What Wine Goes With Octopus? A Sardinian Investigation #ItalianFWT
I love octopus as a menu item in restaurants and often order it, but I’ve never attempted it at home. After a call to our local Coastal Seafoods, where the fishmonger assured me I could handle it, I was all in. Maybe you will be too! If you have enjoyed calamari, you should try octopus, and baby octopus is the perfect way to start.
Sardinia and #ItalianFWT
This month, our #ItalianFWT group is virtually traveling to the island of Sardegna (Sardinia), far into the Mediterranean Sea. Hard to believe it’s still part of Italy! Anyway, with all that coastline, I thought I could surely find a great octopus dish to try. And, of course, a nice selection of new wines to pair with it.
I understand there are fabulous beaches in many parts of Sardegna. If you look at the satellite photo below, you’ll see that Sardegna also has verdant green interior and even some mountain peaks covered with snow, even in the summertime.
Sardinian Wines for Octopus
Sardinian wines use grapes familiar and less so. For whites, Vermentino is common. Lucky for us foreigners, the grape name is used in at least some of the DOC designations on the island. Another typical white wine is made from the autochthonous grape Nuragus. I’ve never heard of that one!
The most common red wine is labeled “Cannonau”. Seems unusual at first until you find out Cannonau is another name for Grenache, used in wines all over Europe. Carignan is also made, called Carignano here. Last, we also found red wine made from the Monica grape, purported to be a lighter bodied red.
Cantina Santa Maria La Palma “Aragosta” Vermentino di Sardegna DOC 2014 ($14 at France 44)
Eye: Clear, light straw yellow in color.
Nose: Very nice crisp floral notes, and very clean smelling.
Mouth: Medium body with crisp acidity but not all the way to tart. While crisp, this Vermentino had a bit more body than those from cooler regions of Italy.
Argiolas Nuragus di Sardegna DOC 2012 ($17 at Solo Vino Wines)
Eye: Deep yellow in color
Nose: Rich, not oaky but a very rich nose
Mouth: Again, not buttery but definitely rich and full bodied, implies a buttery character.
I didn’t love it at first, but it grew on me. Retains good acidity. Nice replacement for a full bodied Chardonnay, and what a beautiful color!
Argiolas “Costera” Cannonau di Sardegna DOC 2010 ($13 at Sunfish Cellars)
Eye: Clear, medium dark red color with bluish edge.
Nose: Ripe and full on the nose, deep red fruit with some spicy herbal notes.
Mouth: Luscious and ripe, full bodied. No real vanilla notes, but obvious use of oak.
Wine Pairing Results with Polpo Agliata
Baby octopus in a tomato/garlic/red wine vinegar sauce makes a very flavorful bruschetta topping at apertivo time. I use homemade red wine vinegar which is very intense in flavor, and I may have added a bit more than needed, as it dominated the flavor of the dish. Still, it was fun and refreshing on a hot summer day.
How about the wines? Initially put-off by the Nuragus, we didn’t try it with the food on day one. The Vermentino was very nice with the octopus bruschetta as its medium body yet crisp acidity stood up to the tart vinegar & garlic sauce and provided a fresh palate cleansing finish.
Italians never hesitate to pair red wine with seafood, however this particular Cannonau wasn’t perfect with the octopus. The wine was quite ripe and rich and the contrast with the tart, bright acidity from the red wine vinegar just didn’t seem right. We enjoyed the Cannonau more with grilled red meat the next day.
We had leftover octopus on day two, and the surprise wine pairing winner was the Nuragus di Sardegna we had passed over on day one. Its full body stood up best to the intense flavors in the octopus, while it still possessed plenty of fresh palate cleansing ability at the finish. Lesson: give the wine a chance!
Interested in more Sardinian Cooking?
There aren’t very many Sardinian region cookbooks floating around, but this one is packed with good ideas. I adapted the octopus dish from a recipe in this book. You may also find other variations by searching online.
The Sardinian Cookbook by Viktorija Todorovska
Other Italian Food, Wine & Travel Posts #ItalianFWT
Vino Travels – The Native Grapes of Sardinia with Argiolas Cannonau
Italophia – How I was “Swept Away” in Sardinia
Enofylz – Sardinia Style Seafood Paella and Cantina di Gallura Canayli Vermentino #ItalianFWT
Vino in Love – Exploring Sardinian Wine
Rockin Red Blog – Mountainous Food & Wine of Sardegna
Confessions of a Culinary Diva – The Food & Wine of Sardegna
Cooking Chat – Summer Spaghetti with Garlicky Shrimp and a Vermentino
Culinary Adventures with Camilla – Grano Saraceno Risotto con Funghi e Miele
Note: sized for sharing as an apertivo portion. Serve by itself or toast some baguette slices and enjoy the octopus as bruschetta. Recipe adapted from The Sardinian Cookbook by Viktorija Todorovska Ingredients Instructions
Polpo Agliata = Octopus in Garlic Sauce
Note: sized for sharing as an apertivo portion. Serve by itself or toast some baguette slices and enjoy the octopus as bruschetta.
Recipe adapted from The Sardinian Cookbook by Viktorija Todorovska