May 25 is National Wine Day! To prepare, Fabulous Arizona visited Pasta Brioni in Old Town Scottsdale to pair wines with delicious Italian cuisine and called on local sommelier Wesam Kawa from Monarch Cafe for additional tips.
At first glance, wine pairing can be intimidating. Chances are you’ve heard that white wines go with fish and red wines go with meat, but there’s so much more to it than that. What about sauces, vegetables, and all the different varieties of fish, poultry, beef, and more? The beautiful thing about wine and the food you pair it with is there are very few wrong answers and a wide variety of right ones. “It should be a harmony of the food and wine,” said Kawa.
When people think of prosecco, they often think of brunch or mimosas. Although some bubbly is an ideal way to start any day, a good prosecco can pair with a number of appetizer or main dishes. For our first course at Pasta Brioni, Executive Chef/owner Michael Siggins chose the Bisol Jeio Prosecco for the wine and paired it with the Shrimp Brioni – a special “secret menu” item that needs to be requested ahead of time. “Something like (prosecco) will cleanse the palate throughout,” said Kawa, who will be taking the Advanced Sommelier Exam this summer. This aspect allowed each bite of the lightly fried butterflied shrimp to taste like the first one – a welcome treat with an item this delicious. The sauce enhanced the prosecco as well, bringing out noticeable pear notes that weren’t there on its own.
The next pairing brought a popular red blend called “If You See Kay”. Until 2015, the grapes for this wine came from Lazio, Italy. I always thought of it as an American-style Italian wine due to its fruit-forward, juicy nature. Beginning with the 2016 vintage, however, production moved to Paso Robles, CA; so I guess now it’s an Italian-style American wine. Go figure. One feature of the Italian version of this wine is a bright acidity that pairs perfectly with Pasta Brioni’s marinara sauce that came with our next paired dish, Emma’s Dumplings. Emma “could never remember the name of the dish,” according to Siggins. “But every time she came in, she asked for the cheesy balls of goodness. Eventually, the spinach and ricotta dumplings just became Emma’s dumplings.”
One underrated way to pair wines with your food is by region. “I think it’s the most interesting way,” Kawa said. “Regionality can always play an aspect.” A great example is pairing something like mozzarella di bufala (and/or pizza Margherita) from Campania, Italy with an aglianico from the same region. The climate and terrain lend certain characteristics to each that creates a match made in heaven.
Our final pairing allowed Chef Siggins to show an example of how dramatically a wine can change when paired with certain dishes. The 2013 Foxen Chardonnay is grown on Reisling stems and it creates a hybrid of sorts. It’s not a traditional buttery or oaky chardonnay on its own, but instead is bright and citrusy and even a bit mellow. Once it was paired with the decadent Rigatoni Four Cheese, the wine was totally transformed. The rich, delicious cream sauce brought out those same characteristics in the wine.
Whether you plan on celebrating National Wine Day at home, at Pasta Brioni, Cafe Monarch, or elsewhere; think about what you’re going to eat with your wine. You’ll enhance your experience significantly and find a new appreciation for both the wine and the food.