I’m having a love affair with Grignolino, and you should be too. At the very first signs of spring I ditch my snow boots in favor of flip flops (I often end up with chilly toes as a result) and abandon my beloved reds to drink crisp, citrusy whites. But April is long gone, and these days I find myself starting to miss the reds of winter. The problem is, I don’t actually want to drink winter reds – the rich body and heavy tannin that can seem so delightful alongside a roaring fire or a braised lamb shank only succeed in making me sleepy in hot weather. Friends, Grignolino is the answer.
The first thing you’ll notice about Grignolino is its color, which is cranberry-hued, translucent, and just a shade or two darker than a rosé. The thin skin of the Grignolino grape doesn’t contain a ton of pigment, so the wine is light in both color and body, making it easy to drink in the late summer heat. Grignolino hails from Piedmont in Northern Italy, a region known for its powerful and hugely tannic red wines made from the Nebbiolo grape. But Grignolino couldn’t be more different from those – in fact, it’s one of the fresh, easy-drinking wines that the winemakers quaff while they’re waiting for their more intense reds to age.
Grignolino’s flavors all fall squarely into the ‘fresh’ category. There’s no ‘jammy blackberry fruit’ here, but rather tart raspberries and strawberries with a charming undercurrent of warm spices like cinnamon and clove. Its firm acidity makes it especially refreshing and is the reason Grignolino is such a perfect partner for a wide range of foods. I recently served this wine alongside spaghetti with tomatoes, fresh herbs, black olives, and feta cheese at Astor Center’s Cooking from the Mediterranean Market class, to great effect. The zippy acidity of the Grignolino is a perfect foil for ingredients with some tartness themselves, like the olives and the feta cheese. Serving an acidic wine with acidic components in a dish softens the tang in both the wine and the food, making the wine feel rounder and more lush on the palate, and making the olives taste fruitier and the cheese taste even creamier. And Grignolino, especially the ’09 “Poggeto” from La Casaccia, is low on the tannin spectrum, so it’s easy to pair with a huge variety of summer dishes.
Italy is an absolute paradise for the curious wine drinker. If you’re interested in Grignolino, might we also suggest these obscure Italian reds:
Check out Kimberly’s upcoming Food and Wine Pairing Essentials class September 13th at Astor Center!