Bring the Holiday Home: Pairing Italian Food & Wine

Being on holidays can make everything seem superior – the scenery, the lifestyle, the aromas, the romance, the adventure … however, when it comes to food and wine, there is often an additional factor at play.

When all the ingredients in a meal have come from the one place, there is a common thread that ties all the elements of a culinary experience together. It adds an indefinable detail to the flavour that you can taste, or an extra quality that you can perceive, but it is hard to describe.

Grapevines, fruit, vegetables, dairy and meat are all influenced by the unique characteristics of the soil beneath their feet. All organic matter raised in a natural environment is defined by the minerals and nutrients that are received either directly – or as in the case of livestock – through the food chain. It is this simple, elemental ingredient that ties everything together to form a heightened sensation.
If you’ve been fortunate enough to indulge in succulent roast beef and red Bordeaux while in southwestern France, or snacked on Parma prosciutto with dolcetto in Northern Italian, or even enjoyed shiraz in the Barossa with local aged cheddar, then you might recognise this phenomena.

Joie de vivre
Regions with a long history of wine cultivation usually have evolved the most distinctive natural pairings of food and wine. Classic examples include the traditional French pairing of red burgundy with coq au vin, German reisling with pork and apple sauce, or Spanish tempranillo with spring lamb.
While we can’t quite recreate the full experience here at home in Australia, with the diversity of international food and wine available here you can certainly give it a very good try.

How can you experience this for yourself?
Why not start Italian style? Try a chianti or other sangiovese-dominant wine and serve it with a tomato-based pasta dish such as bolognaise – or even with an Italian-style pizza. Use as many legitimate Italian ingredients as possible, ideally from the same region.

For the bolognaise use an Italian recipe featuring tinned tomatoes imported from Italy and, of course, blend with an Italian wine. You don’t have to use the same wine that you’re drinking, a less expensive Italian dry table wine will do the trick. When your masterpiece is complete, finish off with a block of quality Italian parmesan to shave and sprinkle on top and maybe even a few sprigs of fresh basil.
For pizza, again use a traditional recipe and ideally make the base yourself with the all-important Italian 00 flour. You could go for a traditional thin-based neapolitan with quality authentic buffalo mozzerella. Bona fide San Marzano tomatoes might be tricky to find but some juicy roma tomatoes come a close second. You could even add some fresh basil to make a margherita pizza.

Recipe Suggestion: Bolognaise

Of course, Italy is also famous for its cured meats and – since they travel well – there is an abundance of authentic options available in delis throughout Australia. Real prosciutto, sliced very thinly and topped generously, is delicious. Even pepperoni can be successfully paired with a robust sangiovese. Here is a lovely recipe to get started with:

It may still be a while before you can pack your bags and inhale the sweet air of far flung destinations, but you can still experience some of the real flavours through the wine and food available to us here on the other side of the world.

If you would like to learn more, check out PAIRED: Champagne & Sparkling Wines – The food and wine matching recipe book for everyone by David Stevens-Castro and Fran Flynn. The book is available from good bookstores nationwide, (pre-Christmas offer, online coupon code ‘freepost’) and internationally on

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