Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Tuscan wine with simple, Tuscan-inspired food

This week I planned to write about Banfi's Rosso di Montalcino.  As usual, I was tasting it on a weeknight, after a long day of work, having given very little thought to what was for dinner or whether it would go with a Tuscan wine.  Following the general rule that "what grows together goes together," I figured I needed some classic Tuscan flavors.  Following my rule that if I get home from work after 6pm and intend to do a serious tasting I will not spend more than 30 minutes making dinner, I needed simple food that would come together quickly.  A 2-minute Google search confirmed my expectation that marinara sauce and salami were good options.  It turns out that truffles are classically Tuscan as well, which worked in my favor since I happened to have truffle butter at home. With the addition of bread to dip in the marinara, spinach to saute in the truffle butter, and some roasted onions for good measure, we had a meal that would pair nicely with the wine.

3 things I should probably mention:  1)  Roasting onions in the oven is the greatest thing ever, and I can't believe I went so many years without knowing that.  2)  I love the taste of salami, but I don't like greasy foods, so I always cook mine to remove some of the grease.  (Confession:  when I say "cook" I mean "microwave for a minute in between lots of layers of paper towels."  It's not classy, but it works like a charm.)  3)  Cheese would have been an obvious and delicious addition to the spread, but I'm lactose intolerant, so I don't have cheese around the house very often.  (The small amount of truffle butter for the sauteed spinach was not enough to be an issue.)

Finally time to drink!

Rosso di Montalcino is a DOC region in Tuscany, just south of Chianti Classico.  It's made in the same area as its bigger brother Brunello di Montalcino, but Rosso requires less aging, so it is lighter, fruitier, cheaper, and less tannic.  Both are made from 100% Sangiovese grapes.

Here are the details on the Banfi Rosso di Montalcino from 2011:
  • Color:  Medium ruby with a hint of garnet.
  • On the nose:  Cherry, cranberry, plum, leather, and spice, with more subtle floral and mineral qualities.
  • On the palate:  Dry, with flavors that generally match the aromas.  High acid, medium+ tannin, 14% abv.
This wine has a nice balance of fruity and savory characteristics.  The tannin is higher than it seems at first, since the mouth-watering acidity (this is a compliment) masks the tannin somewhat.  It opened up and mellowed out in the glass, so I think you could either drink this now or hold it for another 3-4 years easily. If you're impatient, you could decant it, but you'd miss experiencing the gradual in-the-glass evolution.

All the food paired just fine.  The standouts were the tomato sauce and the salami - no big surprise. Sangiovese really can't be beat when you're eating tomato sauce.  The spices in the salami brought out the spice notes in the wine.  The earthiness of the spinach, truffle butter, and onions were good too. 

My local Spec's on Bay Area stocks this wine and sells it for $20.  At that price, at least in my mind, it's not meant to be a regular weeknight thing, but it doesn't have to be saved for a special occasion either (like you might do with its big brother Brunello).  This is a great in-between wine for when you feel like indulging a little, and not regretting it later.

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