Friday, November 13, 2009

Gaja and Pizza


After all of these sophisticated meals that we blog about, and the precise wine pairings that we painstakingly arrange, I thought it would be a refreshing change to do something a bit less chic (but perhaps even more sinful). So I took home an expensive mature red blend from the celebrated Piemontese producer Angelo Gaja and drank it with comfort food from our favorite neighborhood pizzeria, Nona’s (right next to Suburban). The results were magical, crushing the myth that food and beverage pricing should correlate, and further proving that sometimes high-end wines just make sense with simpler foods.

The Food:
A classic veal cutlet parm hero, no extras, no adjustments. The boys at Nona’s make a nearly perfect version of this comfort food standard. They’re careful to choose tender cutlets which lack that sinewy, un-bitable texture (don’t you hate it when the veal won’t tear and the whole cutlet slides out of the bread and burns your chin?). Their breading is savory, their sauce mild and salty, and their wedge breads crispy and fresh. My favorite touch: they’re conservative with the mozz! What more can one expect from this Italian-American favorite? Price: $9.50

The Wine:
1999 Gaja Sito Moresco, an unconventional Langhe Rosso that, in addition to Nebbiolo, contains Cabernet and Merlot. It opened up right away, offering an aromatic onslaught including red currants, Kirsch, coffee bean, licorice, leather and tobacco. The maturity of this blend explains its elegance…..the tannins have softened but not faded. The acidity is alive, but still the flavors are a bit simpler than the nose. The finish is a bit short, but is very Piemontese nonetheless. Nebbiolo still dominates, but is perhaps tamed by the Bordeaux varieties. Price: $50.

The Pairing:
The wine clearly went from good to great after my first bite of the sandwich. A gamey flavor in the veal revealed similar aspects in the wine. The fatty, savory flavors in the breading and the mozzarella accentuated the licorice notes in the Nebbiolo, while the salty/acid nature of the tomato sauce challenged the wine’s structure, the latter eventually prevailing. Likewise, this rich-yet-understated Italian wine was responsible for adding lift and complexity to a dish that generally becomes monotonous about halfway through. Bottom line: Do try this at home!
-Michael Koehler

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