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Do You Know How to Read a Wine List?

15 November 2016

There is no better choice you could make when dining on authentic Italian cuisine than pairing your meal with the perfect glass of wine. But choosing one that will compliment and enhance your meal is no easy task. Sommeliers are highly trained in wine tasting, judging, and food pairings and these individuals usually work at high-end restaurants. Even the hobby of becoming a wine connoisseur can prove to be a difficult challenge. So if you ever find yourself staring at a long list of Italian wine names at an Italian restaurant with no sommelier to be found (which could happen even if you’re dining at a high-end restaurant), here is a guide that will help you decipher the list and make an educated selection.  

With over 350 common wine grapes native to Italy, the options for wine may seem endless. But using these few tips can help you on your next Italian dining experience or when you decide to cook at home.

List Structure

The information on the wine list may seem basic, but actually, it can tell you all you need to know especially once you know the type of wine you are looking for. For example, let’s break down the listing of 2013 Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo Castorani Abruzzo 47 from Toscana Divino of Miami.

  • 2013- the year it was produced (vintage).
  • Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo- this will tell you what kind of wine it is by grape variety, region or wine name (implying the blend). In this case, it describes the type of grape used.
  • Castorani- usually the list will provide the name of the vineyard that produced the wine.
  • Abruzzo- this is the region from where the wine comes from, and there are 20 main wine regions in the country of Italy.
  • 47- this denotes how much the bottle costs.

Next is a brief list of the main types of wine and the food pairings that go best with each. People dedicate their lives to learning and perfecting the art of wine tasting and matching with delicious meals, so these guidelines will help you learn where to start. Some important aspects that are taken into account when pairing food with wine are strength (bold wines with hearty meals), richness, tannins (high tannins leave your mouth dry), acidity (balance with your meal) and the tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter). All of these characteristics of the wine and food need to be considered to enjoy your meal and wine to their full potential.

Pairings with Popular Wine Types

Pinot Grigio– trout, swordfish, crab, calamari, chicken, turkey, pork, prosciutto, ricotta, fontina, provolone, basil, Italian parsley. (2013 pinot grigio terlano, alto adige)

Sangiovese- swordfish, tuna, duck, quail, lamb, pork, beef, asiago, parmesan, thyme, fennel. (2012 sangiovese caldora, Toscana)

Merlot- tuna, salmon, duck, quail, beef, lamb, venison, parmesan, provolone, gouda, mint, basil, parsley. (2008 cab-merlot-carmenere san leonardo Gonzaga)

Primitivo- cioppino, tuna, bouilliabaise, quail duck, game hens, Italian sausage, lamb, beef, asiago, ricotta salata, fontina, basil, oregano, thyme. (2013 primitivo salento, sasseo, altamura, Puglia) 

Chardonnay- crab, shrimp, lobster, sea bass, chicken, turkey, pork, veal, brie, munster, camembert, tarragon, dill, Italian parsley. (2009 chardonnay ca’ del bosco, lombardia

Rosésalmon, shellfish, sea bass, trout, chicken, game hens, pork, prosciutto, ham, goat cheese, feta, gouda, Italian parsley, basil, chives (2014 rosé costaripa rosamara, lago di garda)

Pinot Noir- salmon, tuna, swordfish, duck, quail, lamb, Italian sausage, pork, parmesan, asiago, fontina, thyme, basil, Italian parsley. (2012 pinot noir oltrepo pavese agit optima)

Hopefully, this bit of information can get you own your way to selecting the right wine for your next Italian meal. While it is always best to ask an expert if you are unsure of a selection. At Toscana Divino, we offer the largest list of fine Italian wines and pairing suggestions with the best Italian food in all of Miami. Check out our impressive list of wines.

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Miami, FL 33130

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