Once you step outside the main tourist destinations in Italy it can be a bit trickier to understand menus with their regional cuisine and wines. So let me be your guide!
The pairing of regional food and wine is strongly linked to the culture and history of a specific area. I will be taking the first leg of my journey through regional wines and food starting from mine and Rita’s native region, Abruzzo, a place we love and where both wine and food are amazing.
Abruzzo, land of sea and mountains, of old, rural traditions, of shepherds and fishermen. It’s a beautiful region, yet not very well-known among tourists which means it has many places where the authentic rural life is still lived and includes a long tradition of wine-making. Abruzzo is a land of wines, where the stellar vintage is the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC (and DOCG for the hills of Teramo province)
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is one of the most exported wines in the world. It is an ancient blend of Greek origins and has been known in the region since 1700.
Since it was produced in large quantities and sold at a low price, in the past Montepulciano d’Abruzzo had a reputation for being a poor and rough wine. Today both winemakers and consumers have re-evaluated its qualities and realised how much it has to offer. Fortunately, despite being much more appreciated, it is still one of the cheapest DOC wines.
Montepulciano is a ruby red wine, savoury and dry, tannic and full-bodied. It can be aged in wood for years. It should be drunk in a large glass, one hour after opening the bottle, and has only 76 calories per glass. Enormously versatile due to a huge variegated bouquet of berries and spices, it is both a strong and gentle wine, ‘forte e gentile’, the words chosen by the Italian writer Primo Levi to describe Abruzzo and its people.
So what should you eat with it? The most popular food match with Montepulciano is Arrosticini – all sorts of grilled red meat served on skewers. This way of cooking and eating meat is typical of the region and is often enjoyed outdoors in summer at festivals and fetes. The local restaurants in Abruzzo also have lots of other regional options on the menu. I’d recommend pairing your bottle of Montepulciano with ‘anellini alla pecorara’ a lovely vegetarian pasta dish featuring zucchini and pecorino cheese; ‘pallottecac’ e ove’, meatless egg and cheese meatballs; or ‘timballo all’abruzzesse’ a kind of vegetarian lasagne made with sheets of crepe-like pastry.
But Montepulciano’s versatility means it can be enjoyed with lots of foods. Try it with pizza, kebab and Thai, Indian and Korean spicy dishes.
Whatever you choose to order, I can promise a great experience and you will certainly never forget Abruzzo. In fact, I predict you will want to go back again and again!
I have selected a few very popular recipes from Abruzzo, all of them will be greatly enhanced by a good glass of Montepulciano. Have a go and let me know what you think!
La vita è troppo breve per bere vini mediocri. (Life is too short to drink bad wine!) Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832)