Italian Sparkling Wine: Bubbly & Bacon is part of WinePairingWeekend #7: Sparkling Wines and Hors D’oeuvres. Wine Pairing weekend is a monthly collaborative of wine / food bloggers who gab about our eating and sipping adventures. Find links to the other topics after my post.
Yes, that’s right, I said bacon. BACON! It might be a surprise, but the salty, crispness of bacon pairs deliciously with sparkling wine – especially Italian Sparkling wine.
I thought the topic was worth some musing since sparkling, bacon, and food and wine pairing are a few of my favorite things! My post highlights wines made in the classic method (metodo classico) from my adopted land of Northern Italy. The rich, creaminess of metodo classico is a fantastic compliment to the salty grease of bacon. Give ’em both a try – and, together!
Did you know that Northern Italy is kind of a big deal in the world of sparkling wine?
First, some background on the wine. Until I moved I thought Italian sparkling wine consisted of Prosecco and the occasional Moscato d’Asti. If you are nodding your head, don’t feel bad. It makes sense that our minds go there. In the U.S., Prosecco and Moscato d’Asti are the most imported Italian sparkling wine – and Italy accounts for half of the country’s sparkling wine consumption.
But, there is so much more available on the sparkling front in Italy. Northern Italy is home to many well-know regions and producers. There isn’t space to go into all that here so lets start with a look at the metodo classico style, then talk about the regions of Alta Langa and Franciacorta. After the wine prose, bacon beckons.
Italian Sparkling Wine: Metodo Classico
Some of Italy’s finest sparkling wines are made in the traditional metodo classico style. The labor- and resource-intensive production method requires extensive storage for longer periods of time:
- First fermentation
- Second fermentation and aging on the lees
- Refinement after disgorgement (removing the lees / dead yeast; times vary by region)
Prosecco is done in the Charmat method whereby secondary fermentation happens in bulk tanks. These wines tend to be sweeter and should be consumed younger. They also realize sales sooner. Metodo classisco is the wine making style in particular regions with DOC and DOCG designation. Those without designation bear a lone “Metodo Classico” label. Some Piedmont producers to try:
- Contratto: The first vintage Italian sparkling wine comes from Piedmont. Located in the small winemaking village of Canelli it features 5,000 square meters of underground cathedrals dating back to the 1870s. Canelli’s cellars garnered UNESCO World Heritage site designation earlier this year. It’s a sight to see if you are visiting the region.
- Marziano Abbona
Alta Langa DOGC
The vineyards of the Alta Langa (meaning high Langhe) sit higher than their better-known Barolo and Barbaresco counterparts. Cooler temperatures coupled with breezes from the Ligurian Sea make it ideal for sparkling wine production. Alta Langa require 24 months minimum aging on the yeast (second fermentation), which gives the wine a nice rich creaminess.
Alta Langa champagne method wines must be made with grapes that are traditional to the region of Champagne. Alta Langa consists of 90 to 100 percent Chardonnay and Pinot Noir; 10 percent can be with local, non-aromatic varietals.
Some Alta Langa producers to try:
Franciacorta is in southern Lombardy off Lake Iseo. It’s one of Italy’s youngest wine regions, originating in the 1960s. From 1996 to 2006 wine production skyrocketed from 2.9 million bottles to 6.7 million. If you are scratching your head because you have never heard of if, that’s no surprise: 90 to 95 percent of Franciacorta wines are sold in Italy. Grapes include Chardonnay, which makes up 85 percent of total Franciacorta production, Pinot Nero, and Pinot Bianco.
In Franciacorta aging on the lees lasts 24 months and Champagne requires 18 months. The purpose of second fermentation is time on the lees. In theory, more time on the lees gives a richer, more complex wine. Though it bears noting that the grapes of Franciacorta are generally rich to begin with. The region’s warm climate means more sugar and lower acidity.
Try these producers:
The acidity in sparkling wine helps it cut through the delicious bacon grease that we all love. Pairing it with a Northern Italian sparkling wine takes it to another level. The extra body of these rich, creamy wines help it cope with the flavors. That full body creates a beautiful salty-sweet balance.
Pairing Tip! Go richer, sweeter or both on the sparkling selection.
