Exploring the beautiful wines of Italy in the heart of Los Angeles
My interest in food and wine began when I was living in Italy. Every town I traveled to, I would ask what was a local specialty. It was like an obsession. Italy is made up of twenty regions and each region, even each town, can have its particular cheese, pasta, wine, pastry and more. There is so much to explore so, when Savor Italy came to LA, I went to see what I could find.
The Savor Italy Road Show, organized by the Italy America Chamber of Commerce West Los Angeles and the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce Texas, brought a number of new products to the local market, many of which were looking for importation and distribution in the US. I found a few tasty Italian finds that are available to buy within in the US.
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When I walked into the event, the first thing I tried was the Bocale Trebbiano Spoletino 2015 IGT from Agricole Bocale di Valentini. Based in Montefalco, Bocale, which is the dialect term for the two-liter jug of wine or oil, was started in 2002 by the Valentini family. The grape trebbiano spoletino is a different grape than a trebbiano from the Veneto region found in the Soave wine and, in fact, is not part of the trebbiano family. Trebbiano Spoletino is an indigenous variety from the town of Spoleto in Umbria. The grape had almost disappeared from existence but a few rows remain. The Bocale 2015 is the first vintage of this crisp wine that smells of citrus and stone fruit and has bright acidity on the palate. It was the perfect wine to start the tasting and had me craving raw fish or a light salad.
Divella is a family owned company that has been one of the most important producers of pasta in the world for more than 125 years. What sets them apart is the quality of their ingredients. The pasta is made with only semolina flour and water. With pasta made from 100% semolina flour, Divella is actually the largest importer of semolina anywhere in the world and purchases semolina from Italy, Canada, the US, Russia and Turkey. Why semolina you ask? You can make pasta with any type of flour but semolina adds a rougher texture that will help sauces cling to the noodles.
Mutti is a family owned tomato company that dates by to 1850. They offer a selection of tomato products, from puree-free from seeds and peels and pelate (peeled) to polpa (finely chopped), baby roma and concentrate paste. All of the products are made with 100% Italian tomatoes and are natural, vegan, gluten-free, non-GMA and contain no BPA. Mutti tomato products are available in grocery stores and online which is great because anytime I make pasta with tomatoes, I use pelate or polpa to start my sauce.
Modena is the home of traditional balsamic vinegar. Casa Rinaldi has been making balsamic vinegar for generations. In addition to a full line of vinegars and balsamic glazes, it was the seven-year-old balsamic vinegar, made from grape must (whole pressed grapes complete with juice, skin, seeds and stems). A touch of sweet and a touch of tart, I would put this on top of a salad with spinach, strawberries and goat cheese.
The Marche region in the center of Italy is the world capital of truffles. And T&C Tartufi from Acqualagna in the Marche, is one of the oldest truffle companies in Italy. The smell of truffles will always put a smile on my face but the tartufata, a blend of mushrooms, olives, anchovies and summer truffles, had me grinning ear-to-ear. It was served slightly heated and spread on crostini. Yum!
The water of Ferrarelle Water comes from an ancient volcanic source in an area bordered by the extinct Roccamonfina volcano and the foothills of the Campanian Apennines. The rain water flows through the underground rock layers and is purified and enriched with minerals like potassium and silica, calcium, magnesium and bicarbonate. The water, which mixes with CO2, is naturally carbonated, resulting in soft, delicate bubbles that even a non-sparkling water drinker, like myself, enjoys. With the high mineral content, Ferrarelle water also happens to have health benefits including being good for bone structure! In fact, doctors in Italy are recommending that children drink Ferrarelle.
Franciacorta, which means “little France,” is a town in the region of Lombardy. Like Champagne, Franciacorta makes sparkling wine in the traditional method, using the grapes chardonnay and pinot noir (like Champagne) as well as pinot bianco. Franciacorta is a softer style than Champagne and it not as yeasty. La Montina Franciacorta Brut has the nose of fresh fruit and floral aromas. The 2009 Rose Demi-Sec, made with 75% pinot noir and 25% chardonnay, has notes of strawberry and is tart and acidity on the palate.
There are so many wonderful products to try from Italy. Luckily, because the United States is the leading market for premium Italian food and wine products, it is easy to find products in your local markets. Go out and Savor Italy!