A Wine Club member’s Italian Feast


A themed dinner party is a great way to explore food and wine matching. Arguably the most classic route is to pair wines from a certain region with dishes from the same area. After all, these combinations have evolved over centuries so work very effectively and give a neat focus to the evening.

Hosting a dinner for 10 guests with a multi course menu is a daunting task to some but not Wine Club members Neil and Mary. Having decided on an Italian menu, Neil got in touch with me to ask for some suggestions of wines to share the spotlight. Armed with Mary’s delicious menu I recommended some wines to treat the Turfitts’ guests to on the evening of their elaborate festicciola.

I would normally suggest Champagne to start but Prosecco felt like a more appropriate choice, being both Italian and incredibly fashionable at the moment. It’s the perfect way to kick off an evening in style because it offers a frothy, fruity punch of bubbles and gets everyone in the mood with its fresh simplicity.

The menu started as all good Italian menus should: with antipasti followed by a pasta course. Next in line was a rich venison stew and the menu closed with that most Italian of all dishes, Tiramisu.

Following the fizz, a glass of Gavi di Gavi was suggested to match to the antipasti. Combining fresh apple fruit and a softly textured waxy lemon finish, I thought it would stand up well to the myriad of flavours from the antipasti which featured cured meats, delicious olives and sundried tomatoes from a small local deli. As an alternative, Fiano di Avellino offered a breath of Southern air, providing a richer contrast to the Piedmonte Gavi, with its minerally, pear fruited notes.

Pasta was next, coated in a creamy Gorgonzola sauce cooked at the last minute, and I thought a Malvasia from the South would work well; it has a lovely minerality and is good with lighter pasta dishes. Some guests will always prefer red wine with pasta so I also offered a Barbera D’Asti . Its peppery, crunchy red fruit provided a little more intensity of flavour than the white.

The main course was a rich hunter’s style venison stew – in lieu of veal – and Langhe Nebbiolo the suggestion. Made from the same grape variety as fêted Barolos and Barbarescos, this gives a flavour of those great wines at a fraction of the price which is a handy trick when catering for a large number. As the sauce was tomato based, I thought the acidity of the wine would match well.

Vin Santo had to be the pudding wine- this deliciously sweet wine, which is a Tuscan speciality, is made from grapes dried out on straw mats. Delivering a hit of orange peel freshness and honeyed richness, this is a treat not only with rich puddings like the Tiramisu served but also hard Italian cheeses.

If you would like me to recommend you recipes to match your wines please email me at wineclub@bbr.com