Recipe: Bacon Wrapped Shrimp with Rosemary and Stilton
Ingredients: 20 uncooked large shrimp (peeled and deveined), 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, balsamic vinegar, 10 bacon slices (cut in half crosswise), crumbled Stilton cheese Directions: Arrange shrimp on baking sheet and sprinkle with rosemary, ground black pepper, and several splashes of vinegar. Wrap each in bacon – make sure they are completely covered and secure with toothpick. Preheat broiler. Broil shrimp 4 to 5 inches from heat source until shrimp are cooked through and bacon is browned. Watch carefully to prevent burning – broil about 5 minutes per side. Remove toothpicks and transfer to serving dish. Sprinkle hot bacon and shrimp with cheese and serve. Can be prepared ahead up to eight hours. Cover and chill on sheet.
Pairing Tip! A classical Stilton pairing is port – rich meets sweet. Stick with that guide and try a sparkling that is richer, sweeter or both.
Nikki’s Recipe: House Bacon Wrapped Chicken
The next two recipes come from a dear friend and bacon expert at blog Colorado 2 California. Nikki and her husband Ben practice bacon arts in their kitchen regularly. They were kind enough to write up some of their favorite exploits for us. Enjoy!
Ingredients: 1-2 Chicken Breasts sautéed and lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, 4-5 bacon strips cook in skillet for a few minutes, blue cheese crumbles, Honey and Cayenne Pepper glaze
Directions: Pre-heat the oven to 350°F / 176°C. Cut chicken into small pieces, sprinkle with blue cheese crumbles, wrap in bacon, rub cayenne mixture all over the bacon. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes.
Pairing Tip! Since this has cayenne try to find something with a fresher acidity.
Nikki’s Recipe: Maple Bacon Biscuits
Ingredients: 3 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar, 3/4 cup shortening, 1 cup milk, 1 teaspoon maple syrup, 4-6 strips of bacon, cut into small pieces
Directions: Preheat oven to 450°F / 232°C. In a large bowl stir together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, syrup, and cream of tartar. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add milk all at once. Using a fork, stir just until moistened.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough by folding and gently pressing dough for four to six strokes or just until dough holds together. Pat or lightly roll dough until 3/4 inch thick. Add bacon pieces. Cut dough with a floured 2-1/2-inch biscuit cutter, rerolling scraps as necessary.
Place biscuits 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 10-14 minutes or until golden. Remove biscuits from baking sheet and serve warm. Makes 12 biscuits.
Pairing Tip! Since this is a sweeter recipe, try a “demi-sec” sparkling.
For more food and wine pairing ideas, see The Ultimate Guide to Piedmont Food and Wine Pairing.
And, that folks, is all she wrote. Give Northern Italian sparkling wine a try. And, don’t forget the bacon. What are your favorite bacon recipes? Let me know! Cin cin! Val
Song Pick! My Favorite Things, Julie AndrewsSparkling Wine and Appetizer Pairings Here are the ideas available from our group for you. Try something new this year!
- Bacon and Greens Dip with Bubbly by Cooking Chat
- Piedmont Sparkling Nebbiolo & Pungent Anchovy Green Sauce by foodwineclick
- Segura Viudas Aria Cava with Oysters and Spanish Tapas by Confessions of a Culinary Diva
- Butterflied Spicy Prawns and Treveri Sparkling Wine by Wild 4 Washington Wine
- A Seasonal Nibbles Duet + Pear Valley Vineyard’s Frizzante Muscat by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- Appetizers served with a Sparkling Wine by A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Cranberry Brie Biscuit Bites and Sparkling Muscat by Curious Cuisiniere
- Moscato with Fresh Fruit Almond Cake and Zabaglione by Vino Travels — An Italian Wine Blog
- Domaine Meriwether Sparkling Wine and Make Ahead Spanakopita by Tasting Pour
- Wine and Dine: Anna de Cordoniu Brut NV and Herbed Parmesan Crisps by Grape Experiences
- The Holidays Sparkle on #WinePW by Rockin Red Blog Butternut and Bubbly by It’s Okay to Eat the Cupcake
- Smoked Salmon and Potato Chip Appetizer with Louis Roederer Champagne by ENOFYLZ