I’m a sucker for a theme, I’ll be the first to admit it. I love halloween, costume parties, and especially to choose a country and region to focus my eating and drinking. And during the time of covid it’s getting worse. Being stuck in one place without the option of international travel has made me settle for alternating food and beverage themes for each meal. One night I’ll be cooking a French feast of Boeuf Bourguignon, drinking the regional wines to match, and the next I’ll be grilling Sai Ua, a Northern Thai sausage, drinking Thai beer as an accompaniment. It doesn’t stop there, as the music follows suit as well, and a wall projector shoots images of wherever the subject of the night is onto the wall. I don’t know, maybe it’s a sickness, a longing to go far and wide, but it helps me to travel in my mind for the meantime.
Tonight’s theme is Italy, and more specifically Lazio. Lesser known internationally than the superstar-region of Tuscany, Lazio sits just to its south, right at the shin of Italy’s boot. Rome lies more or less in the middle of the region and just a two hour drive north brings you to Le Coste, at the northernmost point of Lazio.
Le Coste is run by Gianmarco Antonuzzi and Clémentine Bouveron, a husband and wife team who previously worked together in Alsace. After they eloped, they moved near the Gianmarco’s hometown village of Gradoli, where they purchased a 3 hectare plot of abandoned land. The property has expanded to 14 hectares, not only filled with grapevines, but also olive and chestnut trees, and woodlands. Procanico, Moscato, Malvasia, Vermentino, along with several other varietals, are used for the white and skin contact wines, and for the reds and rosato, Aleatico, Ciliegio, Canaiolo, Colorino, Vaiano and Grechetto Rosso (“Greghetto” by Le Coste) are used. This Grechetto Rosso is said to be a local variation of Sangiovese, but DNA testing remains unconfirmed. Biodynamic agriculture is practiced in the vineyard, harvests are done by hand, wines ferment spontaneously by native yeast, and no SO2 is used.
The 2015 Le Coste Rosso R is a particularly special wine, as it is only produced in the best years. It is made up of the aforementioned Grechetto Rosso from old vines, partially destemmed, fermented on the skins in chestnut vats before being transferred to French demi-muids to age for 12 months, followed by an additional 12 months of aging in bottle before its release. Ultra-expressive in the glass, the wine gives off aromas of medicinal cherry, toasted star anise, and dark chocolate, and fine, but grippy, tannins and a lush texture give the wine an overall opulence.
But a good wine needs good food, and regional pasta specially Bucatini all'Amatriciana is the way to go. The sauce is traditionally made with guanciale, tomato, onion, red chili flakes, and locally produced Pecorino cheese. Together, the wine and food create a whirlwind of flavors and textures, balancing savory and spicy notes off of eachother and softening the edges off their counterpart.
Does food and wine get better than this? I don’t know, but today, in my Lazian dream, I’m sitting at an outdoor table on the back porch of some ancient stone villa at dusk, the sun barely dipping below the horizon, enjoying both food and wine, and the answer is no. This is paradise.
Listening Suggestion: Dean Martin - Volare