The Ultimate Guide to Piedmont Food and Wine Pairing is my contribution to an online Italian Food, Wine & Travel Group. It’s comprised of bloggers with a passion for Italy. We explore a different Italian region each month. This month is my favorite: Piedmont.
Learn about the group and check out the other blogs after my post. My passion for flavor started with wine. While I have long enjoyed cooking, my move to Italy brought new meaning as it soothed my feelings of isolation. In many ways my knowledge of food and wine pairing came as a byproduct of culture shock.
The roles in our house are clear: I cook and Il Marito pairs (he’s the wine expert, I’m the professional hobbyist). Our set-up works well and I’ve learned a lot. But, food and wine pairing remains intimidating – especially with a region like Piedmont. So, I created a guide to keep it all straight.
The Piedmont Food and Wine Guide includes:
- Piedmont’s primary wine varietals
- What to know about the wine
- What to pair
- Recipes to try
Piedmont Food and Wine Pairing: Whites and Sparkling
A top white in this red-dominated region. Be on the lookout for 2012 or 2013 vintages. They show higher acidity, making them more food-friendly.
What to know: Arneis is medium-bodied with low acidity (think Riesling for a high acidity contrast). It’s not a very aromatic varietal. The taste profile is pear, green apple, hints of blossom, and a slightly savory, nutty finish.
What to pair: Fish, white meats like turkey and chicken, carbonara, lighter cheese sauces, and even mild curries. In the summer try cold ham, cooked ham off the bone, and salumi.
Labeled “Gavi”, the characteristics are similar to Arneis. Follow the same pairing recommendations. Though, Gavi can be a better choice for fish given its proximity to the sea.
Try These Recipes With Arneis and Gavi:
- FoodWineClick’s Anchovy Beet-green Pesto Pasta
- Chicken Thighs Braised in White Wine
- BBQ Chicken in a Citrus Butter Curry Sauce
Moscato d’Asti is a semi-sweet, low alcohol sparkling wine.
What to know: On the nose are floral aromas with hints of peaches and apricot. The palate shows medium acidity with big, juicy fruit flavors of pear, apple, peach, and apricot.
What to pair: Its light sweetness make fruit-based desserts a good match, like apple desserts, berries, and peach cobbler. Hazelnuts work well as Piedmont is the land of hazelnuts. Add it to brunch or happy hour / aperitivo spreads – the balance of sweetness and salty make it a perfect compliment.
Try These Recipes With Moscato d’Asti:
- Full English Breakfast: Moscato for Breakfast
- Italian Kiwi’s Spinach and Ricotta Mini-Quiches
- Italian Kiwi’s Salame Dolce
- Domenica Cooks’ Torta di Nocciole (hazelnut cake) Traditional Piemontese dish!
- Old Fashioned Apple Pie
Piedmont Food and Wine Pairing: Reds
Dolcetto means ‘little sweet one’. It’s a favorite table red of the region that pairs well with rustic foods and antipasti. Try Dolcettos from Dogliani and Diano d’Alba for some of the top expressions.
What to know: Soft, easy-drinking with low acidity, and full, sweet tannins. Dolcetto is bright on the palate with tart, slightly bruised cherry flavors. In recent years producers have been making more fruit-forward versions; they show darker, heavier fruits.
What to pair: Pizza, tomato-based ragu, moderately spiced chili, and slightly spiced pork rib on the barbecue. Also pairs great with cured meats.
Try These Recipes With Dolcetto:
Pelaverga is an indigenous red varietal from the Barolo commune of Verduno. There are only about 12 producers in the region with a production of about 140,000 bottles annually.
What to know: It’s a light- to medium-bodied red with good acidity. On the palate are strawberries and the signature Verduno white and black pepper characteristics. Serve slightly chilled to enhance its flavor.
What to pair: Try chicken, turkey, lightly spiced thai food, mild curries, and paella. At our annual Italian Thanksgiving we paired it with Roast Turkey with Chestnut Apple stuffing. The acidity cut through the turkey fat and its lighter, peppery profile was a perfect compliment to the apple stuffing.
Barbera is the most widely planted grape of the region. Probably not surprising, it’s also an adaptable and vigorous varietal. Its broad range of styles give endless options for the dinner table.
