Sunday, September 2, 2012

MRE Menu 12: Spicy Penne Pasta

For this Italian dish with lots of kick, look no further than the table wine enjoyed by the local crowd throughout the Piemonte, made from dolcetto.  Offering a good balance between fruit, acidity, and tannins, wines from dolcetto range from simple mealtime quaffers to structured and elegant versions from low-yielding vines that are partly aged in barrique.  The production area approximates where you will find its more expensive siblings, Barolo and Barbaresco, in the communes surrounding Alba and Asti.  Don’t mistake the sweet fruit flavors for significant residual sugar, but that same sensation will balance the spice of the pasta sauce.

Remaining in Italy for a white wine, travel east and north from the Piemonte to Alto Adige, or Südtirol as the local, ethnically Austrian population would prefer you call it.  Here, the town of Tramin offers its name to the grape variety know variously as traminer or gewürztraminer, regardless of where it may have actually originated.  As the name suggests (“würz” is the German word for “spice”), you should expect various baking spices on the nose and the palate.  Although it can be completely fermented to dryness, an off-dry version will be more effective at cleansing your palate of the red pepper elements accompanying this MRE.

Complementary Pairing:  Dolcetto, Piemonte, Italy
Try:  Poderi Luigi Einaudi Dogliani Superiore ‘Vigna Tecc’
[]  This is a more complex expression of dolcetto that restrains the use of wood during aging to preserve its concentrated black fruits.  From older vines planted 30 to 75 years ago on the southerly slopes of Madonna della Grazie and San Giacomo in Dogliani, the wine will taste just as dark and rich as it appears in the glass.

Contrasting Pairing:  Gewürztraminer, Südtirol, Italy
Try:  Cantina Tramin Nussbaumer Gewürztraminer
[]  The cooperative in Tramin represents 280 growers, and the gewürztraminer for this wine comes from their vineyards on the slopes around the village of Sella at a height of 350 to 550 meters (1150 to 1800 feet).  Appreciate the intense aromatics that are characteristic of this varietal, while the bit of residual sugar helps to put out the fire of your spicy pasta.

The actual reason for the author being in Afghanistan—providing anesthetic care to combat casualties.  Difficult to discern from the photo is the division of attention:  99% focused on monitoring the patient, 1% still thinking about sharing a nice bottle of wine with his wife.