This week, we’re all about party fixins! Dinner party? Cocktail party? Pizza party? Toga party? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. It can be challenging deciding what to bring to a get-together. You may not know what’s being served, making wine pairings a puzzle. You may not know everyone’s tastes, from more adventurous eaters and drinkers to those who are more picky. But you don’t want to bring something expected, bland, or boring!
So this week we’re featuring wines and cheeses that should make the decision making less stressful. Each of these selections are unique and interesting, sure to please even those with the most particular tastes, and versatile enough to fit any party vibe. So break out those togas/cocktail dresses and grab one of these!
2011 Ampeleia ‘UNLITRO’ – $19.99
Northern Tuscany may be known for its Sangiovese-based wines, but the southern part of this region is known for wines of different varieties. The Ampeleia estate is located in Maremma, a region of southwestern Tuscany bordering the Ligurian and Tyrrhenean Seas. Maremma has had to work hard to overcome a bad reputation, since up until the 1930s, it was primarily swampland, known for its musky stench and malaria-spreading mosquitoes. Dante even wrote about the, “pestilent fen,” (read: ‘disease ridden swamp!’) of Marrema in his Inferno. However, the swamps were drained under Mussolini and the land was reclaimed. The region is understandably fertile and there has been much success in cattle grazing and grape growing in the area. The relatively new influx of modern winemaking has brought with it non-traditional varieties. Ampeleia grows several varieties, all farmed biodynamically, including Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, and Mourvedre. Unlitro is a blend of Grenache and Mourvedre from their younger vines and has aromas of bright red fruits, mid-weight tannins, and a bit of spice. Very versatile and the perfect party wine in a 1 liter bottle!
Perfect Pairing: Roasted guinea fowl with olives
Tired of Nebbiolo? Try Freisa! Freisa is a grape native to the Piedmont area of Italy that has genetic ‘parent-offspring’ ties to Nebbiolo. It’s generally made into a bright, sweet, and lightly effervescent style called ‘Vivace,’ but can make fantastic still and dry red wines as well. Like Nebbiolo, it can have intense tannins and acidity that are sometimes hard to tame into an elegant and enjoyable wine. This bottling by Cascina Gilla has overcome those obstacles. It’s 100% Freisa from vineyards planted on blue-gray clay soils. The estate was founded by Gianni Vergnano in 1983 and is presently run by his granddaughter, Chiara. According to Chiara, the clay soil on the surface absorbs water quickly, putting water stress on the vines, which causes them to send their roots much deeper. The result is a wine with much more refined acidity and minerality. The color is deep, dark purple and the wine has light floral aromas of violet and fresh raspberry. The acidity is well-balanced with savory flavors of dark berries, mushrooms, lavender, and soft round tannins. Great with any Italian dish!
Perfect Pairing: Mushroom and caramelized fennel pizza
This week’s featured cheese hails from Cantabria, Spain. Nestled on the northern coast of Spain, this region is unique due to its widely varied landscape and climate. Unlike much of the rest of Spain, Cantabria has much more moisture and a mild climate, allowing for green pastures along the low coastal areas. The coast quickly inclines into the Cantabrian Mountains with steep cliffs and short fast-flowing rivers heading from the mountains into the Bay of Biscay. This climate and geography makes a comfortable home for all three of our favorite milking animals: cows, goats, and sheep! Hence, Tres Leches, a pasteurized mixed cow, goat, and sheep’s milk cheese made by Juan Carlos and his wife Maria Carmen who have a small dairy along the Deva River in Catabria. The mild and delicate flavors and creamy texture of this cheese endear it to any cheese-eating party guest, and the cute dome shape is perfect for your party transporting needs. Just make sure your host knows you’re bringing a cheese and not a ‘tres leches cake’!