Barolo and seafood pair well at Il Grecale in Novello (Barolo)

Above: Chef Alessandro Neri of Il Grecale in Novello (Barolo) called this dish of fried Panko-dusted shrimp, served with salsa rosa (mayonnaise, ketchup, Worcestershire, mustard, and brandy), a throw back to the 1980s.

“The following rules should be observed for the proper accordance of wines with meats; with fish white wines; with meat the fuller red wines; at the end of the repast the oldest red wines; and the end of dessert the liqueurs and sparkling white wines.” The Inner Man: Good Things to Eat and Drink and where to Get Them by Daniel O’Connell, 1891.

“The Red Dinner [meat based]… is best served without fish, since the Red Wines seldom accord with fish to most palates… [For] the White Dinner [fish based]… all Red Wines should be excluded.” The Gentleman’s Table Guide: Being Practical Recipes for Wine Cups, American Drinks, Punches, Cordials, Summer & Winter Beverages, by E. Ricket, C. Thomas, 1871.

Above: breaded and fried uncured anchovy “tacos” filled with Jerusalem artichoke paste.

Last week in Barolo, my host and dinner companion Alberto Cordero broke the “cardinal rule” of wine pairing when he treated me and another colleague to dinner at the wonderful Il Grecale in Novello, a hamlet of Barolo village in Piedmont.

The seemingly age-old white wine with fish, red wine with meat chestnut can pose a challenge in places like Piedmont (and Tuscany, for that matter) where the old folks still pair red wine with everything they eat.

But Alberto, whose winery I’m profiling for his U.S. importer, proved the otherwise timeless truism dead wrong by pairing his family’s wonderful Nebbiolos with Chef Alessandro Neri’s superb seafood-focused cooking.

Above: pinch, peel, and suck shrimp served over Ligurian-style corzetti pasta medallions tossed with the crustaceans’ stock and wilted spinach. This dish was extraordinary.

Of course, Alberto’s elegant wines are lithe and nimble in the glass, even in their youth (something that he ascribes in part to the extra bottle aging they undergo before release).

Just a few weeks into 2020, the evening will surely be remembered as one of the best meals of the year.

I loved Chef Neri’s cooking. And in a region where beef is the pièce de résistance around which nearly all meals are centered and composed, it’s great to know that there are piscivore options.

Chef Neri (who, btw, lists all of his suppliers on his website) has white wine on his list as well. But it was wonderful to explore the gastronomic possibilities of rich red wine with lighter-style, playful dishes like his.

Above: too few Americans know the gorgeous, classic-styled wines of Cordero, one of Langa’s oldest winemaking families and owners of one of Barolo’s top growing sites. I love the wines and was thrilled to get to connect with Alberto professionally. Even in its youth, this 2016 made for an excellent dance partner with the food. It was such a great “accordance,” as wine pairing used to be called.

I can’t recommend the restaurant and the pairing highly enough.

The term Grecale denotes the northeastern “spoke” of the wind rose, what we call the Bora in English (Bora can also be used in Italian). In antiquity, sailors believed it originated in Greece (Grecia in Italian), hence the name.

Thank you again, Alberto, for an unforgettable dinner and for sharing your family’s wonderful wines!

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