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 Make Me a Match 
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Post Make Me a Match
Make Me a Match
by: Piero Caramella

Anyone who has seen images of an Italian vineyard or heard of its wine country probably has had at least some fleeting desire to know a bit more about wine than they do currently. Sitting down at a solid oak table, swirling the wine, scenting the flavors and finally enjoying all of the nuances of a fine-crafted Lambrusco or Chardonnay seems to be the epitome of a vineyard experience. But there is no reason that you can’t improvise and learn how to select a wine to match your food within the comfort of your own zip code. For those of us without a vineyard close by, here are some tips for wine selection to go with your Italian meal.

The most important thing to remember in anything dealing with Italian food and flavors is that taste is everything. A fancy label or a romantic name doesn’t mean anything when it comes down to the key question: are you enjoying it? Don’t feel the need to be restricted by hard and fast rules; think of everything as guidelines in the personal exploration of your own palate. A simple maxim to keep in mind is the idea of light wines accompanying lighter food and heavier wines accompanying heavier food. Because of today’s diversity, this does not necessarily mean red vs. white. Instead, become familiar with terms commonly used to characterize flavors such as full-bodied, off-dry (slightly sweet) or earthy.

Whether or not you consider yourself an amateur or rather experienced when it comes to selecting wines, it is almost always beneficial, interesting and fun to ask your waiter, chef or local wine importer for their advice and suggestions. When it comes to Italian food, another trick to use is to try to match the region of the dish with the region of the vino. The distinct areas of Italy each have their own unique culture and trademark flavors. When eating authentic fare, the characteristics of local ingredients complement the characteristics of the local vines, producing a holistic and complementary meal. For example, tagliatelle con ragu is a trademark of the Emilia-Romagna region in Northwest Italy. Ribbon-like pasta combined with a world famous meat sauce makes a perfect Italian dish. Also from this region, we have Sangiovese red, which would complement this rich meal.

But remember that regional matching is a basic guideline. Because this is the land of diversity, we in America tend to have a bit more flexibility when it comes to matching wines with food. For the easy, simple spaghetti con le polette di carne or spaghetti with meatballs, you have several choices. You could go with a nice, strong Barbaresco from the Piemonte region in the Italian northwest or something a little lighter like a Valpolicella. The bottom line is for spaghetti with meatballs done American style, every wine practically can suit because with a heavy sauce, the taste of wine is not essential. The wine itself should be pleasant, but it is not going to be such a delicate process with this particular recipe.

It really depends on what you expect from the dish. If you would like to have a quick meal, the wine selection may not be that important. However, if you would like to enjoy a more complex meal of steak or fish, then the approach should be more careful. Fortunately, there are plenty of selections to choose from, so experiment, sample and enjoy!

About The Author
Piero Caramella is an award-winning, veteran restaurateur with a 30-year history of opening and managing successful restaurants and cocktail lounges in Europe. With a passion for food and people, Caramella has spent decades perfecting the craft of creating restaurants that turn dining into a pleasurable and memorable event. He is now opening Divino, an authentic Italian fine dining experience in historic downtown Clearwater, FL., modeled after an Italian piazza and offers a unique dining experience that cannot be found anywhere else in the Tampa Bay area. From the cafe-style style dining around the fountain to the fine dining balconies overlooking the restaurant, Divino transports the diner to Italy where you can enjoy fine dining, coffee with friends, pizza, Panini or salad before indulging in homemade pastries. Visit

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Wed Dec 08, 2010 12:06 pm
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