Notes from Parma: My response to “What Food, What Wine” Competition’s Zero Score for Italy

Emilia-Romagna is strange. The train departure board could be a poster announcing a stadium tour of gastronomic rockstars – Parma, Bologna, Modena – and yet… as far as wine goes, the region is mostly known for its sweet fizzy Lambrusco.

Don’t get me wrong, you can find some excellent Lambrusco; there is nothing better than a dry, chilled sparkling red with Parma ham and Parmigano Reggiano when the temperature is hitting 35 degrees. At those time when the heat is reducing the world to the absolute essentials: cheese, ham and wine. Maybe a few words and a siesta.

 

But admittedly, there is something of the soft drink to Lambrusco when it is simple, cheap and sweet and served in a carafe.

 

So, you may ask, what are you saying? Has Emilia-Romagna had a food and wine matching FAIL here. ITALY??? Are you really saying that? That is what a recent What Food, What Wine – a UK food and wine matching competition suggested: there were no trophies for good matches for Italian wine. A big fat zero on the international scoreboard.

 

Scusi, un momento. Italian wine? And that’s the problem right there. Italian wine does not exist. Italy is too complex and regional to have a notion of “Italy”. The local wines are nano-gastronomic machines working together at a sub-primal level.

 

On my first night in Parma, coincidentally in the Piazza Garibaldi (the man responsible for unifying Italy a mere 150 years ago), a local suggested I try a wine called Gutturnio -  a still red wine, dry and tannic that develops a baroque perfume once the protein and fat of the cheese and ham “sucks up” the dry tannins. Don’t ask me for UK stockists. This is an ultra-local wine, our waiter was happy to tell us, made by a maverick artist in the hills of Parma.

 

Perhaps on reflection, the Italian contingent was not organised well enough to compete in this competition. That would not surprise me. Also, where is the Slow Food movement when you need it? The organization of “Italian wine industry” is in stark contrast to food – the Consorzio of Parmigiano Reggiano and Parma Ham, who are one of the first European organisations to protect their identity, production and marketing of their regional products.

In my opinion, this was a silly outcome and says nothing about Italian wines ability to match with food.

 

Food and wine matching can be incredibly easy and also incredibly difficult. Easy: when it’s about natural local products around a table with friends. A block of Parmigano Reggiano and a few slices of ham and a simple Lambrusco or sparkling Malvasia. And yet, it can also be difficult as you like, by searching for seriously local wines with deep, symbiotic relationships with the local food. This makes Italy, is it even necessary to say this?, one of the world’s deepest food cultures.

 

How can we approach this idea of food and wine matching in the UK if we don’t have access to these local wines?

 

Even if we can not find the exact “match”, at the very least we can slow down and think about what we put in our mouths, where it comes from and, to share food and wine with love. Nothing strange about that.

 

 

Posted in Dinners, Emilia-Romagna, Food, Italy, News. RSS 2.0 feed.

10 Responses to Notes from Parma: My response to “What Food, What Wine” Competition’s Zero Score for Italy

  1. cas says:

    Notes from Parma: My response to "What Food, What Wine" Competition's Zero Score for Italy – http://goo.gl/cFHT2 @winewomansong

  2. RT Notes from Parma: My response to "What Food, What Wine" Competition's Zero Score for Italy – http://goo.gl/cFHT2 @winewomansong

  3. Katie Hart says:

    RT @winewomansong Notes from Parma: My response to "What Food, What Wine"Competition's 0 Score for Italy http://t.co/CLLgftr @winewomansong

  4. vinoroma says:

    Notes from Parma: My response to "What Food, What Wine" Competition's Zero Score for Italy – http://goo.gl/cFHT2 @winewomansong

  5. Kavey says:

    As you know, I can’t much knowledge of wine given my personal tastes towards dessert wines and little other. But, with many good friends who range from ardent amateurs through keen students to professionals, even I know better than to dismiss all Italian wines when it comes to food and wine matching.

    As you have said, Italy is deeply regional when it comes to food and wine, but in each region, just as the traditional foods and dishes have developed over centuries, millenia even, the wines have grown up alongside, and what a surprise, they work best with local produce.

    There’s a lot to be said for the old adage “what grows together goes together”.

  6. lucia says:

    lambrusco=GOOD? =JOKING

  7. lucia says:

    Gutturnio is a really naff wine normally so are you saying its good or just this one geezer was doing good wine. I’m from Lecce and theres nothing good there. Just Ok trattoria type plonk

    • Juel Mahoney says:

      I am saying the wine recommended was good with the food.

      You are from Lecce… Do you mean Lecce in Puglia? Sorry to hear you think there is no good wine in your area.

      • Looks like Lucia was trying to make the point, that “there (=Emilia Romagna) are no good wines” when compared to Puglia. See her previous comment about Lambrusco.

        BTW, you’re right, a quality Gutturnio is one of the best, all-purpose food wines.

        It always amazes me when an Italian wine producers claims that his/her wine is the best produced in his town/region – only to find out that he/she has never tasted any of his neighbors’ wines. :)

  8. Pingback: On Vinissima: Notes from Parma | Wine Woman & Song

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