What Are the Best Tuscan Wine and Food Pairings?
Tuscan cuisine is based on “cucina povera,” a rural – even rustic – style based on seasonal and natural ingredients including olive oil, unsalted bread, wild mushrooms, vegetables, and either salt-cured or simply grilled meats. So what wines do you pair with this rustic cuisine? You need look no further than the region itself to find perfect Tuscan wine and food pairings to share with friends and family.
Tuscan Red Wines
Tuscany is best known for its crisply acidic, age-worthy red wines. More than 80% of Tuscany’s vineyard area is planted to red grapes. Although the name of the Sangiovese grape never appears on wine labels, it is in fact the primary grape in Tuscany’s three most important red wines:
- Brunello di Montalcino
- Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
- and Chianti Classico
These are the names that appear on labels. Super Tuscans are also highly regarded Tuscan wines, typically based on Cabernet Sauvignon and other international grape varieties.
Tuscan White Wines
The most important whites in the world of Tuscan wine are Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Trebbiano Toscano, and Malvasia Bianca Lunga.
- Vernaccia is an ancient grape, indigenous to the hill town area of San Gimignano. Crisp and delicate, with floral and almond notes, it is not grown to any remarkable degree anywhere else in the world.
- Trebbiano is the region’s workhorse grape. It is neutral in character, typically used in blends to add acidity. It is also used to make the sweet dessert wine Vin Santo.
- Malvasia is mainly used today in the production of Vin Santo.
- Moscadello di Montalcino, a specialty of that Tuscan region, is a slightly bubbly sweet wine.
Now let’s look at some possible menu choices for your next Tuscany inspired meal.
Pecorino Toscano DOC is Tuscany’s most important cheese. It is made from 100% sheep’s milk. While Pecorino is made all over Tuscany, Pienza is the region’s most prolific supplier. Pecorino can be eaten young and fresh, and can also age for many months yielding a hard texture (like aged Parmigiano-Reggiano) and nutty flavor. It is best served as a component of a meal – as antipasti, with a salad course, with crusty bread and the main meal, or for dessert served with fresh fruit or fig jam.
Tuscan Wine and Cheese Pairings
- Young, fresh Pecorino cheese pairs best with white wine such as Montenidoli Vernaccia di San Gimignano. (Some Vernaccia wines are lightly oaked, including a few from the Montenidoli range, but this will not contradict the wine/cheese flavor match.)
- Older Pecorinos are best with a red Sangiovese-based wine, either Brunello di Montalcino or Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Suggestions for perfect pairings include Silvio Nardi Brunello and Valdicava Vino Nobile.
- In the springtime, young Pecorino cheese paired with fresh fava beans is a Tuscan favorite. A refreshing white Colle Massari Melacce Vermentino is a lively choice to usher in the spring season. Crisp Vermentino wines from neighboring Liguria could also add sparkle to the dish.
In addition to Pecorino Toscano, a typical antipasti spread will include olives, salumi made from Tuscany’s cinghiale (wild boar), crostini (canapés topped with paté or vegetables), and bruschetta (pronounced “brew-sketta”). Because there are typically so many flavors at work on an antipasti platter, both white and red wine selections from Tuscany work well.
Primi (first course)
In keeping with its rustic roots, a Tuscan meal typically includes a bread-based zuppe (soup) rather than pasta for the first course of a meal.
- The classics are la ribollita and pappa al pomodoro.
- Minestrone is also a rustic soup, but it is found throughout Italy and is not necessarily a Tuscan classic.
- All three of these rustic soups are ideally served with Tuscan red wine.
If pasta is your favorite primi, however, don’t miss Tuscan specialties such as pici (fat spaghetti) with veal ragu or a restaurant’s house-special ravioli.
Want to taste great Tuscan wine and food in Italy? Join one of French Wine Explorers group or private tours to Italy!
Secondi (second course or entrée)
Tuscan main courses can include a variety of options.
- Grilled meats are common as an entrée. Tuscany is perhaps known best for Bistecca all Fiorentina, a large Porterhouse steak shared by two (or more) people.
- Game meat, such as rabbit, is found in a specialty dish of stewed rabbit with olives.
- The Tuscans who live along the coastline often include fish.
Tuscan Wine Pairings for the Main Course:
For meat lovers, the bigger the wine the better!
- Several great choices of Brunello di Montalcino include Casanova di Neri, Poggio di Sotto, and Il Poggione.
- Fish dishes generally pair better with lighter reds such as Boscarelli Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
Tuscan Wine and Dolci (Dessert) Pairings
Vin Santo (“Holy Wine”) is a sweet wine made throughout Italy, but is decidedly a Tuscan favorite.
- It is made from white grapes, Malvasia and Trebbiano, which are dried on cane mats or hung to dry in bunches from rafters.
- After several months, the grapes are pressed and then aged for at least three years in buildings where the temperature can rise and fall with the seasons.
- The resulting wine can range from dry (slightly oxidized like Sherry) to sweet and opulent.
- Vin Santo can be enjoyed on its own, or served with almond cookies called Cantucci or Biscotti di Prato. Frescobaldi is a large, well known producer of many styles of wine, including Vin Santo.
The cuisine of Tuscany is one of comfort and familiarity. It is can offer the perfect meal–and the perfect Tuscan wine!– for a summer’s day, or a winter’s night.