Italian wines, cheeses offer a pleasant break from doldrums
As March's lion grudgingly transforms into April's lamb, enjoying distinctive cheeses paired with wines and crusty bread offers pleasant respite.
Northern Italian cheeses and wines provide a perfect starting point. The cheese- and wine-making traditions stretch to Roman times. As many of the region's cheese and wine names gained fame worldwide, producers outside of Italy began making imitations, often with flavors and ingredients alien to the actual items.
To combat exploitation, in 1955 the Italian government introduced Denominazione di Origine Controllata, or D.O.C, regulations. The laws seek to preserve the various cheese and wine names by ensuring the ingredients' place of origin and the production methods' authenticity. With the D.O.C. initials on the label, you can be assured of purchasing the “real” thing.
Fresh asiago comes from cow's milk produced in the rolling hills and plateaus of the Veneto province in northeastern Italy. Also known as asiago pressato or asiago fresco, the cheese uses whole milk and ages only 40 days before release. This creates a distinctive semi-soft texture, mild aromas and creamy, slightly earthy flavors. The cheese's pleasant tang adds balance.
Fresh asiago matches perfectly with the lovely 2012 Jermann, Pinot Grigio, Venezia-Giulia, Italy (Luxury 32854; Chairman's Selection on sale; $19.99). The vineyards lie northeast of Venice and north of Trieste near the border with Slovenia. Founder Anton Jermann came from Austria in 1881. Today, his great grandson, Silvio, carries on.
The wine's light straw color unfolds enticing citrus and delicate white-flower aromas. Delicious, crisp grapefruit and apple flavors layered in subtle creamy texture are bolstered by zesty acidity and a dry, yet fruity, finish. Also pair this wine with pasta with a mushroom and cream sauce topped with shaved asiago. Highly recommended.
Taleggio cheese comes from Val Taleggio, an Alpine Valley north of Milan in the Lombardy province. In autumn and winter, producers use cow's milk to make cheese rounds stored on wooden shelves in caves. As a “smear ripened” cheese, finishing includes rubbing the rounds with solutions to induce beneficial molds on the exteriors. Alternating seawater washes keep the molds in check.
The resulting cheese offers powerful, earthy aromas leading to a soft texture with delightfully mild and delicious creamy flavors. A fruity tang adds balance.
Pair the Taleggio with the 2012 Blended by Kermit Lynch Selection, Monferrato Rosso, Italy (Luxury 43299; $11.99). With over 40 years working with artisan producers throughout France and Italy, wine importer Kermit Lynch has unparalleled contacts and experience. In this case, he collaborated with producer Alessandro Bodda of Tenuto La Pergola in Piedmont.
They crafted a succulent red blend made from classic Piedmont varieties of barbera, dolcetto, freisa and bonarda. The grapes ferment and age in stainless steel to capture irresistible, unaffected fruitiness.
The light-red color unfolds black-cherry and plum aromas with spice and floral notes. Tart black-cherry and ripe plum flavors balance with bright acidity and elegant, soft tannins. Highly recommended.
Piave cheese comes from cow's milk produced in the Dolomites Mountains in the province of Belluno north of Verona. The Piave River provides the cheese's name.
Young, minimally aged Piave cannot compare with the full-flavored Piave vecchio, which matures over 180 days. The latter comes with a blue label and has a grainy, hard texture without holes. Mildly sweet, intense flavors of tree fruits and slightly bitter almonds layer in the firm, yet rich and smooth texture.
Pair it with the 2010 Azienda Agricola Balter Lagrein, Vallagarina, Italy (Luxury 38499; $17.99), an intensely fruity red wine from the Trentino Province near northernmost Italy. Despite the northerly location's high Alpine mountains, vineyards on the valley floors retain plenty of heat sweeping up the Italian peninsula.
The heat allows lagrain to ripen completely while developing complex, dark-fruit aromas. Winemaker Nicola Balter has, over the last 30 years, helped put lagrein on the international map as a noble competitor to the ever-popular merlot.
The wine's dark-purple color offers spicy dark-fruit aromas. Tasty dark-cherry and raspberry flavors balance with zesty acidity and soft, supple tannins. The wine's ripe dark fruit and modest 12.5-percent alcohol carry effortlessly through the dry finish. Highly recommended.
Dave DeSimone writes about wine for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- In reworking contract, Steelers WR Brown gets hefty pay raise
- Feds investigating millions embezzled from Matthews International Corp. of Pittsburgh
- Steelers trying to get missing defensive pieces on field
- 22-month-old boy shot, killed in North Side; stepfather charged
- Hacker stuns Dayton family with computer takeover
- Wolf nominates former revenue colleague to Pennsylvania Turnpike post
- Western Pa. played role, was transformed by victory in World War II
- Cole struggles as Brewers continue Miller mastery over Pirates
- Pirates notebook: 6 September call-ups include first-timer Diaz
- Former state Sen. Orie appealing corruption conviction to federal court
- No bitter brew for Mercer over reduced playing time after injury