Before I moved to Italy, I dabbled in food and wine pairing classes in Seattle and in certain ways I feel like it was easier to play and experiment around with food/wine pairing at home than it is here…WAITAMINUTELETMEESPLAIN!
Because in Seattle we have amazing shops that shelf a huge variety of wines including little boutiques that specialize in hand picked small selections and big mega stores that could be the mall of wine for all I know. Which means, international wines. In Florence, you can find everything under the Tuscan sun (sorry, I couldn’t help it) and maybe a few labels from other parts of Italy but a Spanish wine? A Washington wine? Forgettaboutit! I’ve been lucky to find a few international labels in wine shops here, but mostly French. So. Typical.
Anyways, but I have become curious again to exercise my food and wine training that I feel is slipping away. Generally I know what wine to order when out at dinner or what wine to pick up for a home cooked meal, but I got out of practice of intentional pairing. Like looking for the exact wine that would be the exceptional pairing with something I was preparing.
And in terms of Italian wine, I am more lost than I ever have been. Before I came, I thought I knew a thing or two about wine. I had some basics and thanks to classes I took at my local wine academy in Seattle, my palate and nose were very well trained.
Thanks to these wine professors, I’m able to pick up cork and if there are little nuances like shower curtain or soy sauce on the nose as well as fruit cocktail or buttered peach on the palate. This is why taking wine classes/training are absolutely crucial, especially for bloggers and especially for bloggers who write about food and wine. Or for anyone who is really curious about wine.
But the reason I am lost about Italian wine is that I now know what is important- and it’s not the grape or the type of wine but it’s the producer and the exact location of the vineyards, better known in snobby sideways wine terms as terroir. So there I was all cocky with my yeah I know Barolo, Chianti Classico and Brunello, yeah those are like amazing Italian red wines and all you need to bank on! Not true! I was wrong. It’s all about learning about the producers and the zones where they were produced. Dammit. Time to hit the books (or the wine country!)!
Recently I made tagliata which is a main/secondo dish popularly found around Tuscany. It is sliced steak (usually sirloin cut) on a bed of arugula and shaved parmigiana (or grana padana) with salt and pepper and perhaps a dash of REALLY good aceto balsamico.
The trick to tagliata or steak in general is to leave the steak to relax in the fridge for at least 3 days after getting it from the market. I waited 3 but I could have easily waited another 2 but I’m American and still paranoid about bacteria and mold cooties. In any case, it was still pretty soft and melt in your mouth.
My method is to grill a steak for about 3 minutes on each side if the thickness is about 2 fingers thick. I like it to be a little rare on the inside. Yeah, bacteria weird- raw meat I love. Yes, I know I make no sense. Anyways! Then when I flipped the steak, I top it with sale grosso (coarse salt) while the other side is searing. The heat helps the salt melt into the flesh. And then finish with a dousing of fresh cracked pepper.
I paired this with a Chianti from Colli Fiorentini (to be precise, Florentine Hills in Chianti just 20 minutes outside Florence) by the producer Guido Gualandi. Why this wine? Well, this little find was made from organic and green farming methods and the producer is very interesting as he has a very romantic approach to wine making (still enlists the typical I Love Lucy grape squashing press) and is very dedicated to ancient vines and autochthonous grape varieties, ancient methods, and small production as this particular Chianti only bottled 10,000 which equates to 833 cases. Also what I liked was the price tag. Retail it goes for €9.90 but at my tried and trusted wine shop it was only €7.50.
It was a great match for the steak. Why? Well, since it wasn’t too heavy or aged, it didn’t dominate the flavors of the steak. In fact, it complimented it and there was this dance of smoked cherry with spicy pepper and fatty savory steak flavors waltzing away on my palate. Simply spot on, especially if you are like me and a pragmatic minded foodie. The humble cut of tagliata was less than €10 from the Sant’Ambrogio market so I got away with a lux meal that in a restaurant would have easily cost me €30 euros (if not more) but without the view of the duomo from my beautiful Florentine apartment. Ahhhh…
I suggest you try this at home but what I can’t promise is the views and the quality of meat if you are buying outside of Europe.
Until next time,
p.s. Useful links:
How to find wine from Guido Gualandi:
Official website for Guido Gualandi wines in Tuscany:
More about Chianti wines from Colli Fiorentini: