Some of the longest-lived people in the world come from the mountains of Sardinia. Just 250 miles off the Italian coast, Sardinia shares much of its culinary heritage with Naples. Its hundreds of miles of shoreline and hilly interior enjoy the same sunny Mediterranean climate that makes southern Italy a favorite vacation destination. It also boasts more people over the age of 100 than almost anywhere else in the world.
Molecular biologist Dr. Gianni Pes of Italy’s University of Sassari noticed this remarkable longevity and decided to identify the places where people lived the longest. These regions became known as blue zones, areas of longevity far beyond the average. Sardinia contains one blue zone, but so do Loma Linda, California; Okinawa, Japan; and another Mediterranean island locale, Ikaria, Greece.
People in Sardinia, Loma Linda and Okinawa eat vastly different diets, but the proportions of what they eat are similar. In all the blue zones, people eat plenty of whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables with their meals. Fresh salads and greens dressed with olive oil are popular in the Mediterranean blue zones, but they’re also a favorite in California’s longest-lived population.
In Ikaria and Sardinia, tomatoes are a staple and appear with every meal of the day. Tomatoes are rich in antioxidants such as lycopene and high in vitamins A and C, but that isn’t why they’re so beloved in Sardinia; they’re a favorite because they taste delicious fresh or simmered into a savory marinara sauce. Red wine is a perfect foil for tangy sauces and is almost always on the table for dinner. Sardinians also accompany their meals with pecorino cheese from the sheep that graze in the hill country.
People in blue zones also enjoyed seafood. It’s no accident that so many blue zones are in or near coastal communities; seafood’s typically high in omega-3 fatty acids and protein but low in fat. Just as important, though, is that it’s high in flavor, which is why blue-zoners eat it five times a week or more. Mussels, clams, squid and whitefish keep the menu varied for people in blue zones.
For people who’d spent a century or more living in these blue zones, it wasn’t just what was on the plate that mattered. They shared another common bond: They enjoy life with family and friends. Meals are occasions to celebrate and connect with loved ones. Their community sustains them as much as the food they eat and laughter is as important a part of a meal as the wine served with it.
No one can promise that great Italian food, lively company and laughter will help you live longer, but it’s a great way to make sure you enjoy life more. Spend an evening with friends, a bottle of good red wine and a plate of clams Posillipo; and perhaps you too will live for 100 years!
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Oenophiles may assure you that pairing food and wine is an arcane art that only knowledgeable people should try, but the truth is far simpler: let taste be your guide. No one knows better than you what you like, so you’re the best judge of which wines go with your dinner. However, some guidelines will help you narrow down the kinds of wines that make the happiest match with your meal.
Pick wines and foods that evolved together to increase the chances of a felicitous pairing. A great Chianti Classico naturally meshes well with the big, bold flavors of southern Italian cooking because the dish and the drink arose from the same sunny Mediterranean climate. The vintners who grew up enjoying rich, tangy marinara sauces later produced wines that complemented their favorite familiar foods, so choosing wines and foods from the same region is virtually a guarantee of a happy partnership.
Lighter dishes typically go with lighter wines. Full-bodied Super-Tuscan red wines accent a rich, meaty lasagna, but they could overwhelm a more delicate plate of clams Posillipo or lemony veal piccata. Italian dishes often combine big flavors with subtle ones, giving you more pairing options. Consider the peppers, onions and tomatoes in chicken cacciatore; you could choose a bold white wine to accent the tender chicken while standing up to the rich sauce, or you could pick a light-bodied traditional Italian red wine made with Sangiovese grapes to highlight the tangy tomatoes without overpowering the chicken.
Wine pairings generally follow one of two philosophies: creating balance or emphasizing an essential characteristic of the food. Which direction you take depends largely on your taste. A Chardonnay highlights the buttery flavor of chicken Francese; a light, astringent Sauvignon Blanc balances the rich buttery notes and offsets them with crispness. You might enjoy a sweet dessert wine at the end of your meal, or you might prefer a full-bodied, fruity wine that acts as a refreshing counterpoint to a sweet dish. Accentuate the flavor of your food with wines that have similar notes; balance them with wines that go in the opposite direction.
If you’re new to enjoying wine pairings, you may be reluctant to splurge on a whole bottle of an untested wine at dinner. That’s why Carlino’s offers wine by the glass. Sample our cellar’s selection before you make a decision or enjoy the variety that choosing wines by the glass gives you. Impress a business client or a special date by trying a few different wines a week or two before your special occasion, then order a bottle of your favorite for the table on the big night itself.
If you have any questions, Carlino’s knowledgeable staff can answer them. Your server knows every dish on the menu well and can also recommend wine pairings to get you started. Italian food and wines were meant to be together, so have a glass with your dinner and see how much a great wine can add to your enjoyment.Tweet read more
Our last newsletter focused on the bold new Tuscan red wines. This week, take a closer look at the roots of the Super-Tuscan revolution in Italian wines and gain a new appreciation for Chianti.
According to Carlino’s Restaurant patrons, Chianti Classico remains a perennial favorite; given this affable wine’s long history of pairing beautifully with food, it’s no wonder.
The Original Tuscan Red Wine: Chianti Classico
When you think of Tuscan red wines, you might think first of the marvelous Super-Tuscan wines that have taken the wine-loving world by storm for the past decade and a half. The Super-Tuscans couldn’t have evolved into some of the world’s most popular cabernet sauvignon-based wines without their forerunner, Chianti Classico.
Made from Sangiovese grapes, Chianti Classico is Italy’s most famous wine and has been raised to an art form in Tuscany.
The agency that oversees Italian wines, the DOC, sets standards on the percentages of certain grapes that a genuine Chianti may contain. The DOC also delineates where Chianti can be made; a Chianti must come from one of seven provinces in Tuscany. Chianti Classico comes only from the Chianti province within the Toscano region.
The soul of a Chianti or Chianti Classico doesn’t come from a ratio, though; it’s the product of centuries of experimentation. The dark, intense Italian Sangiovese grapes form the wine’s backbone, but the DOC permits a great deal of flexibility with the other grapes used in a Chianti. That’s why these lively wines vary so much, and it’s part of their enduring charm.
Chianti’s bold, bright flavor is such a natural accompaniment to Italian food that the straw-wrapped bottles are still an iconic image next to a plate of spaghetti with marinara sauce. What sets Chianti apart is its blend of red Sangiovese and white Malvasia Blanca grapes more commonly used for white wines. This combination gives Chianti a buoyant fruitiness and lightness that complements everything from pasta to pizza.
Compared to their Super-Tuscan descendants, Chianti and Chianti Classico have an easygoing nature. They’re uncomplicated and cheerful like a convivial dinner with family, while their Super-Tuscan counterparts are more like an elegant dinner party with friends.
Whether it’s an assertive Super-Tuscan with its Cabernet Sauvignon lineage or a fun, fruity Chianti that embraces its Italian roots, the red wines of Tuscany deserve their esteemed place on the table. Carlino’s staff can recommend choice wine pairings for anything on the menu.
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