Spain vs. Italy. Who has the better wine? Well, that’s up for debate. It depends who you’re asking. We made this timeless debate the topic of conversation at our latest wine dinner held at Bocado Worcester. But before getting into the details of dinner, let’s look at why Spain and Italy have traditionally rivaled one another for the reign of supreme wine offerings.
Providing Italy with its illustrious catalog of wines is its twenty major growing regions. From Piedmont and Tuscany to Veneto, Trentino-Alto Adige, and Friuli—and even the islands of Sicily and Sardinia—there is no shortage of land suitable for producing quality wine. The twenty regions are typically categorized into four geographical groupings: the northwest, northeast, central Italy, south, and the Islands. So, what makes them different? In short, the climate of each specific region—this will impact the grape varieties suitable for growth in specific regions, thus resulting in each region producing wine with its own unique aroma and taste. With its surplus of regions, Italy has been known to supply some of the best tasting wine in the world.
Spain, on the other hand, actually has more vineyard acreage than Italy. In fact, it has the most in the world. That being said, Spain does not produce as much wine as Italy. The wine it does produce, however, is world renowned and, for some, the bar for all other wine to live up to. Spain has a whopping sixty different regions producing wine. Of the sixty regions, there are seven different climates that account for distinct wine production throughout the country’s large geographic sprawl. The seven recognized climates are Northwest “Green” Spain, Mediterranean Coast, Ebro River Valley, Duero River Valley, Central Plateau, Andalucía, and the Islands.
And while both Spain and Italy boast strong histories of fine wine production, what it really comes down to is which wine you personally enjoy most.
What makes hosting a “versus” wine dinner so much fun is the opportunity for guests to experience a broad selection of carefully curated wines from two different countries, accompanied with a dish diligently prepared by our chefs for the perfect pairing. After each glass is poured Niche Hospitality Group president Mike Covino and Wine Director Cassandra Carruth inform guests of the wine’s background, noting the wine’s flavor profile, the region it was produced in, the winemaker, and the importer. With the serving of each dish of food, chef Steve Champagne speaks to the guests about his inspiration for the specific dish, why he chose each ingredient, and how it will complement the wine.
Eight glasses of wine and four dishes later you’ll be thanking yourself for reserving your seat at the wine dinner.
Now, let’s have a look at the menu our talented staff put together for our Spain vs. Italy night.
First Course – Celery and Potato Cream Soup
Smoked mussels, tiny garlic croutons, pimenton oil
Notes from the chef: I love celery and feel it is an underutilized vegetable, typically used as a flavor builder in stocks or soups but not often a main ingredient. Here, it brings a nice crispness to the potato soup. The smoked mussels and the creaminess of the soup work well with the acidity of the whites we paired with the dish.
Spain: Leirana (Albariño), Rias Baixas, Spain, 2017
Winemaker: Rodrigo Mendez
Notes from Cassandra: His Grandfather was one of the founders of Rias Baixes a D.O. (Denomincionas de Origen, designated region of origin for wine) in Spain. All of his grapes are sourced from a Village named Meaño a subzone of Salnes Subzone. His goal is to show Albariño in a different light. Rodrigo uses indigenous yeast so you have a natural expression of the grape to the region, opening up its flavors, aromatics, and allowing for age ability.
Italy: Planeta ‘Etna Bianco’ (Carricanté), Sicily, Italy, 2017
Winemakers: Alessio Planeta, Francesca Planeta and Santi Planeta
Notes from Cassandra: Five centuries, seven generations the Planeta family have been heavily involved with agriculture of the Sicilian resurgence in to the winemaking community. Planeta’s have owned farming estates in Italy since the 1600’s, with 20 generations of winemaking under their belt. Then in the mid-1980’s 3-ambitious winemakers Alessio, Francesca, and Santi Planeta began making wine in Sicily to help bring a new light to Sicilian wines. Their goal is to put both international and indigenous grapes in the best soils that allow the making of exquisite terroir driven wines.
Second Course – Chicken Roulade
Arugula pine nut pesto, white bean mushroom ragu, shaved brussels sprout
Notes from the chef: Playing more to the Italian side of this dinner, I used some classic items – a take on pesto and the bean ragu. Although it may seem that the dish would eat heavy, it was actually a fairly light preparation working well with each of the lighter bodied reds. The use of the shaved brussels tossed with a light vinaigrette added a textural component and some acidity as well.
