Scottish Field wine columnist and drinks blogger Peter Ranscombe hunts for five luxurious Italian bottles to match truffles.
MENTION the word “truffle” and I start conjuring with images of the forests of Italy in the autumn – once my mind has gone off on a tangent to think about cocoa powder-dusted chocolate ganache.
Truffles of the mushroom rather than dessert kind were the star ingredient in October’s issue of Scottish Field magazine.
So, where better to look for this month’s selection of wines than the north of Italy?
Reds are a natural choice, but I’ve thrown a couple of whites and some fizz into the mix too, to emphasise that it’s not just the truffles we need to consider but also the other components that are going into our dishes.
Ferghettina Franciacorta Milledi, 2014
Italy’s secret sparking wine, made near the northern lakes, is an ideal pairing for halibut and other fishy treats. Franciacorta is made in a similar way to Champagne, with the second fermentation – the one that creates the bubbles – taking place inside the bottle, in contrast to Italy’s more famous fizz, prosecco, which is made in a big tank under pressure. Ferghettina’s distinctive square-based bottle means that more of the liquid comes into contact with the lees, the dead yeast that helps to build up the richness of the wine.
Cavit Rulendis Pinot Grigio, 2017
Proof, if proof were needed, that not all pinot grigio is born equal; an elegant white that will handle truffle with pasta. The very tall fluted bottle hints at this wine’s origins in the north of Italy, which often owes more to German and Austrian winemaking influences than areas further south. I loved its fresh acidity, but also its minerality, which mingled in amongst the classic crisp green apple fruit flavours. The grapes are harvested from Cavit’s highest-altitude vineyards above Lake Garda, where cool nights and breezes help to retain freshness. For more on pinot grigio, check out my article for The Grape & The Grain drinks blog.
Montonale Orestilla, 2017
Berry Bros & Rudd
Italian whites are so often underrated, and here the turbiana grape really shines, showing its asparagus-matching credentials. On the nose, there are attractive lemon rind and wood smoke notes, then on the palate it’s much rounder, with red apple flavours dominating over lemon curd and cinnamon. There’s still plenty of fresh acidity, but the richer mouthfeel comes from 30% of the wine being fermented and then aged in 500-litre oak barrels. The grapes came from a single, two-hectare vineyard, highlighting how time and care taken to craft individual wines can really pay off.
Barbi Brunello di Montalcino, 2014
If there’s beef and mushrooms involved with the truffles then Tuscany’s flagship red, Brunello, is where I’m heading. All of the producers at this year’s Brunello and Barolo tasting in London bemoaned the tough conditions in their vineyards during 2014’s wet and cold weather, which has led to fresher wines with lots of acidity, which should help them to age really well. Barbi’s example was one of my favourites at the tasting, with its scent of rose on the nose and the elegance of its acidity on the palate. For something with a bit more oomph and power, check out the Gaja Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello (£74.99, Hanford Wines).
Terre del Barolo, 2015
What grows together goes together, and Barolo – Piemonte’s most-famous red – is a classic match, especially for white truffle. Bitter cherry and dark chocolate on the nose give way to spun-sugar sweetness on the palate, with well-integrated tannins and bright acidity. There’s great balance to this wine, which is made from nebbiolo grapes grown on 30-year-old vines in the Castiglione Falletto area. The Terre del Barolo winery brings together around 400 growers covering a wide 650-hectare area. The team clearly works, as this ticks all the boxes and at an affordable price for one of Italy’s flagship red wines. Look out for Barbaresco, Barolo’s more approachable younger brother, too when you’re considering truffle pairings.