by Viktorija Todorovska
Italian wines never cease to amaze me: varied and infinitely interesting, they make perfect pairings for the many delicious foods Italy has given us. Italy has about 4000 grape varieties and Puglia, a sunny region in the heel of the Italian boot stands proud as one of the regions with the greatest variety of native grapes, grapes that grow there and no other place. From verdeca to negroamaro to susumaniello, these grapes make interesting wines worth seeking out.
Puglian white? Well, of course!
Wine drinkers usually associate Puglia with juicy red wines. After all, Puglia is pure sunshine and the native primitivo, Puglia’s most famous grape, has conquered wine drinkers everywhere. But I love the surprise of friends’ faces when I introduce them to one of the best-kept secrets of Puglia interesting whites, especially from fiano, a grape native to the Italian South.
I love the fruitiness of fiano, its a soft, silky texture and the fresh fruit flavors. But what I love most is the mineral, savory note that reminds me that these wines came from close to the sea: I taste the salt of the Adriatic in every sip. Fiano pairs well with the lighter foods of Puglia, including fish and seafood as well as vegetable dishes.
Tormaresca, one of the first wineries to bring Puglian wine to international markets, makes Roycello, a delicious and crisp fiano. The notes of stone fruit and flowers mingle with hints of sage and mint, making the wine almost savory.
Roycello has great acidity, that mouthwatering zest, so pair it with lighter foods, including seafood. The soft and pleasant mouthfeel and lots of fruit flavors make it enjoyable on its own, so use it to kick off any aperitivo hour.
One of my favorite dishes to pair with this wine is Octopus with Potatoes. Octopus is a specialty of Puglia, where it is prepared in many different ways, from stews to grilled to sauteed with potatoes. The meaty yet delicately octopus pairs well with minerally Roycello and is sure to bring sunshine to any day.
And Unique Reds…
I love Puglia for the delicious, interesting yet affordable everyday reds, wines that always delight my dinner guests are sure to delight yours. Usually made from the native primitivo and negroamaro grapes, these easy-drinking wines combine fruitiness with a pleasantly bitter finish. The acidity that makes them great pairings for food, so try them out.
A case in point: Tormaresca’s Neprica, one of the better known Puglian wines in the US. A blend of negroamaro, primitivo, and cabernet sauvignon (Ne-Pri-Ca), Neprica is a palate-pleasing and interesting red you can enjoy any day. It is soft, and easy-drinking with good acidity and pleasant tannins. The aromas and flavors of red fruits and violets make it perfect on its own or with light- to medium-bodied foods such as Puglian pasta. In many ways, this wine is the perfect introduction to the South of Italy: soft, and easy-drinking, with well-balanced acidity and not too much tannin. Pair Neprica with broccoli rabe dishes, which have the same pleasant bitterness that negroamaro brings to the blend.
And as you explore these wines and the foods that go with them, close your eyes and be transported to the land of sunshine, red earth, and the centuries-old olive trees. And enjoy life!
(Reprinted with permission from Wines of Puglia)
Octopus with Potatoes
Yield: 4 servings
– ½ lemon
– 1 ½ pound fresh octopus*, cut into ½-inch pieces
– 1 ½ young Yukon Gold potatoes, washed
– 5 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
– juice of 1 lemon
– salt to taste
– chopped parsley (for garnish)
In a deep pot, bring to a boil 3 quarts of water. Add the lemon and octopus and boil for at least 1 hour (and up to 2) until the octopus is done. Drain and set aside. In another pot, boil the potatoes in salted water until they are done. Let cool, peel and cut into ½-inch cubes. In a 13-inch pan, warm up the olive oil over medium heat. Add the potatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the octopus, toss, and cook for another 5 minutes, until both the potatoes and the octopus have warmed up. Add the lemon juice and continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes. Serve warm, sprinkled with fresh parsley.
Tip: If you can only find frozen octopus, boil it frozen. Do not defrost it.
Broccoli Rabe Bruschetta
Yield: 6-8 servings
– 1 bunch (about 1 pound) broccoli rabe, tough stems removed and the leaves and florets chopped
– 3 teaspoons sea salt
– 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– Crushed red pepper, to taste
– 6-8 slices Puglian bread, toasted
In a medium pot, bring to a boil 2 quarts of water and 2 teaspoons salt. Add the broccoli rabe and cook for 4 minutes, until wilted. Drain and set aside. In a pan, warm up the olive oil and garlic. When the garlic starts to sizzle, add the broccoli rabe and some red pepper. Stir well. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until the flavors are blended. Adjust seasoning to taste and serve on toasted bread.
About Viktorija Todorovska: I am passionate about food and wine and I roam the world and discover new dishes and wines, bringing them to my readers. I am a Mediterranean soul and love to explore the lands that surround this magical sea. I have written about the foods and wines of Italy and France, including The Puglian Cookbook , The Sardinian Cookbook, and The Wines of Puglia iBook. To learn more about me and what I do, visit: www.olivacooking.com and www.mywinesmarts.com