IN ITALY, PINOT NO-NO

On vacation in Italy last August, we were in Liguria, on the coast south of Genoa, an area so devoted to fish that the only meat I saw was prosciutto—and white-wine country. Obviously, this was the place to discover what sort of white wine Italians like to drink. The local wine is mostly made from the Vermentino grape, which was almost the new Pinot Grigio a couple of years ago, but couldn’t quite get there. Still, it’s tasty enough, especially when you’re on vacation, eating grilled fish and gnocchi in the sunshine, in the place where pesto sauce was invented. Every wine list we looked at led off with plenty of Vermentino, and some Pigato, the other local grape. None bothered with Gavi, the over-priced white wine of neighboring Piedmont, nor Soave. Here and here, we caught glimpses of Verdicchio.
       What most restaurants and the one upscale wine shop had from outsiders was Fiano from Campania, and a whole lot of different wines from Friuli, source of most of Italy’s best whites. And, of course, invariably, Pinot Grigio (though not always from Friuli, where Italy’s only distinctive versions come from).
       And everywhere we went, to the exasperation of my wife, I interviewed the waiters: What do people here mostly drink? The local wines, I was told. Do they drink Pinot Grigio? The reply, invariably, "Oh yes, signore." Italians? "Oh no, signore—the Americans, the English, the Germans, the Swiss--it’s very popular with them."

4 comments:

writeit said...

When I read that you went to Liguria and the only meat you saw was prosciutto, I had to wonder about the salami. Genoa salami. Anyway, thanks for this memory. It gave me an opportunity to look at Recipes from Paradise: Life and Food on the Italian Riviera, a combination cookbook and travel book with a few anecdotes related to writers and musicians, by Fred Plotkin. He says what you say about there being more fish than meat, and more white wine (which complements the delicate dishes) than red, which is expensive. He says perhaps the most famous meat dish is Cima Ripieni, stuffed veal breast.

Brian St. Pierre said...

The style there isn't so much around salami as the preferred cured meat. Fred Plotkin has written more good stuff about Italy than anybody since Byron, bless him (Fred, that is)--check out La Terra Fortunata also, his book on Friuli. He's right about almost everything, though Cima Ripieni is one where where we have to agree to disagree--you hear about it, it sounds great, you order it, eat it, and. . . that's it?

writeit said...

Recipes from Paradise made such a great case for Liguria that I seriously considered selling the farm and moving there. La Terra Fortunata made a great case for Friuli-Venezia Giulia and caused me to want to know more about the old relationship between Trieste, Vienna, and the rest of Europe. Over on your Dad's Cooking blog, http://dads-cooking.blogspot.com/, the other day, we were talking about the demise of Gourmet, a lot of which I put on a failure to write for people who want to read good stuff. Plotkin writes good stuff, even great stuff. It is too bad there aren't more in his class.

Brian St. Pierre said...

Fred's a lesson for us all--he finds the good in things. And those are two of my favorite books, as much fun to read (rare enough) as to cook from.

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