Food and Wines of Italy

One of the first things people look forward to when visiting Italy is the food. No matter where we went, just eating in Italy everywhere we could was a quest.

I wouldn’t call myself a connoisseur of Italian dining after my first trip but even if you only go once, you come back with an education on what you prefer. There are new and different recipes you’ll discover to try at home and maybe even a little more knowledge of great wine. For example, the wines you thought you were a big fan of in the states, may no longer be when you get back home.

Since it was our first trip, I can’t give you an extended list of recommendations except a few things that I discovered.

If you haven’t gone and are still planning to go, I would suggest a few things to think about or at least ponder, the first time you’re there.

 

It’s ok not to order pasta every single time you sit down to eat in Italy.

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I had some amazing dishes that were gluten free and plant based and they even paired nicely with wine.

Their roasted vegetables like their eggplant and mushrooms were delicious! Richard ordered the pasta. I tried it but didn’t have the entire plate of pasta and I was just as satisfied with my Campari-filled sparkling wine, with my roasted vegetables for lunch.

I didn’t hesitate at all to order fries too because they were cooked the way you would expect to find them in Europe. They were big and crispy.


At dinner, when everyone else ordered seafood pasta, I ordered the shrimp scampi and after eating gelato and pastries all day, this was just right with a glass of wine.

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I would definitely not leave Italy without a bowl of pasta though and a nice full bodied glass of wine.

Wouldn’t you agree? I was surprised at how many gluten free offerings they had but fortunately, I didn’t have to adhere to them.

I also didn’t adhere to the plant-based diet either.

Yes, this was my plate.

Yes, this was my plate.

“Senza tentazioni, senza onore.”
(Where there is no temptation there is no glory.)
Italian Proverb

Amorone doesn’t always have to be the wine of choice.

At least it wasn’t for us and this is what we discovered on our first trip to Italy.

Although it’s a very popular Italian wine here in the states, what we found was that it wasn’t necessarily the number one wine in Italy as you’d expect. It’s considered a great wine but if you don’t drink a lot of wine, Amarone might be the choice for you. It’s more fruit forward and full-bodied and goes well with pasta. I kind of found it to be like the Cabernet Sauvignon that most people order with their steak because it pairs well with it.

Personally, for me I found the Amarone to be too fruit-heavy and if you’re like me, who likes drier wines, one glass is about as far as I could go.

I actually didn’t find any images I took of any Amorone we had…

I actually didn’t find any images I took of any Amorone we had…

 A wine expert working at a local wine store informed us about the Amarone. After telling him that it wasn’t our favorite wine, he explained that it typically has a more fruit forward taste, which makes it popular for tourists. For what that was worth, it made sense because Amarone certainly does have that. Even though it’s made typically with a combination of dry grapes, it can be a little sweeter.

 Amarone has just been classified as a DOCG wine (in 2011) which means it has been designated as a closely monitored wine by the government to ensure its quality of grapes and production are what you are drinking with that label.

 A great article on Amarone you can find here.

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 The Brunello – Ahh.. Now We’re Talking…

This might be a wine with a sharp taste, (or maybe not) if you drink it right after opening a bottle. After this one breathes it was always a great wine. We found Brunello di Montalcino to be one of our favorites. Unlike the Amarone that although has a unique fermentation process and a variety of grapes, the Brunello di Montalcino can only contain one grape; Sangiovese. The taste for me was smoother yet had the body and structure to pair up to any pasta or vegetarian dish. It was good with food with or without.

Whatever your palate, it’s nice to try different wines in restaurants, take recommendations and just ask what makes them so different anywhere you go. If you’re on your first trip to Italy, you’ll soon learn like us, that it’s good to know what you like before you go as I mention here.

We only did one tasting in Tuscany and the winery was chosen for us. Next time, we’ll be a little more knowledgable of what we’d like to try more.

Here is a great list of some of the best Brunello di Montalcino wines.

If you’re purchasing Brunello di Montalcino here are some reviews of noteworthy bottles.

 

DOCG AND DOC Designations

The Italians not only take their wines seriously but some producers adhere to a regulation that can guarantee that the wine making process and grapes are really what they say they are. This appears to be all in the beholder as far as what is good and what isn’t because of each person’s taste but in the end, if your bottle is going to say Brunello di Montalcino, the designation on the bottle will tell you if truly adheres to it’s authenticity. In the states we may have designations on the label to ensure its pureness and Italy sure has their own when it comes to wine.

Note: The DOCG is a high standard designation that stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin).

The DOC designation stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata (Denomination of Controlled).

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The difference between these two is that the DOC has less permitted restrictions than the DOCG like for example in the Brunello di Montalcino with a DOCG designation, has to be stored for up to 4 years to be considered a “true” Brunello di Montalcino of that region where as the DOC it only needs 1 year.

 

This is what we learned on our first trip to Italy. Most importantly, we learned that it was just the beginning.

 What can you share about Italy and what you know most about it? Did I get it right?