Monday, February 13, 2012

The Perfect Pairing: Neapolitan Food & Alto Adige Wine?

Alberto Ugolini of Kettmeir, left, with Chef Alessandro Russo of Le Tre Arcate.
It isn't every day that a Neapolitan restaurant hosts a wine pairing dinner with a vineyard from Alto Adige. Brand Ambassador for Kettmeir Alberto Ugolini joked: “Vengo da Bolzano, non mi riccordo bene l'italiano,” “Being from Bolzano, I don't even remember how to speak Italian,' referring to the strong Austrian influence in this north-eastern corner of Italy, where you'll hear more German spoken than Italian. The two regions couldn't be more different- with Alto Adige land-locked, cold and mountainous and the Naples area comfortably temperate and surrounded by sea. Could the wines of one, go with the foods of the other?

Yet, Alessandro Russo & Chef Salvatore Accietto, of Le Tre Arcate near Sorrento, dared to bring these two cultures to the table together. Kettmeir, part of the Santa Margherita group of vineyards, proposed an evening focused on the 'texture' of wine, as so many words we use to describe wine, are the same we use to describe fabric: smooth, silky, velvety, satin, or even rough. So, with each of the four wines brought to the table, guests chose which of the four fabrics from a swatch card, reminded them most of the wine. No answer was right or wrong, just an opportunity to consider the fourth sense of 'touch' we use when we taste.

Chef Salvatore Accietto took care of the food pairings. A light pizzetta fritta dolloped with Vesuvio tomato and basil, followed by a trilogy of sea bream breaded & flash fried, a squid croquet and a red shrimp and buffalo mozzarella sfogliatella paired with Kettmeir's Brut Athesis Metodo Classico bubbly, a champagne-style sparkler from the mountains of Alto Adige, most grapes growing above altitudes of 600m (about 2000 ft). Following, a scabbardfish risotto with a drizzle of pine nut oil with the Chardonnay Maso Reiner, a completely oaked Chardonnay. Kettmeir's prized red Lagrein Riserva Athesis, made from Alto Adige's unique native grape, lagrein, paired with raisin & pinenut stuffed cuttlefish, served braciole-style. To end, a deconstructed fruit tart with raspberry, blackberry and gooseberry and a truly rosy Moscato Rosa, a perfect sweet ending with just the right tartness and flowery balance.

The perfect pairing? According to Ugolini, “Good wine with good food and good company.” I'll toast to that- Salute!

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