Italy is a land famous for its food and wine, so it’s logical for an Italian wine dinner host to pair Italian wine with Italian cuisine. However, the recent Italian wine lunch organised by Watson’s Wine and the Italian Trade Commission begged to differ, held at three-Michelin-starred Cantonese eatery Forum Restaurant.
Italy produces wine in all 20 of its administrative regions, from Piedmont and Trentino-Alto Adige in the north to Sicily and Sardinia in the south. However, due to its varied topography, we cannot generalise Italian wine based on latitude alone (i.e., that lighter wine is produced in cooler northern Italy and richer wine is made in warmer southern Italy). The country’s wide range of grape-growing conditions and hundreds of unique grape varieties make Italy the most diverse wine nation in the world.
Prosecco is probably the most recognised Italian sparkling wine, but Italy also produces more serious bubblies made in the traditional champagne method from Franciacorta. Ca’del Bosco 44 Edizione Cuvée Prestige is one such wine, with over two years ageing on lees. Its subtle and lean palate opens up when paired with dim sum. The floral and stone fruit flavours in the wine jump out with every bite of food, intensifying the savouriness of dim sum. Sparkling wine always goes well with dim sum, but this pairing is a match made in heaven.
Italy is home to the most local grape varieties, and I often prefer these wines to those made from international varieties. However, Nals Margreid Baron Salvadori Chardonnay Riserva 2019 from Alto Adige is a pleasant surprise. It has ripe pear and apricot notes, fresh acidity and a mineral tone that can stand up to Forum’s flavourful baked conpoy with crabmeat in crab shell, bringing out the freshness of the crab.
Another interesting Italian wine is Frank Cornelissen Susucaru Rosato 2020, a darker-than-usual rosé from Sicily owing to prolonged skin contact, which also provides tannin structure. A blend of four indigenous grape varieties, the wine is made with minimal intervention in order to express the purity of the fruits. Its acidity, texture and mouthfeel make it a good food-friendly wine, complementing Forum’s deep-fried chicken wing stuffed with minced shrimp.
Barolo is a powerful Piedmont red wine with high tannin that benefits from long ageing. The 2018 vintage would be considered too young by wine connoisseurs, but the Ceretto Rocche di Castglione Barolo 2018 is very accessible, with red fruits, integrated spices and chewy tannin that go well with both Forum’s roasted spareribs with shrimp paste and the restaurant’s braised oxtail.
Chef Wong Lung To and sommelier Jacky Luk did a great job matching the food and wine, and the lunch was a delicious, educational journey for the palate, from land to sea. Obviously, having six wines paired with six courses is a luxury, but we can certainly enjoy food spanning a wide range of flavours with only one wine. The two wines that are most versatile and that will go well with most cuisines are Nals Margreid Baron Salvadori Chardonnay Riserva 2019 and Frank Cornelissen Susucaru Rosato 2020.
Italian wine is as diverse as the cuisines of China, and together they can create endless pairings. Take advantage of the Italian wine promotion at Watson’s Wine (6 December 2022–3 January 2023) and have fun matching these wines with various Chinese dishes.