On our last night in Florence, Nancy took me to one of her old favorites (she knows the town well), Cammillo Trattoria, on the Borgo San Jacopo. It’s a comfy set of small tables in a series of low-ceiling rooms. The kitchen is up front and we got a nice quiet table all the way in the back.
We started with some beef carpaccio with arugula and parmesan. Our next course was pasta—the classic tagliatelle with porcini for Nancy and tortellini in curry for me—a nice change of pace that rewards those adventurous enough to order it. Some fried coniglio followed that, and we chased it all down with a bottle of Antinori Toscana Tignanello 2003. On its own, the Tignanello was sleek and pure, with very refined tannins and a silky finish. With the food, however, it took more of a back seat, rather than the lead.
That got Nancy and I debating the merits of California versus French versus Italian wines and food. My hypothesis was that California wines dominated food—maybe a 70/30 split with the wine leading the way. Not necessarily a bad thing but just the way it is. You could liken it to the lead guitar in a four-person rock group.
French wines, with classic pairings like Châteauneuf and lamb or red Bordeaux and prime rib, are great matches because the flavors in the food and wine play off each other. More of a 50/50 split. Like a Max Roach drumline working with a hard bop horn section.
Then, looking back on all the meals we had so far this week, I felt that Italian wine melded into the food more. It matched well but seemed content to play a more supportive role, as with the Tignanello. Maybe even a 30/70 split the other way—the opposite of Californian wines and just shy of the role of French wines.
Nancy agreed but argued that was the strength of Italian wines: They amplify the food without intruding. A contrabass to an orchestra’s string section, if you will.
Of course it's silly to lump the wines from all three countries into such basic groups, as there will always be plenty of exceptions. But as a general theory, I’d be curious as to how you perceive the food matching abilities and qualities of Californian, French and Italian wines. Is one inherently better, or are they all different in how they display their various strengths?
|Bacchus knew how to party back in the day. I’m hoping to honor that tradition this week in the hills of Tuscany.|