Contrasting Flavors: A Bright Italian Red with a Washed Rind Pecorino
I love the combination of two opposite flavors that are enjoyable alone, but taste better together. Over the weekend, I found an incredible Italian pair: Pecorino Ginepro, a semi-hard sheep's milk cheese paired with Quattro Mani Barbera, a juicy red wine from Piedmont.
Quattro Mani Barbera Piemonte 2010 is a red wine from the Italian grape variety Barbera. This grape is known for its deep color, low tannins and high acidity level and this bottle appropriately captures each traditional quality. On the nose, this wine has an aroma of sweet plum and light spice, and is youthful, fruit-forward and extremely approachable on the palate with a bright acidity, plum, and blackberry flavors, and a soft finish.
The producer, Quattro Mani, translates to "four hands", and consists of a few celebrity-status Italian winemakers, each with a strong tie to the land and a comittment to substainable farming practices. Collectively, they produce Barbera, Montepulciano, Tocai, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Bianco. Quattro Mani Barbera is produced by the skilled winemaker Danilo Droco who was described as "One of the Great Names of Piedmontese Winemaking" by Robert Parker earlier this year.
Pecorino Ginepro, a truly beautiful cheese from the Italian province of Emilia-Romagna, is tangy and zippy, with a dark, woody rind. It is a semi-hard sheep's milk cheese is aged 4-6 months and washed in balsamic vinegar and soaked with crushed juniper berries (ginepro is Italian for juniper). The powerful rind on this cheese is delicious, which in itself, is a great compliment to the softer, salty heart of this Pecorino.
Paired with Quattro Mani Barbera, the Balsamic flavor of the rind is intensified and the red fruit of the young wine partners with the cheese to soften the acidity, and together, the wine tastes as though it has experienced a few years in the bottle. The salty cheese's juniper flavor is mouthwatering, and does not overbear the wine's best qualities, creating a very smooth flavor profile. Absolutely outstanding.