Thursday, January 21, 2016

Pairing Pugliese Wines with Food

By Liza B. Zimmerman


The Southern region of Puglia, often called Apulia in English, is located on the Adriatic Sea and forms the heel of the “Italian boot.” It has long produced well-balanced whites and soft, fruit-juicy reds that pair well with so many meat and pasta dishes. It is also becoming an emerging region for roses made from the region's two star red grapes: Negroamaro and Primitivo.

This area also produces some of the best value wines coming out of the Italian Peninsula today, thanks to lower land and labor costs than in other regions of the country. The intense red grapes of Puglia were long secretly used to give color, tannins and acidity to wines made in the north (although few producers would like to discuss it). Tuscans have long joked about cars with Pugliese license plates parked outside of local wineries during harvest season.

Signature Style
Given much of the growing region's proximity to the sea, Puglia's wines tend to have great minerality and balance, according to wine producer Luigi Rubino of Tenute Rubino, one of the country's most modern producers in terms of fruit and oak use.

He also thinks that some of the country's best-priced wines have been produced in Puglia in the past decade. Major improvements in wine making techniques and quality have also been achieved without attendant price increases in that time period. Those have gone hand-in-hand with greater investments in the region as much of the land is still fairly affordable, compared to other Northern and Central Italian regions.

Pairing Possibilities
The simple red-fruit flavors of the region's reds, such as the Botromagno Primitivo, and soft tannins make them appealing with a wide range of meat pairings. Everything from a grilled burger to ribs marinated in a sweet and even a hot tomato sauce will make these wines zing.

According to Rubino, given Primitivo's tannin structure when it ages, it can be particularly lovely with aged cheeses and braised meat and stews. Don't be afraid to experiment with any number of meats from oxtail to short ribs. Almost anything with a hint of tomatoes or a sweeter sauce—even with a hint of spice—will pair beautifully with this varietal.

An aged Negroamaro will work well, according to Rubino, with a range of pastas with red sauce as well as well as wild game. He adds that wild boar and deer are sublime pairings. This grape also makes some fresh, intense and fruit-forward roses. They have much more in common with what I call the “rowdy roses” of Bordeaux than the salmon-pink versions from Provence in France.

Puglia also produces some notable white wines, particularly Malvasia, which can run from fairly dry to pretty sweet. The drier versions, which often have other indigenous grapes in them, such as Greco in the Botromango Gravina, work beautifully with a range of seafood dishes.

Rubino also likes the fresh acidly of the grape with dishes such as swordfish and scampi. He also adores it with sushi and I couldn't agree more, as long as it's fairly dry.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

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