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What is the Purpose of a Wine Dinner?

Well, since it’s St.Patrick’s Day and everyone is talking about beer, we are going to be different and talk VINO.

3_17_winedinner2There we sat, with five glasses of wine in front of each diner’s plate. The slim glass of Prosecco was still bubbling. It was hard to tell the difference between the Merlot and the Rosso di Toscana, for they both were half full and set to the side. The Chardonnay had a mere sip but was otherwise untouched. But for me, the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano was loosely grasped in my hand, as I found sips between each bite of food.

We were at a wine dinner at Veni Vidi Vici “celebrating” the biodynamic wines of Avignonesi, an Italian winery in the Southeastern Tuscany town of Montepulciano. But was it more just about eating good food and drinking good wine, or were we learning about wine in a beneficial hands-on method?

Biodynamic wines are gaining traction because they preserve the viticulture of the wines. Nothing is brought onto the vineyard from outside the property for the purpose of fertilization or pest control.

“The main issue for our winery was how we would bring wine that was already famous to the next level,” said Guiseppe Santarelli, the North American Manager for the vineyard who was guiding us through the dinner. “The owner Virginie Saverys didn’t want to see anybody dressed like an astronaut spraying chemicals or pesticides in the vineyard.”

from left to right: Avignonesi American Manager Guiseppe Santarelli, Beverage Manager Bobby Asare, Master Sommelier Michael McNeill

from left to right: Avignonesi American Manager Guiseppe Santarelli, Beverage Manager Bobby Asare, Master Sommelier Michael McNeill

The star of Avignonesi is the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, a 100% Sangiovese wine produced from 40 year-old vines.

“We always try to respect the grapes,” said Santarelli. “To us it would be a pity to hide the characteristics of the wine by hiding it with other grapes like Cabernet or Merlot, because that changes the terroir of the wine.”

Wine dinners offer oenophiles a chance to directly meet representatives from international wineries, and you see the wine in a new way, beyond the fancy label and palatable sips.

Executive Chef Jamie Adams was tasked with pairing dishes to best fit the profile of each wine.  “They have the great characteristics of Old World wines, “ Adams said. The high acid and good fruit pair well with food.”

Here was his thought process for pairing a few of the dishes:

  • House salted New England cod, concentrated tomato, focaccia croccanti
  • Chardonnay, Avignonesi, Il Marzocco, 2011

To pair with the citrus from the white, I made a simple, fruity tomato reduction that contrasted with the salty cod.

  • Braised rabbit, fennel, crispy polenta
  • Merlot, Avignonesi, Desiderio, 2010

Merlot is a soft, elegant wine with nuances of mushrooms. I braised the rabbit in mushrooms, and the fennel goes with the subtlety of the Merlot.

I could tell I was among wine geeks when Santarelli brought out a 100 ml bottle of Vin Santo di Montepulciano and everyone “ooed” and “ahhed.” The name translates to “sacred wine,” and its no wonder. To make 1,000 bottles, they sacrifice 1,000 cases of Vino Nobile. It is aged in “caratelli,” sealed with wax.

While no one got to taste the precious bottle, it poured into a glass like a golden river, with a maple syrup consistency. It was enough to warrant an excuse for me to attend another wine dinner soon, in hopes of exploring another wine region’s treasures.

What type of wine dinner is your favorite to attend? A solo winery, a region?

-By Alexa Lampasona (@ActiveTastyLife) for the Food & More blog

2 comments Add your comment

berry steve

March 17th, 2014
11:47 am

My favorite wine dinner would be shrimp scampi with butter noodles and a cucumber, goat cheese , tomato and Vidalia onion salad, seasoned with a Greek spice blend.

Kar

March 17th, 2014
1:17 pm

Lately a malbec, especially with a spicy red meat dish.