For the chicken pesto pasta, let us seek a white wine from an appellation in the southern Rhône known largely for its red wine production, Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The terroir here is famous for the galets roulés, or round stones, that retain moisture for the vines as well as heat after the sun sets, which continues to ripen the grapes. Bourboulenc, clairette, picardan, roussanne, and blanc and gris versions of grenache and piquepoul are the varieties that may make an appearance. Because of the large number and mixture of varietals permitted, the whites here can take many forms, but they characteristically have floral aromas and pleasing minerality, with varying amounts of structure and acidity.
Friuli, in northeastern Italy, ironically best known for its white wines, offers an interesting red pairing for the chicken pesto in the form of refosco. It tends to combine uninhibited fruit and racy acidity. It may be called refosco dal pedunculo rosso in Collio and the Colli Orientali because of the red stem that joins the grape cluster to the vine. The Carso variety of refosco is known as terrano, which may or my not be a true relative of other types of refosco elsewhere in Friuli. At least part of terrano’s distinction in this zone, and neighboring Slovenia, is a matter of terroir, as it is grown in terra rossa, red soil which has a high iron content.
Complementary Pairing: Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, Rhône, France
Try: Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc ‘La Crau’
[www.vieuxtelegraphe.com] This characteristic white wine of the region comes from its best-known cru, La Crau, located in the southeastern-most part of the appellation. It is composed of clairette, grenache blanc, bourboulenc, and roussanne from vines averaging 40 years of age. The fermentation takes place in an even split of large vats and oak of various sizes, aging for one year in the same vessel before being bottling unfiltered.
Contrasting Pairing: Refosco, Friuli, Italy
Try: Kante Terrano
[www.kante.it] From one of the top producers of Carso, that thin strip of Italy just north of Trieste, surrounded by Slovenia and the Adriatic Sea. The maceration lasts three weeks, which is followed by three years of aging in large barrels before being bottled unfiltered. The result is a wine where all the elements are in perfect balance.
For a real glimpse of why my team is here and not in the comfort of home and the loving arms of family, please see this article from Stars and Stripes.