She is currently studying for the organization’s Certified Wine Educator designation.
Tania also offers sommelier services and tutored wine tastings, consulting and wine tastings previously via RunawayGrape.com and is a regular columnist with NatalieMacLean.com as well as the wine expert for Rogers Daytime Television.