Spain: Pinoylet (Garnacha), Montsant, Spain, 2016
Winemaker: Alberto Orte (Part owner of Ole Obrigado)
Notes from Cassandra: Alberto Orte currently works on 16 different projects around Spain with a goal to bring back indigenous grapes to certain regions. Alberto is very dedicated to discovering the different soil structures within all Spanish wines regions, to help other winemakers navigate the best to plant and cultivate these forgotten native grapes to Spain. Teamed up with Patrick Mata in 1999 to create Ole Imports with the idea to bring boutique esoteric wines the US from Spain.
Italy: Sella & Mosca (Cannonau), Sardinia, Italy, 2013
Winemaker: Giovanni Pinna
Notes from Cassandra: Sella & Mosca was started in 1899 after Mr. Sella and Mr. Mosca purchased a property in a historic district of Sardinia as a vineyard plight started to wreak havoc throughout Europe destroying vineyards, and as Sardinia is not connected to the mainland, it seemed a safe place to set up shop. Grapes are cultivated in hot and dry climate with sandy soils with a mountainous terrain of granite and schist soils. This winery is revered in the wine community.
Third Course – Miso Soy Glazed Swordfish
Red beet – ginger risotto, umami butter
Notes from the chef: Here, I went a little astray from both regional cuisines and prepared a dish that I just filet like making and knew would be an excellent paring with this wine course. The swordfish has enough fat to work well with these reds, while the ginger helps bring out the spice notes in the wine. Umami butter rounded out the whole dish.
Escalada do Sil (Merenzao/Mencía/Garnacha Tintorera) Valdeorras, Spain, 2015
Winemaker: Alberto Orte
Notes from Cassandra: All organically farmed with only 425 hectares (acreage of wine). Produced to showcase a revival a style of wine that was popular in the region. High elevation vineyards are mainly planted with Godello, with a few exceptions of Mencia, Merezao, and Garnacha Tintorea.
Italy: Giacosa Fratelli (Dolcetto d’Alba), Piedmont, Italy, 2015
Winemaker: Bruno Giacosa known for his meticulous winemaking skills from the vineyard to the barrel to the bottle.
Notes from Cassandra: Coming from three generations of winemakers, the family started by selecting some of the best grape strains, then locating the best vineyards to plant them in. Constantly striving to produce some of the best wines in the region, Dolcetto matures nicely in the region because it can stay on the vine here longer than other regions to allow for optimal.
Fourth Course – Grilled Venison
Caramelized fennel, turnip and carrot, black cherry agrodolce, gorgonzola
Notes from the chef: Love the grilled venison here – we gave it a strong spice rub laced with cumin, smoked paprika, some aromatics and spice (red pepper, allspice, clove). The grilled flavor and spice worked great with these great wines – they have much more body and depth that handle the venison well. The fennel always helps bring out that licorice nose of the wine while the blackberry agrodolce makes the fruit shine. It was a fun dish.
Spain: Emilio Moro (Tempranillo), Ribera del Duero, Spain 2016
Winemaker: Emilio Moro
Notes from Cassandra: Coming from a sub-region known as Pesquera del Duero in a town known as Valladolid -extremely respectable Bodegas in the region bring quality and elegance to Tempranillo, Spain’s King red grape. Soils are clay and the region sits on a plateau with a huge influence from the Duero River.
Italy: Giacosa Fratelli (Nebbiolo), Piedmont, Italy 2016
Winemaker: Bruno Giacosa
Notes from Cassandra: Nebbiolo is Italy’s king noble grape, having different quality levels, all with certain aging requirements and a tremendous number of historical vineyards. Piedmont has a series of Old World producers and New World Producers trying to bring environmental change to the region, with helping with the amount of waste that goes along with winemaking.
Dessert – Baked Sugar Glazed Pear
Marcona, raisin and currant stuffing, Pedro Jimenez almond cream
Notes from the chef: No paring here but this was just a real fun dessert to do. Cool presentation, not too sweet and not too filling for a great finale to a great dinner.
Next Bocado Wine Dinner:
A Tale of Tempranillo
Tuesday, April 16th 2019
$85 per person
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