Our Monday evening Cheese Course is well under way and our focus on 6th February was on the cheese and wines of Italy.
There is no question that Italy is a worthy rival to France in both departments – in particular the fact that Italy produces almost as many cheeses and many more wines.
We tasted predominant Northern and Central Italian cheeses ranging from Alto Adige and Trento down to Verona, across to Valtellina and then into Piemonte, Lombardy and Umbria.
I decided to opt for a mix of both classic and ‘not so classic’ matches in order to bring as broad a range of Italian wines and styles into the mix.
We kicked off with a current favourite wine of mine (and many others), the A Mano Bianco from Puglia which is wonderfully fragrant blend of Greco, Falanghina and Fiano and worked beautifully a straw wrapped hard goats cheese from the Veneto.
The Sicilian Zibibbo (Moscato) didn’t pair quite as well but was better with the creamy Fontina cheese from the South Tyrol.
Sticking with Siciliy, next up was a white wine from made from the red grape Nerello Mascalese – so a Blanc de noir – paired with the pungent washed rind Puzzone di Moena from Trento.
The wine was elegant and minerally, the cheese was absolutely at its peak of ponginess and intensity so rather dominated the wine and in fact we felt would overwhelmed almost any wine.
Moving onto the reds we tasted a trio of Sangioveses from Abruzzo, Chianti and Montalcino with increasing levels of structure and tannin.
This was designed to test out the effect of tannin on wine. We had three outstanding hard cheeses:
- Castelmagno di Montagna from PIemonte
- Bitto from Lombardy
- Pecorino di Fossa from Umbria
The Sangiovese Farnese Fantini was an easy match for all three with the soft tannins and lively fruit working well. The Chianti Classico failed on this occasion – not melding at all with any of the cheeses.
The Brunello di Montalcino was a great foil to the cave aged, straw and herb wrapped Pecorino and the Bitto.
We rounded off the session with a Gorgonzola Piccante and a Gorgonzola Dolce.
A Moscato d’Asti from my favourite Contero estate near Strevi worked seamlessly with the soft creamy dolce but surrendered to the sharper Piccante style.
We then tried a Marsala Superiore Riserva – fortified but not quite sweet enough and then I delved into the cellar and found a half bottle of the unctuously sweet Dionigi Moscato Passito which was heavenly with both Gorgonzolas.