Pairing Italian wine & cheese 101

Italy produces some of the finest wines and cheeses in the world. Separately, they are already delicious. But, as with any food and wine pairing, when enjoyed together wine and cheese, can elevate the flavors and take the tasting experience to a new level.

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Renzo Cotarella’s first love: Antinori’s Cervaro della Sala

“Firsts” are special. For Renzo Cotarella, CEO of Marchesi Antinori and director of winemaking, Cervaro della Sala might as well been his first child. Excitement, loving devotion, and emotional connection for this wine was clearly evident during a vertical tasting before a group of sommeliers and myself. “This is a wine which I really love, particularly because it’s the first wine I made,” says Cotarella. With that in mind, glasses upon glasses of Cervaro della Sala, which lined the table…

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Grignolino: The underrated gem from Piedmont

I was smitten. The first time I tasted Grignolino was inside the castle of Costigliole d’Asti in the Piedmont region of Italy. In the glass was this incredibly alluring light ruby-colored wine, perfumed with rose hips, violets, and flavors of crunchy pomegranate, barely ripe berries, and spice. The juice-inducing acidity of the wine made me want more of this freshness and this crispness that had an enjoyable tannic clench. Could it be that I was charmed by Grignolino because I…

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Blushing with Chiaretto

In and around the ladel-shaped Lake Garda, situated halfway between Venice and Milan in Northern Italy, every little town brings discoveries: a cluster of umbrella-shaded tables at the shore’s edge, a restaurant perched high above the lake with a wine cellar which once housed ice during the winter, a vintage lemon arboretum, flower-lined promenades, thermal pools fed by the mountain run-off and vines upon grapevines that produce easy-drinking wines that coincidentally suit the lake life. Lake Garda is a place where F.…

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Once Upon a Vine: Wine and My Amphibian Crush

Standing calf-deep, my rubber boots are suctioned into the slick, clay-rich banks. Twilight robs the colors of the day. The sky’s mercurial reflection shimmers on the vineyard pond and across the shoreline, a lone bullfrog tunes the others. Had I known these frogs were remotely symbolic to my wine discovery, I’d kissed each one until I found the prince.   But, they say to sustain an emotional connection to wine, one must kiss a lot of frogs – in other words,…

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Daou’s Seeds of Hope

For brothers Daniel and Georges Daou of Daou Vineyards, the desire to find happiness was a result of a near-death experience. At the tender age of 10 and 14, they fled their homeland during the Lebanese civil war after a bomb hit their home. Yet, the times of rubble also marked the beginning of a life that they would learn to love … and share. “Not only did it create a desire to be happy, but it created a bond between…

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G.D. VAJRA: Wines Guided by Nature

Standing next to a glistening stainless steel fermentation tank in the cellar of G.D. VAJRA winery, Francesca Vaira draws attention to the stained-glass windows. While the design does not directly reference winemaking, it has everything to do with her family’s philosophy and style, she says. In the hamlet of Vergne, a few miles west and high above the village of Barolo, G.D. VAJRA is a pioneer among Barolo producers, established in the 1970s by Francesca’s father, Aldo Vaira. He had…

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From the endangered list to the wine list

Written by Kirk Peterson and Marisa Finetti Overshadowed by popular—even famous—A-list neighbors, certain grape varieties can fall to the background, even approach extinction. The celebrated versatility and hardiness of well-recognized grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay have also severely diminished diversity, both in the vineyard and in our wine glasses. But in the last half century, rare and indigenous grape varieties are being revived by passionate winemakers and conservationists who believe in their quality and potential, encouraging adventurous…

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Tasting Italian Wine: Toe to Leg Warmer

In Italy, where food and wine are fervently wedded, winemaking is an instinctive and magical mingling of heritage, culture, and tradition. Italy’s two million acres of vineyards are home to two-thirds of all known grape varieties.  Each wine bears a story and embodies a specific region; no two are alike. This kind of bewildering diversity seduces us to explore further and taste Italy from the top to bottom. As with any first course, bubbles are a starting point with Italy’s…

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SIP TRIP: The school of rocks in the Monferrato

Author Walter Alvarez said, “What makes rocks so wonderful is the fact that they barely change at all, and as a result, they… preserve the way they formed, whether a million years ago or a thousand million years ago.” In his book  The Mountains of Saint Francis he traces Italy’s billion-year geologic history.  Being a lite geology enthusiast myself, as I drove through the Monferrato region last spring, I imagined that this area was under the sea four to five millions…

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