If you were ever shy about incorporating Italian elements into your cooking, Giada can set you straight. She’s a superwoman when it comes to making Italian flavors seem easy-breezy, like they’ve been in your family’s recipes for generations. Nervous about gnocchi? She’ll walk you through it. Perplexed about pancetta? She’ll clue you in. Never heard of Franciacorta? Aha! That’s where I come in: At the ready with some new and different but approachable, fun wines that are perfect pairings with Giada’s Thanksgiving recipes.
First off, to answer the Franciacorta question: It’s Italy’s answer to Champagne. From Lombardia, it’s made mostly from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (just like Champagne) and, as with Champagne, the secondary fermentation that creates bubbles happens in the bottle. It’s just as delightful as Champagne but often has a slightly lower price tag, and it’s an excellent pairing with Italian appetizers. If you can’t find it, Prosecco is also tasty and bubbly (though a different grape and a lighter style) and is delicious on its own or in Giada’s Blissini cocktail.
The Italians are food people (duh!), and their wines, in general, tend to be among the most food-friendly in the world. So why not try some classic Italian wines that you may not yet know? For the main course, both whites and reds will match up nicely with Giada’s citrus and herb-stuffed turkey. If it’s a white you’re after, you can easily find Pinot Grigio, which can run the gamut from bone-dry and fairly neutral to amazingly sophisticated, fuller and nuttier when done in cooler climates. Look to the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia for the best, and you’ll be impressed with how much character this grape can show off. To stretch your sense of adventure, try an Orvieto. A white blend from the region of Umbria, Orvieto is somewhat creamy with lightly spicy, herbal notes and a strong finish that will stand up well to the rich and rustic flavors of this menu — particularly the sweet potato gnocchi.
For reds, try a lighter to medium-bodied wine with good acidity to cut the richness of the meal and some round fruit to balance the menu’s savory elements. A safe bet would be a Pinot Noir (Italians call it Pinot Nero) from the Trentino-Alto Adige or Lombardia regions. For an adventurous wine, go for a Valpolicella from the Veneto region. Gaining mainstream popularity and now fairly easy to find in the US, Valpolicella is a blend of Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes. Each of these adds an important ingredient to the finished wine, which turns out a fairly easy-drinking yet richly flavored wine with cherry fruit balancing tart and sweet elements, plus a bit of smoky spice. Delizioso!
And when dessert rolls around, nothing would be better than a classic Tuscan Vin Santo, a chestnut or oak cask-aged digestivo that’s usually very sweet. With rich, nutty flavors, it will complement the hazelnut and almond tarts beautifully. Salute!
Stevie Stacionis, Wine Blogger