Vinitaly! And A Fine Dinner Near Verona

Mid March – Mid April is a busy time for those involved with Italian wines: there’s Vinitaly, the wine trade fair in Verona, an annual event that wineries must attend and wine journalists ought to. Unfortunately, the show’s timing is horrid, falling at bottling time, which means that most of the wines being poured are freshly bottled, shocked to death, and very closed — or they’re barrel samples. Barrel samples are unfiltered and therefore not nearly as likely to be shocked (though they do get shaken up in getting to Verona), but their bouquets tend to be badly skewed, showing a strong predominance of oak if it was used, while the fruity/floral aromas that develop in the reducing environment of the bottle are weak or simply not there yet.

Why go, then? Because it’s the only place where one can taste lots of wines from throughout the Peninsula (and beyond; lots of foreign exhibitors too) conveniently. The current vintages may not be perfect, but they do give an idea of what the future will hold, and one can also find older vintages that are fine indeed.

The other reason to go is to network and hobnob; the days are long (9-7) but there’s always someone to look up or talk to — and go out to dinner with. A number of years ago, for example, on the last night I joined Elisabetta Fagiuoli, who makes extremely fine Vernaccia in Tuscany, but was born in Verona, and we went to dinner with old family friends of hers. A spectacular, very simple Veronese meal washed down with excellent wines from the Valpolicella made by one of our hosts, Lorenzo Begali.

WHEN IT WAS ALL OVER I found myself sitting, pad and pen in hand, writing down the recipes:

We began with Adriana’s Minestrone di Verdure, which is extraordinarily creamy. She notes that one can make it with pasta, but she prefers croutons.

We then had Costolette d’Agnello Scottadito, grilled lamb chops that get their name (finger-burning) from the fact that they’re so tasty people can’t wait for them to cool.

And Costicine di Maiale, pork spare ribs that were steamed and then grilled. Very tasty, and much less fat than one often encounters.

These were accompanied by polenta (in inch-high squares, unseasoned — taking the place of bread), grilled eggplant, grilled zucchini, sautéed wild greens, and a tossed green salad.

We finished with a number of cakes, the most spectacular of which was a Torts di Rose, a cake based on babà dough that someone gave Ivana in exchange for a couple of bottles of Recioto at Vinitaly (this exchange takes place every year). Rita’s fagottini stuffed with ground amaretti and strawberry jam were also nice, however, as was Lisetta’s hazelnut cake. And the Crema di Limoncello that wound things up was a delightful surprise.

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Categories: Recipes from the Veneto, Cucina Veneta

Author:Cosa Bolle in Pentola

Italy boasts an astonishing number of varietals, denominations, and wines, and tremendous changes are sweeping the land. New wines are being created, new DOCs are being introduced, and the existing denominations are overhauling their regulations both to reflect the practices adopted by their member wineries and to favor improvements in quality. Even the most staid and stolid region can flower seemingly overnight, emerging with exciting new wines and wineries that require rewriting the enological maps and rethinking one's positions. And, of course, recipes too, because cuisine and wine are closely intertwined and it's difficult to imagine one without the other.

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