Rosé, All Day.

Italy, by wine.

I drink a fair amount of wine.  Like most young bucks, I started off on the sickly sweet and fairly disgusting White Zinfandel, which has given Zins a bad rap then surprisingly switched to really dry Merlot in an effort to be sophisticated... Funny thing is, the Merlot is what hooked me and many years later, I've learned to not only enjoy many different wines, but also to understand the art and science behind wine.

It's Tre Bicchieri Week 2016 and I am excited to see what is the latest and greatest in Italian wines.  Italian wines are a mystery to most people: with over one million vineyards, 350+ varietals, and over 400 appellations, Italian wine is a dizzying business. With over 100 vendors at Tre Bicchieri, reviewing wines can also be a dizzying business if one is not careful; choose carefully, sip cautiously and I highly recommend making use of the spittoon when necessary.  

Italy is the home of big, beautiful reds and in my honest opinion, it's what they are best at.  You are probably most familiar with Chianti as the super tannic, super acidic heavy hitter that you will get on just about any Italian wine list (do not drink Chianti without food...) , but Chianti and it's principal grape, Sangiovese are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.   

In the world of biancos, I've imbibed and enjoyed plenty of Prosecco, wines based on the ubiquitous trebbiano (better known as Ugni Blanc), and even plenty of Pinot Grigio.  Italy is not lacking when it comes to white wines; pick a region and try something new like Friulian (Northeastern Italy) Malvasia Istriana or Tocai Friulano which will be a bright, pleasant floral, herbal surprise for Sauvignon Blanc lovers.  Or maybe try Soave (Veneto, Northeastern Italy) which showcases the volcanic terroir of the Garganega grape and will serve you with plenty of bone dry minerality.

Most Italian wine enthusiasts will go on ad nauseum about the Killer B's: Piedmontese Barolo and Barbaresco (made from the Nebbiolo grape), and Italy's other powerhouse, the oaky Tuscan Brunello di Montalcino, which showcases the Sangiovese grape.  These beauties aren't your everyday swill, often clocking in at over $50/bottle, but definitely worth every penny you will spend.  Why limit yourself?  Italian wines enjoy a huge amount of variety and there's something for every budget.  Other notable wines that deserve a look are the round, raisiny, and robust Amarone della Valpolicella (Northeastern Italy) which employs passito (dried) ones for a port-like flavor, the often lambasted Lambruscos of Emilia-Romagna (North Central Italy) which give a refreshing take on sparkling wines with their acidic tart cherry flavors, and Sicilian Nero d'Avola which is a must if you like very fruit-forward, berry-like reds such as Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon.  

My wine group explored favorite pairings this month, and while the meeting was canceled, I still decided to pay homage to Italy this week in anticipation of Tre Bicchieri.  It's no secret that I love a good, dry rosé so my favorite pairings are more or less anything that goes with it.  Also in the spirit of Italy, I am pairing my favorite italian rosé, the Argiolas Serra Lori Rosato Isola dei Nuraghi IGT with another Italian favorite, Lidia Bastianich's roast chicken.  This was a big hit in my house as it closed out the month of meatless January with a big bang.  

The principal grape in the Serra Lori is Sardinian Cannonau, which is more widely known as Garnacha/Grenache followed by Monica, Carignano, and Bovale Sardo, all Sardinian red varietals.  The wine is tangy and ever-so-slightly frizzante, meaning it's effervescent to the tongue.  It also has beautiful candy apple hue to it.  The acidity is strong, but not biting and it showcases fruit more than anything else.  It's easy to drink on its own, but we're gonna pair it up with a lovely roast chicken.   

 

Roast Chicken, inspired by Lidia Bastianich

Tools

  • 6 quart or more roasting pan
  • Tongs
  • Meat thermometer
  • Kitchen twine to truss the bird

Goods

  • One 3.5-5 pound whole frying chicken (organic and free range is best; a fryer should be without giblets, but if not make sure to remove.  I boil them up and feed them to my cats) 
  • A lot of softened butter (about 8 tablespoons)
  • 3-4 lemons
  • Basil, chopped finely or fresh rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons of salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons of black pepper
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3-4 bay leaves

Preheat the oven to 350º F.  Zest the lemons and mix the zest with the butter, salt, basil, and pepper.  Cut the lemons in half, and set aside. Drain the chicken of all liquid and pat dry with a paper towel.  Pull the skin away from the chicken, especially around the breast and thighs, and massage it with the butter mixture, being sure to butter the chicken all over.  Butter the inside of the chicken cavity and place cut lemons bay leaves, and garlic cloves inside the cavity.  Truss the chicken (mine was a lazy trussing) with kitchen twine and place in the oven, uncovered for approximately two hours.  Check the chicken around 1.5 hours in to see if the skin has browned and adjust the cooking time accordingly. The chicken is done when a meat thermometer reads 175ºF when placed in the meatiest part of the thigh or leg, but I like my chicken quite cooked, so I'm happy with a 180ºF reading.

Let the chicken rest for at least ten minutes before slicing and serving.  You can also deglaze the pan drippings with a bit of Noilly Prat vermouth for a wonderful lemony sauce to serve over rice.  Just be sure to skim off some of the fat first.  Feast with a very chilled glass of rosé; this easily feeds four to six.