Posted by: tomciocco | February 6, 2011

OLTREPO` PAVESE AND THE THREE CHEESES

This rainy Saturday included enough domestic chores and out-of-the house errands, that cooking a proper dinner didn’t seem to be  temporally feasible, and along our route there was cheese, so cheese (and bread, fruit, and nuts) it was for this evening’s repast. 

I followed my usual cheese-scheme which is comprised of three different pieces from as narrow a region as I can manage (i.e. three Spanish cheeses is good, but three Catalan or Basque or Asturian cheeses is better) from each of the three milks (cow, goat, sheep). This time though it wasn’t Spain, but Italy.

The wine was an Oltrepo` Pavese (ol-tre-PO pa-VEH-zeh) whose name, with the proper decoding, means from a zone on the other side of the Po` river near the city of Pavia, which geographically is located in southernmost Lombardia and a bit of northern Emilia as well. Wines labeled as Oltrepo` Pavese that don’t specify a single, particular grape, are typically blends of Croatina and Barbera, as well as other varieties (this one is 35% Croatina, 35% Barbera, 15% Uva Rara, 10% Pinot Noir, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon). OP is one of the Italian wine zones that stand out as “If these were only better known…” wines. The problem is that if they were better known (and readily available) they’d cost a lot more, so savor the obscurity.

The cheeses were: Brunet (a tangy, funky, soft, bloomy rind goat cheese from Piedmont), Gran Pecorino Sardo (a Parmigiano meets aged Gouda cheese with the pungency of sheep’s milk from Sardinia), and a Salva Cremasca (a pale, mushroomy, rubbery/crumbly textured pure cow’s milk cheese from Lombardia). The wine did best with the Pecorino, with the Salva a close second, and the Brunet a somewhat expectedly distant third – as a rule, goat cheeses do best with whites or very light, acidic reds…

Vercesi del Castellazzo Oltrepo` Pavese “Pezzalunga” 2009

Vivid, deep magenta/garnet color. Rich and slightly smoky nose of confettura, plum, wood spice, and a delicate and elegant perfumey florality. In the mouth the wine is big, smooth, and plush, with a velvety texture, but still very well structured by ample tannins and a zippy acidity that carry contoured flavors of crushed berries, currants, and black grape jelly. Finishes with good length and warmth.

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