Mar 30 2013
I Love Italian Wine And Food – The Emilia-Romagna Region
By Levi Reiss
If you are looking for fine Italian wine and food, consider the Emilia-Romagna region of central Italy. You may find a bargain, and I hope that you’ll have fun on the fact-filled wine education tour.
Emilia-Romagna stretches from the Ligurian border in northeastern to the Adriatic Sea. As the name indicates, historically it was composed of two regions, Emilia and Romagna. It may be the only region of Italy named for a road, one constructed by the Ancient Romans almost 2200 years ago. It is one of the most prosperous regions of Italy, with strong agricultural, industrial, and tourist economic activities. Its total population is about 3.9 million.
Emilia-Romagna produces a very wide variety of pasta, fruits and vegetables, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cheese, and fresh and cured meats. Two of its biggest stars are a cheese, Parmigiano Regianno, and a ham, Prosciutto di Parma. Parmesan cheese, as it’s known in English, was mentioned by the famous Italian author of the Fourteenth Century, Giovanni Boccaccio. We review it below. Parma ham, as it’s known in English, is an uncooked ham that is dry cured for at least ten months. Usually it is served in very thin slices, often as appetizer with melon.
Bologna, whose population is about 375,000, is the administrative center of Emilia-Romagna. It is the home of the first university in the Western World, founded in the 11th Century. Bologna is also considered the capital of Italian gastronomy, in spite of its unfortunate association with a low-quality sandwich meat. Another city of interest is Rimini, a resort center on the Adriatic Sea with a population of 135 thousand.
Emilia-Romagna devotes about 178,000 acres to grapevines, it ranks 5th among the 20 Italian regions. Its total annual wine production is about 125 million gallons, giving it a 4th place. About 57% of the wine production is red, leaving 43% for white. The region produces 18 DOC wines. DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, which may be translated as Denomination of Controlled Origin, presumably a high-quality wine and 1 DOCG white wine, Albana di Romagna. The G in DOCG stands for Garantita, but there is in fact no guarantee that such wines are truly superior. In fact, while this wine was the first white wine to be accorded the DOCG designation in Italy (1987), many feel that Albana di Romagna does not deserve such an award. (I have never tasted this wine, and from the reviews that I’ve read, I’m in no hurry to taste it.) About 21% of Emilia-Romagna wine carries the DOC or DOCG designation. Emilia-Romagna is home to more than four dozen major and secondary grape varieties, a few more red than white.
Widely grown international white grape varieties include Malvasia and Trebbiano. The best known strictly Italian white varieties are Albana (source of the DOCG wine) and Pignoletto.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the only widely grown international red grape variety. The best known strictly Italian red variety is Bonarda. The Italian red varieties Barbera and Sangiovese are found elsewhere, including California.
Before we reviewing the Emilia-Romagna wine and cheese that we were lucky enough to purchase at a local wine store and a local Italian food store, here are a few suggestions of what to eat with indigenous wines when touring this beautiful region.
Start with Gelato di Parmigiano, Parmigiano “Ice Cream”, which includes heavy cream and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, suggested as an appetizer.
A more traditional dish is Scaloppine di Vitello alla Bolognese, Veal Scaloppine all Bolognese, which also includes Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, as well as other local specialties Prosciutto di Parma and balsamic vinegar.
For dessert (as if the ice cream wasn’t a dessert) try Torta Bonissima, a Honey and Nut Pie.
OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY While we have communicated with well over a thousand Italian wine producers and merchants to help prepare these articles, our policy is clear. All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.
Donini Lamberti Trebbiano-Chardonnay IGT 2005 12% alcohol about $8 (liter)
Everybody has prejudices. I approached this bottle with several of them. It seems to me that a liter of wine is usually too big, accentuating quantity at the expense of quality. Given the economics of the wine industry, I am usually reticent to purchase a bottle for $8, which would be $6 for a regular-sized bottle. And finally while Emilia-Romagna is often known for its red wines, it is not particularly known for its white wines, with an unfortunate exception, the DOCG wine Albana di Romagna, discussed above. And now to the actual wine.
The first time that I drank this wine I found that its taste was one of green apples, dominating everything else but still light on flavor if not unpleasant. It didn’t really accompany the food, a breaded chicken cutlet in sweet and sour sauce with potatoes cooked in chicken fat. As the wine aged a bit, (it takes a long time to finish a liter if you don’t care to drink very much at a time) it got better instead of worse. I have read that 3.5 million bottles of this type wine are produced yearly. I understand that it is popular in fish restaurants along the Adriatic Sea. I’d love to find out for sure. Final verdict, not bad for the price.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is a cooked, unpressed semi-fat hard cheese made from raw cow’s milk. It is encased in a thin, yellow rind. This cheese is finely grained and very flaky. Its taste is delicate and fragrant, and frankly wasted with a wine of this quality.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. His wine website is www.theworldwidewine.com. You can reach him at [email protected]