Soave Classico: Gini La Frosca 2012 – Pairing Rating: 9.0 out of 10.0
Fiano di Avellino: Clelia Romano Colli di Lapio 2012 – Pairing Rating: 9.0
I once went to brunch in NY City where the menu offered Hangover Pasta. The name itself sent everything else on the menu into the shadows. I had to order it; and it was delicious! A runny, sunny-side up egg over linguini sauced with Gruyere cheese and bacon lardons. Cut into that yolk to finish saucing the pasta, and the earth moves. Pasta Alfredo collides with bacon & egg.
But not so fast, Luigi! This dish, as described above, was just a poser for the real deal: Carbonara – the original, artful way to combine and serve the same ingredients. Marcella Hazan calls it “unmistakably Roman”. So tackling Carbonara is what I set out to do . . . as well as face the challenge of finding a wine pairing for this egg and pasta dish.
The Internet is replete with Carbonara recipes and they are all pretty much the same. Combine beaten eggs with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and black pepper . . . and toss with the hot pasta, allowing the heat from the pasta to “cook” the egg/cheese mixture. Throw in some cooked pancetta or bacon lardons and you have it. A simple recipe of few ingredients, thereby demanding that they be very fresh. Serve the dish immediately so the sauce can retain its creaminess.
Pairing wine with eggs is not always easy. But in this recipe, the cheese is the lead actor, upstaging the egg, while the pork bits deliver a smoky, crunchy texture that the pasta calls out for. In deference to the Hangover Pasta recipe, I made the dish with Gruyere cheese; and then made a second version with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Gruyere is a high-end Swiss that is firm, pale-yellow, with a nutty creaminess. Parmigiano-Reggiano, on the other hand, is drier, saltier and bolder. Both cheeses work well with this dish, but pair with different wines.
With the Gruyere, I chose a Soave Classico Superiore by Gini ($30). This is not the Bolla you may have binged on in college. No, this is wine that will impress for its round, creamy texture backed by ripe melon, pear and appley flavors. It is produced from 100% Garganega in the Veneto region east of Verona. Unlike some Soaves, Gini chose to barrel-ferment some percentage of the wine to make it richer. I thought this Soave complemented the creaminess of the Gruyere-based sauce beautifully, without overwhelming its delicacy.
For the bolder Parmigiano-based sauce, I reached for a Fiano di Avellino Colli di Lapio by Clelia Romano 2012 ($28). This wine is produced in the Campania region, east of Napoli. If you read my earlier post called Grilled Sesame-Crusted Tuna (December 2013), I also recommended a Fiano. This Italian white is bolder than the Soave, delivering refreshing acidity with an apple-pear-hazelnut finish. It stands up to the Parmigiano sauce in a way the Soave can’t. But it doesn’t deliver the creamy, roundness offered by the Soave.
If your tastes call out for a more subdued Carbonara, go with the Gruyere-based sauce and the Soave Superiore. But if you are looking to make a bolder statement, go with the Parmigiano-based sauce and the Fiano di Avellino. Both make an impressive brunch or light dinner dish, whether you have a hangover or not!