Brunello di Montalcino is a very special wine variety made in the Tuscany region of Italy. It is known the world over as being a very good wine. Our friends Erin and Chris, who lived for a year in Florence, had a bottle that they wanted to share with us. They had fond memories of a night in Florence that they spent with friends savoring a bottle of this wine, and wanted to spend another evening like that with us! So of course we were game and very excited to taste wine from a very different bracket than what we are used to.
Since they were bringing such a nice bottle, I offered to find some tasty morsels to go along with the wine, so we could have a proper Aperitivo – or the Italian version of Happy Hour! If you would like to learn more about Aperitivo, please check out Ms. Adventures in Italy. Sarah has a great passion for Aperitivo and has great tips on how you can have your own – or where to go for the best ones in her hometown of Milano!
I knew this was a special wine, so I enlisted the help of a professional to come up with food ideas to compliment it. With the help of my buddy, Vince DiPiazza (no known relation – though I am sure there is one somehow, not many of us DiPiazza’s in the world) from D’Italia – an online specialty store of food products from Italy, we came up with a menu of aperitivi, or small plates:
Variety of cheeses of different flavor profiles served with Rosemary Grissini and Garbanzo Crackers
Parmigiano-Reggiano is Italy’s most famous cheese, known as Parmesan in the English language. We know it well as a cheese for grating on top of pasta. However, if you eat it in cubes, it is a whole other experience. The cheese is made from raw cow’s milk, it is then put into a brine bath for 20-25 days to absorb salt, and then aged for 12 months. My favorite part (and Erin’s too) are the little crunchies you get in a good Parmigiano – the crunchies are bits of crystallized salt.
Morbier is a raw cow’s milk cheese from France. It is a Gruyère-like cheese with a vein of ash running through its middle. The two layers of the cheese originally came from two milkings, one in the morning and one in the evening, over it with a protective thin layer of tasteless ash, both to prevent it from both drying out and to keep away the flies. The next day, they would add the leftover curd from the morning milking and production. The result was a two-layered cheese.
Goat Fromage Blanc is from a batch of the pasteurized goat milk cheese that I made recently. I added some basil and a little dried dill – as well as a few sun-dried tomatoes (Vince said they pair well with Brunello) stirred in.
Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar is one of our favorite cheeses, and we decided to add it at the last minute. It never tastes the same from one batch to the next. It is the cheese variety that Cabot used to sell to hunters and truckers…on their way out of town. Chris said it tasted like ham to him, which as a vegetarian, was a weird experience. This cheese is amazing paired with a sweet bread and butter style pickle.
Chocolate covered mint cremes
The Tasting :
When Erin and Chris arrived we opened the bottle to give it about 20 minutes to breathe. We decided to do the tasting in two stages, the first without food, and then one with food. We each had a piece of paper and a pen. We spent about 5-10 minutes sniffing and tasting the wine, and individually writing our impressions of both the nose and the taste without sharing.
Erin: cheese – brie, sweet chocolate, metal
Chris: robust, dank – wet wood or earth, finishes smoky
Jenn: woody, tannins, blackberry/cherry
Erin: milk chocolate, cheddar, old smoke – like what your clothes smell like after a BBQ or fire
Chris: pungent, truffles, finishes with citrus (mild burn, fruity end) and something like ginger, but not quite ginger
Roberto: old fermenting cherries, blueberry and ends with citrus
Jenn: black pepper, herbal/smoky, cherry
After we shared our observations, we found it interesting that both the guys had noticed a citrus end, while the ladies had both noticed a smoky taste. Is it coincidence, or do males and females taste wine differently?
Once we headed over to the food, and had a second glass with food, we all agreed that the wine tasted much sweeter, and it was at that point that Erin and I noticed a bit of a citrus taste.
It was a really fun night. I can’t say that I have ever really enjoyed wine in this way, and I think it is a really great way to spend the evening with friends. We decided we had so much fun, that we definitely need to do it again, with different wines and food pairings.