An adaption of an article I wrote for my wine bar/shop's newsletter posting, and a continuation of Aged Brunello di Montalcino Post 1, this post is all about food and aged Brunellos. Most wines simmer down as they grow older, taking the time to teach those around them lessons of elegance and grace. Brunellos are different, they don't flaunt thier refinement. They know that they are one of the most dignified wines around, and don't feel the need to tell anyone else. If you have to ask...., they whisper amongst themselves. What aged Brunellos really like to do is to party. With food.
With last month’s Supper Club still fresh in my mind (see my experiments in earlier postings), I’m hesitant to recommend anything other than roasted pork loin, creamy polenta and wild mushrooms with an aged Sangiovese. And nothing else. My gastronomic nostalgia aside, there exist a multitude of wine pairing possibilities for a Brunello, a special clone of Sangiovese.
Sangioveses are excellent food wines. In honor of the wine’s culinary flexibility, you and I are going to throw a four-course dinner party in reverence of the Sangiovese gods. I’ll give you advice about what to cook, and we’ll hold it at your house (because the clean-up is so much easier).
The first course will be an ode to Tuscany. Zuppa di Pane is a traditional Tuscan soup that can be created with a sliced loaf of leftover rustic bread, four or five caramelized onions, and chicken or beef stock (when in dire need, grab a can of unsalted broth). When cooking zuppa di pane, you can go for two different consistencies. One option is to layer the ingredients in a casserole dish and add the liquid to cover and cook in a stove until bubbling. The other route is heat up all ingredients in a pot, then blend until almost smooth in a blender.
Next, we’ll serve room temperature (previously) roasted vegetables with a simple olive oil, thyme and garlic marinade. Throw in an heirloom tomato or two to test the Sangiovese’s reputation of faring well with acid. It can handle it. The manner in which it pairs with the silky vegetables (whose flavors will pop at room temp) will certainly impress our guests.
Now you’ve seen how the Sangiovese pairs magically with a rustic soup, and a light vegetable course, now try it with meat. The dish doesn’t need to be all meat, but that certainly would be lovely too. A thick, one-inch rib eye, cooked Florentine style, grilled with salt and pepper, maybe some rosemary and garlic, would be quite sexy. When my husband and I visited my cousin's house, they poured an awesome Brunello with the steak featured to the left.
It was the thickest steak I've ever seen and it was.... awesome. And huge. If you're not the steak type (sigh), the roasted pork loin featured in an earlier post, or nearly any sultry braised meat shank dish would also be awesome with an aged Brunello. I’d suggest staying away from chicken unless it is in a heavy, coq-au-vin-type dish. Not to be elitist, but the Brunello’s cocoa, berry, rich fig, and licorice nose might be over the lighter poultry’s head.
Finally, I’d finish your dinner party with cheese. A nice Pecorino Toscano, a firmer cheese with a heavier salt content and nutty flavor, set atop a bed of arugula tossed with olive oil would gild the savory courses quite nicely. Certainly there will be dessert, but as proper Sangioveses weren’t brought up with a sweet tooth, I’d suggest switching from the Brunello to a vin santo like Il Ponte California Vin Santo to finish the dinner party. Now we sit back and let the Sangiovese gods enjoy their bounty! Enjoy!