Lovers of Bordeaux have choices that span the globe, as the traditional varietals from here have migrated to every hemisphere, no matter how you slice it. Since this dish is associated with Italy, that is where we will go to find a matching claret. To some degree, these same cépages bordelais are ubiquitous throughout Italy in order to satisfy an international market, but today we will focus on the northern Italian region of Trentino. This cooler climate region will yield wines of less unbridled power and alcohol, and more finesse. With climate change a dynamic but slow process, a slight overall warming is helping the clarets from this region hit the perfect spot of ripeness, without hints of green or vegetal flavors.
For a white pairing for what most would consider a quintessentially red wine dish, let us consider another variety that has become ubiquitous worldwide—chardonnay. From its traditional home in Burgundy, it has found success in many places, including California. It is a grape that is quite capable of expressing its terroir, yet also the will of the winemaker. Even in the confines of greater Napa and Sonoma, temperatures, altitude, and geology are widely variable. Likewise, aging regimens range from pure stainless steel that leaves the emphasis on the fruit all the way to 100% new oak that can leave one with the sense of drinking liquid toast. The best producers have struck a happy medium, growing or sourcing excellent fruit at low yields, and using a meticulous but gentle hand in the cellar. To stand up to the meat sauce on the spaghetti, look for a California chardonnay that allows the minerality of some of its best growing regions to shine through, with just enough oak to add structure and subtle spice, and a bit of acidity on the finish. If you close your eyes and can believe you’re drinking Burgundy, you’ve found the right one.
Complementary Pairing: Claret, Trentino, Italy
Try: Tenuta San Leonardo ‘San Leonardo’
[www.sanleonardo.it] This claret is the grand vin, and is only produced in good to excellent vintage years. It is composed of about 2/3 cabernet sauvignon and 1/3 cabernet franc, with merlot as a minor stakeholder. Each variety is aged separately in a mixture of new and used French barriques in the style of Bordeaux, before being blended and bottled for another year of aging before release.
Contrasting Pairing: Chardonnay, California, USA
Try: Ramey Chardonnay Ritchie Vineyard
[www.rameywine.com] Winemaker David Ramey sources this fruit from 40 year-old vines in the center of the Russian River Valley. This single-vineyard expression offers up tropical fruits and minerals together with herbs and spices on the finish. While a substantial portion is aged in new French oak, these flavors are invariably well integrated and balanced with the acidity.