I can make a meal from Italian antipasti.
Sometimes instead of an entrée, I’ll order two or three of these appetisers for dinner.
My favorite antipasti contain a medley of fleshy olives, cured meats, focaccia, roasted red peppers, parmigiana and asiago cheeses. I also enjoy grilled calamari, thinly sliced grilled eggplant (or aubergine as it’s called in some parts of the world), and bruschetta.
And of course, I enjoy a glass or two of Italian wine to round out my feast!
Sampling Italian antipasti and pairing each dish with a glass of Italian wine is a great way to experience a variety of Italian foods and wines.
If you’re dining with friends, it can be fun to share plates and compare notes about the different characteristics of wine when consumed with food.
Here are my top 7 recommendations for an Italian antipasti food and wine pairing.
Freshly baked focaccia bread coated with a little salt and herbs and accompanied with a dish of Italian olive oil is a wonderfully delicious Italian antipasti that can be enjoyed with a glass of Prosecco.
This sparkling Italian white wine derives its name from the Italian village of Prosecco located in Italy’s Veneto region. To be called Prosecco, the wine must contain 85% of the Prosecco grape.
Prosecco can have aromas of apples, pears, and citrus fruit with tastes of peach and melon. It is a crisp, light, refreshing and acidic sparkling wine that will not overwhelm the taste of the focaccia.
Enjoy a glass of dry or extra dry Prosecco for an Italian antipasti especially at lunch or enjoy at brunch.
A crisp, cool glass of Pinot Grigio or Vermentino complements sautéed or grilled calamari, especially if the dish is served with a spicy red sauce.
Pinot Grigio grapes are grown in the northeastern region of Italy. Some of the more popular growing areas include Friuli, Veneto and Trentino. The Pinot Grigio grape is also known as Pinot Gris, which is primarily produced in Oregon, U.S. or Alsace, France.
A versatile white wine, Pinot Grigio has a light-yellow color, is dry and acidic, with aromas and flavors of lemon, crisp apple, minerals and honeysuckle.
Vermentino grapes are primarily grown in the Italian regions of Liguria and Sardinia. The grapes grow heartily along these coastal regions and as a result, may exhibit mild, pleasant salty notes in taste.
Also light-yellow in color, Vermentino is medium-bodied with aromas and flavors of lime, grapefruit and toasted almonds. It’s a zesty and acidic wine with a slightly floral aftertaste. This wine is a perfect accompaniment to seafood antipasti and other Italian seafood dishes.
GRILLED EGGPLANT (AUBERGINE)
Eggplant on its own has a rather bland taste but when grilled or baked with cheese, herbs and tomato sauce, it makes a hearty, flavorful Italian antipasti. Primitivo is a good choice to pair with this dish.
Similar to Zinfandel but less acidic, Primitivo is a dark-skinned grape primarily grown in the southern Italian region of Puglia, the same area where much of Italy’s olive oil is produced.
Primitivo is medium-bodied with an inky-red color in the glass, is fruit-forward, and can exhibit aromas of flowers, blackberry and fig with tastes of ripe cherry, vanilla and spice. It pairs well with earthy vegetables and spicy or tangy tomato sauce.
Who doesn’t love bruschetta?
There are so many different toppings you can enjoy!
One of my favourite recommendations for a wine pairing with bruschetta is Sangiovese. This varietal is grown in the Italian regions of Tuscany, Umbria and Campania and can taste differently depending upon where it is grown.
The most common characteristics of this ruby red Italian wine include aromas and flavors of tart cherry, herb, minerals, or clay. The wine can also exhibit characteristics that include fig, leather or tobacco. This is a medium-to-full-bodied dry and acidic wine.
Easy to drink, it lingers in the mouth with luscious fruit and an enjoyably tart finish and pairs well with a variety of bruschetta toppings.
CURED MEATS AND AGED CHEESES
Put an Italian antipasti plate in front of me with cured meats such as prosciutto, genoa salami, pancetta and soppressata, and accompany it with aged parmesan or asiago cheese along with a few slices of Italian bread, and I’m in heaven! I love the way the salt and spicy flavors of the meat with the pungent sharp taste of the cheese blend together.
A perfect choice of wine for this type of Italian antipasti is Chianti or Barbaresco.
Chianti is located in the Tuscany region of central Italy. To be labeled Chianti, the wine must be produced in this region and must have a minimum of 80% Sangiovese grapes. Some blending is allowable if it does not exceed 20%.
The most common grapes used for blending include Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah or Merlot. These varietals can create softer characteristics in the finished wine.
Chianti is a rustic wine with aromas of red berries and earthy tastes of herbs and spices. It is highly tannic, so it finishes very dry with a high level of acidity.
Barbaresco produced in the Piedmont region of Italy is made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes. Although often confused with Barolo, Barbaresco wines take less time to age, are softer and more approachable. Barbaresco has aromas of ripe red berries, spice, earth and sometimes leather, with tastes of dark cherry, spice, vanilla and pepper. It has a velvety texture and smooth, acidic, dry finish.
The dryness, acidity, aromas and taste of both Chianti and Barbaresco complement the flavors of cured meats and aged cheeses.
If you’re new to wine tasting and food pairing, or if you’re a seasoned wine and food lover, don’t be afraid to experiment!
Everyone’s palate is different, and part of the fun is to experience the many varieties of Italian wines available with different Italian antipasti.
Wine and Food Pairing Events at Mascalzone
If you are interested in Wine and Food Pairings then check out our regular wine tasting events at Mascalzone, Houston.
We hold a monthly Pairing evening, featuring top wines from our distributors Impero, Alarich and Bellaria. Each event features a presentation from and chance to mingle with the wine makers themselves – and our chef will be preparing a tasting menu to compliment the wines!
Our next event is on October 11 featuring wines from the Cantine Tinazzi Winery from Lake Garda, Italy.
Author: Carol Wilcox
Carol A. Wilcox is a freelance content creator who writes about wine, spirits, food, travel, marketing and business. She is also the publisher of Southwest Wine Guide and the blog, Possible Pours. You can reach Carol through her website.