What to know: Barbera’s high acidity cuts through animal and vegetable fat. Despite its deceiving deep ruby color it is low in tannin. On the palate it shows brambly fruit, red cherries, and spice.
What to pair: Meat- and tomato-based pasta dishes, game, hard cheeses, as well as grilled meats like hamburgers and sausages. For a fuller Barbera, try a lightly seasoned beef dish or lamb (roast, curry, stew).
Try These Recipes With Barbera:
- Roast Leg of Lamb with Garlic and Herbs
- Beef Stew Tip! Use the same Barbera for the stew to bring out the taste.
- Beef and Pork Ragu
Nebbiolo is considered one of Italy’s noble varietals. Its powerful tannins make it an age-worthy wine that demands a rich food and wine pairing combination. To enjoy young, drink Langhe Nebbiolo or Nebbiolo d’Alba. In general Langhe Nebbiolo grapes are grown in the Langhe hills while Nebbiolo d’Alba usually comes from the sandier soils of the Roero.
What to know: Nebbiolo offers beautiful balance with good acidity and heavy tannins. It’s intensely aromatic and perfumed. On the palate it shows dried petals, more red fruit than black, and earthy tar notes.
What to pair: Rich, heavy meats and sauces work well. For something different, try moderately spiced Asian cuisine; the red fruit, high tannin, acidity levels, and perfume support tannic Asian dishes.
Try These Recipes With Nebbiolo:
- Julia Child’s Coq au Vin Tip! Make it with the same Nebbiolo you’ll drink at dinner.
- Asian Noodle Bowl with Steak and Snow Peas
- Beef Stir-fry with Fresh and Pickled Ginger
- Cooking Chat’s Porcini Mushroom Risotto
The Queen to Barolo’s King, Barbaresco is the more elegant of the Langhe royalty. The wine requires two years of aging (nine months in oak) before its released. These wines really start to show their beauty after 10 years. Holding them can be hard, but oh-so-worth it.
What to know: Given it’s 100 percent Nebbiolo, BBarbaresco has a similar fruit profile to Nebbiolo. The required aging gives it a rich, elegant structure showing more savory, earthy notes.
What to pair: Darker, gamier meats with rich sauces; venison, prime rib, wild boar, etc.
Try These Recipes With Barbaresco:
- FoodWineClick’s Goat Chops
- Garlicky Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Herbs
- FoodWineClick’s Spring Pea Basil Risotto
The Barolo of today is a stark contrast to its early rich sweet and fruity style (similar to a ruby port). Before release to market Barolo must be aged for three years with 18 months in oak. It starts to show its beauty after 10 years, but can be laid down much longer. Barolos often need more time for the tannins to soften.
What to know: Fuller than Barbaresco, Barolo shows a more tannic, tar essence. It has more intense structure and complexity with its heavier tannins.
What to pair: Pair with rich, heavy meats and sauces like Beef Wellington.
Try These Recipes With Barolo:
- Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon Tip! Cook with a bigger Langhe Nebbiolo.
- FoodWineClick’s Beef Short Ribs Braised in Barolo.
- Barolo Braised Veal Traditional Piemontese dish! The recipe is by Barbaresco winemaker, Giorgio Rivetti of La Spinetta.
Buon Appetito, Ragazzi!
Food and wine pairing is a fun way to explore wine: From regional, traditional to unique pairings that give it new life. I get teased about all the french cooking I do with Piemontese wines. I simply love the fusion.
Once you know the wine characteristics that factor into food pairing its exciting to experiment. It may have seemed strange that I dropped in the indigenous varietal of Pelaverga, but I had so much fun selecting it with Il Marito for our Thanksgiving dinner. Finds like that are the beauty of wine and food pairing.
Please share your favorite food and wine pairing recommendations. I’d love to add to this guide with more varietals and more recipes. And, I hope to make more food and wine pairing guides – what other regions or varietals are you interested in? A presto, tutti! Val
Song Pick! Hey Good Lookin’, Hank Williams
Italian Food, Wine & Travel: Piedmont
Welcome to the 2nd Italian Food, Wine & Travel event on Piedmont. Follow along with some other great blogs featuring all elements of Piedmont. Here are our featured articles this month:
- Vino Travels – The difference between Barolo and Barbaresco
- Cooking Chat – Porcini Mushroom Risotto with a Nebbiolo
- Food Wine Click – A Walk from Neive to Barbaresco and Back