As summer heats up, our love for red wine can often diminish. Red wines are often considered a heavy winter drink perfect for roast meats and hearty stews, which can be true of some vintages. But summer is an exciting time to enjoy Tuscany’s famed Sangiovese grapes bottled in many surprising guises to tempt everyone’s taste buds and all year round.
Summer time also means local food markets full of plump deep red tomatoes, golden pink ripe peaches and zucchini with their yellow flower still intact; it’s an incredible time to get into the kitchen and produce flavoursome dishes. Below is a suggested four-course meal with summer influences and wine pairings to match. Happy summer indeed!
Antipasto – Beef carpaccio with Beets and Peaches
Tuscany is famous for its quality meats and a light starter of thinly cut beef sirloin is ideal. Layer fresh slices of meat on a plate and top with diced roasted beets and fresh peaches (delicious during the Tuscan summer) that have been seasoned with a little extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. Or combine peaches with duck and yellow peppers. These sweet/savoury combinations work great with the salty meats and this dish pairs beautifully with a rosé wine like Rosato Le Due Arbie. Replace beef with pieces of goat’s cheese for a zesty vegetarian dish.
Primo – Pici All’Aglione
Pici is a Tuscan pasta, thick spaghetti-style, with its origins near the town of Siena. Tomatoes are in season in summer so an easy sauce infused with garlic and chilli makes a simple but flavorsome pasta course. Pici All’Aglione is made using fresh tomatoes cooked with lots of cloves of garlic (some recipes call for one clove per person!) and fresh chilli tossed into the freshly-cooked pici pasta. This dish pairs well with an IGT Rosso wine, such as Dievole’s Divertimento, which is young and fruity, a light red perfect for lunch or simple pasta dishes.
Secondo – BBQ grill
Summer is the great time to enjoy meats grilled on an outside flame. Pork or chicken are lighter meats however beef and lamb work equally well too. Meats should be lightly coated in extra virgin olive oil and a dash of salt before grilling then served with side dishes of seasonal tomatoes with basil; lightly boiled asparagus with shavings of aged pecorino cheese; and a green salad with extra virgin olive oil. For vegetarians, thick slices of eggplant and zucchini work well on the grill dressed with fresh olive oil and thyme. The best ever wine for a BBQ grill is Chianti Classico Riserva Novecento with its robust palette, jammy fruit flavours yet dry finish working well with juicy meats.
Dolce – Anything with Vin Santo!
Vin Santo has its origins dating as long as wine has been made in Italy yet it’s said this sweet wine was used during mass which is where it takes its name. Although grapes are harvested at the usual time around September, Vin Santo is made by first drying the grapes, traditionally white wine varieties like Trebbiano and Malvasia, for three to four months to intensify the sugars in the fruit before beginning the wine making fermentation process then resting the liquid in 50 liter wood barrels for four years. This amber nectar is sweet with notes of apricot, almonds and honey served typically in Tuscany as a desert – you often find it matched with cantucci, a hard, dry almond biscuit. Occhio di Pernice is a prestigious variant of Vin Santo using red Sangiovese grapes which pairs well with pieces of dried pineapple and rich dark chocolate for a light, sweet treat.
If you’re a pudding aficionado, the Tiramisù with Dievole Rosato and strawberries is a seasonal dessert to try and enjoy.
Digestive – Grappa
Grappa is a drink traditionally enjoyed at the end of a long Italian meal; this strong, high-proof spirit will help digest all that lovely food you have just enjoyed. Made by taking the grape skins leftover after the wine making process, these are reused by distilling in alcohol creating a 40-45% liquor normally clear in colour with summer berry notes and a raisin flavour. Grappa can also be aged in wood barrels to then give a golden colour and dryer finish. For the adventurous, try a caffé corretto, an espresso with a shot a grappa, for an after dinner drink you won’t forget.