Wine appreciation

Tosca offers chance to learn about wines of Italy, with regional dishes to match

Don't know your nebbiolo from your nero d'Avola? A Hong Kong restaurant can set you straight one region at a time - and you've got all year!

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 April, 2015, 4:32pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 April, 2015, 3:12pm

Italian restaurant Tosca at the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong has a novel way for diners to learn more about Italian wines this year.

From now until December, every Saturday lunchtime, gourmets and budding wine aficionados can venture to a different wine region, sampling wines that are paired with dishes created by chef Pino Lavarra at the two- Michelin-star restaurant.

Called Giro D’Italia, each month is dedicated to a different area. For example, this month the focus is on food and wine from Tuscany. In July it is Sicily's turn; September features the Veneto, while Piedmont wines and cuisine feature in October and November.

Lavarra develops the menus using ingredients specific to each area, cooking some dishes in classic style but presenting them in a contemporary way, or interpreting a traditional dish using alternative cooking techniques.

As we well know, its people have strong personalities and this translates into its wines
Wine educator J.C. Viens

Last month featured wines from Abruzzo and Marche that were very accessible and easy-drinking. They were complemented with such dishes as veal, cauliflower and Ascolana olive fritters matched with 2013 Pecorino Collezione, Zavatti IGT, Abruzzo; a perfectly cooked scorpion fish Anconetana style paired with 2011 La Monacesca Verdicchio di Matelica Riserva ‘Mirum’ DOCG, Marche; and roast guinea fowl with potacchio sauce, which was very tender  and went well with the 2011 Fattoria Nicodemi, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo ‘Notari’ Colline Teramane DOCG, Abruzzo.

The menu for April includes Topinambur parmigiana, anchovies and creamy chickpeas; codfish Livornese with crushed potato, and for dessert, creamy chestnut, marron glacé and olive oil pear.

J. C. Viens, a senior wine educator recently appointed Vinitaly Italian wine ambassador, believes Tosca’s wine programme this year helps “introduce wines that are often too overlooked for more well-known regions, but offer extremely good value and are lip-smacking in themselves”.

He also approves of the food and wine pairings, saying presenting dishes typical of each of the regions helps offer a complete experience.

While he admits Italian wines may be difficult to learn because their names can be hard to pronounce and are produced from so many different grape varieties, Viens encourages diners and wine enthusiasts not to be shy about trying and discovering Italian wines.

“As we well know, its people have strong personalities and this translates into its wines. Strong personalities not only give us a strong emotion, but they very often touch our soul for a long time afterwards,” he says. “Italian wines are the same, and they are created out of a deep passion for the land they are from and they are especially designed to drink with food.”

Giro D’Italia is available every Saturday from noon to 2.30pm until December 2015. The price is HK$598 per person for a three-course menu with wine pairing, or HK$698 per person for a four-course menu with wine pairing. For reservations call 2263 2270.

Italian wine classifications

Like the French, the Italians have wine appellations - four, to be exact: 

VDT stands for Vino da tavola, literally table wine. However, as in France, some top wines fall foul of appellation rules and so are classified VDT. One of the world’s most famous and expensive wines, Tignanello, made by Antinori, is a Chianti Classico that can not be called Chianti Classico because it contains too much cabernet sauvignon.

IGT stands for indicazione geografica tipica, or typical geographical indication. It was introduced to define wines that don't qualify as DOC or DOCG (see below).

DOC stands for denominazione d'origine controllata, or controlled appellation origin. It is the equivalent of the French AOC. DOC wines are produced in specific regions according to specific rules made to keep alive traditional winemaking techniques.

DOCG stands for denominazione d'origine controllata garantita, or DOC guaranteed. This is similar to DOC but with more stringent rules. These require lower grape yields and approval by a tasting panel before bottling.