When planning a trip to Italy, the choice of destinations is often a difficult one. One is tempted to travel across several Italian regions, feasting on regional specialities and tasting the best in wine that each of the terroirs has to offer. If only travel time permitted such rail excursions that criss-cross the country efficiently.
To announce its connection with Trenitalia’s revamped train service and competitive price structure, Rail Europe, in conjunction with the Italian Government Tourist Board takes media guests on a culinary and wine tasting journey through Italy at 121BC Cantina & Enoteca.
121BC Cantina & Enoteca
121BC takes its name from Roman literature where the first great vintage was recorded in history. The intimate wine bar in Surry Hills serves regional Italian share plates with a vast selection of wines.
Wine Journey through Italy, inside the 121BC cellar
Diners can walk around the long, narrow cellar which is organised from north to south. There are two black boards with maps, the first refers to the northern region, the second to the southern parts of Italy.
Hosted by Giorgio di Maria, co-owner of 121BC Cantina & Enoteca in Surry Hills, the virtual hop across Italy goes from Piemonte in the north-west, then east to the Veneto region, down to Toscana and further south to Campania.
Giorgio di Maria
The taste journey begins with NV Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Extra Dry, Drusian, Magnum served with Olive all’Ascolana, fried stuffed olives, both originating from the Veneto.
Three wine brackets follow, each with “a crescendo of taste and intensity of flavours”, as Giorgio puts it when he introduces the food and wine journey.
Bracket One: Prosecco, Valfaccenda, Pieropan, Solare, Donnaluna
From Piemonte comes the 2011 Roero Arneis, Valfaccenda. Arneis is a local grape variety and Roero is the best area in Italy for cultivating it. Arneis is a perfumed wine with a lot of minerality which comes from the proximity to the sea. Next, is the 2008 Soave Classico La Roca, Pieropan from the Veneto. Soave is the most famous appellation of Veneto, a volcanic area with basaltic soil. Garganega is the grape and yields a wine that ages very well.
Toscana more renowned for its red wines but also for Vernaccia di San Gimignano, and Vermentino in the south. The latter is used to make the 2010 Solare, Fattoria Castellina on taste. On to Campania, the 2011 Donnaluna, Viticoltori Deconciliis (Fiano) comes from Cilento, in the central and southern part of Salerno, a warmer area also known for its buffalo mozzarella.
Roast zucchini, mint, almond sauce
Bracket one is accompanied by roast zucchini with mint and an almond sauce…
a flavoursome wagyu bresaola, and the comforting soft polenta with Taleggio cheese.
Bracket Two: Piedirosso, Chianti, Hillberg Pasquero, Amarone
Bracket Two moves to red wines, starting in Piemonte, a region famous for its Barbera. The 2010 Vareji, Hilberg Pasquero has 85% Barbera and 15% Brachetto, the latter adding a touch of aromatics and more structure to lift the wine.
From the Veneto comes 2008 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico (50% Corvina, Corvionne, Molinara). The Corvina grape doesn’t have much colour or tannins so the grapes are dried for four months so they lose 40 to 50% in weight. This results in a concentrated wine that is high in alcohol (16%) and ages well.
Moving to Toscana, this is home of the Chianti with the 2011 Chianti Classico, Poggio Scalette on taste. Chianti usually has 80% Sangiovese and it’s not a full-bodied wine but one with lots of acidity and some tannins.
From Campania, the 2007 Piedirosso, Fattoria La Rivolta is the favourite in the bracket. Piedirosso is a specialty of the region and means “red foot” which refers to the red stem of the grape.
Chargrilled hanger steak with salsa verde
Bracket Two is accompanied by chargrilled hanger steak with salsa verde,
Roman beans and bagna caoda
and a delicious side dish of Roman beans with bagna caoda, which is a sauce with butter, garlic and anchovies preserved in sea salt.
From Piemonte, the 2011 Barolo, Gastaldi is made from the Nebbiolo grape and aged for a minimum of 3 years. A young Barolo is too powerful and needs to be aged to mellow to get the right balance. This is an aromatic wine with violet and liquorice character with good tannins.
Montacino in Toscana is well protected by mountains so it’s much warmer than any area in the region. 2006 Brunello di Montalcino Reserva, La Fornace (Sangiovese) is a more structural wine, with a little spice, that has been aged for a minimum of 5 years. This wine is a Reserva, which means it has been aged for extra time
From Campania comes the 1999 Taurasi Riserva, Mastroberardino (Aglianico) which often referred to as the Barolo of the south.
Balsamic pork ribs
Rich, complex and structural, it goes well as an accompaniment to the balsamic pork ribs.
Formaggi, gorgonzola picante
The final wine is a sweet red from the Veneto, 2008 Recioto della Valpolicella L’Eremita, made of 50% Corvina with Corvionne and Molinara and is accompanied by formaggi with gorgonzola picante.
The food and wine journey comes to an end at 121BC but not without reigniting the passion for travel within Italy and experiencing its cultural and culinary diversity.
More information on Rail Europe’s Italy by Train services is available from the website below.
121BC is featured in Sydney’s top wine bars.
4/50 Holt St (enter via Gladstone St)
Surry Hills, 2010
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