Honoring Italy with Umbrian Wines, Pasta Amatriciana and #Winestudio

Let’s Help the Recent Victims of the Earthquake in Italy
Through our friends at Protocol Wine Studio (more of that story below), I had a too personal experience with the recent earthquake in Italy.  This post is dedicated to those in Italy affected by the earthquake. We can all help by donating to relief, but there’s a great way to have fun doing it!

Enjoy a bowl of Pasta Amatriciana and make a donation!

Enjoy a bowl of Pasta Amatriciana and make a donation!

Steps to Join in
Here’s what you do, shared from Mike’s Virtual Sagra post:

  1. Donate to earthquake relief – suggestions:
  2. Cook Amatriciana, or order it at a restaurant
  3. Open any Central Italian red wine (or appropriately-themed beverage)
  4. Take photo
  5. Share as widely as possible on social media with #VirtualSagra

I made Pasta Amatriciana (below), then I made a contribution to the Italian Red Cross.

Hint: Google Chrome automatically translates pages, making the contribution quick and easy.  Please join us!

Wine Studio and Central Italy
I participated in Protocol Wine Studio’s August program, which featured wines from two lesser known regions in Italy: Marche and Umbria. Part of the program is a weekly Twitter chat on Tuesday evenings along with virtual tastings. As fate would have it, we were chatting the night of the earthquake and I even saw a tweet announcing the event. I made a light earthquake related comment during the chat, only to find out the next day how devastating the quake was. I felt badly about my off-hand remark, so when the #VirtualSagra idea came out, I knew I needed to participate. The town of Amatrice, one the towns most affected in the quake is officially in the Lazio region, but it is up in the mountains and is very close to nearby Umbria, Marche and Abruzzo. How fitting to make the dish with wines from the Wine Studio chats from neighbors in the region!

Castello di Magione wines

Castello di Magione wines

Umbrian Wines from Castello di Magione
Umbria definitely falls into the “under-the-radar” category among Italian regions. One of the few Italian regions entirely inland with no coast, it seems to be largely forgotten territory. Fortunately for our Wine Studio group, we had the opportunity to sample some new Umbrian wines courtesy of R&R Marketing in San Diego and Fritz Winery and a somewhat mysterious connection to the Order of Malta charity. The Castello di Magione is a Medieval castle originally built and owned by the Knights Templar, retaining a connection today. The castle and vineyards overlook Lake Trasimeno and they make some beautiful wines!

Castello di Magione Grechetto "Monterone"

The Castello di Magione Grechetto “Monterone” was quite full bodied and stood up to our pasta nicely

Castello di Magione Grechetto Colli di Trasimeno DOC “Monterone” 2013 ($25 SRP)
Eye: Clear, medium gold color
Nose: Clean, floral nose with citrus and a little beeswax
Mouth: Medium+ body, nice and rich. Medium+ or even high acidity but buffered by that full body. Lemons with a mineral note and a touch of bitter almond in the finish.

Castello di Magione Sangiovese

The Castello di Magione Sangiovese was a nice everyday table wine.

Castello di Magione Sangiovese IGT Umbria 2014 ($20 SRP)
Eye: Clear, bright ruby red.
Nose: Clean, tart cherry fruit, simple but very nice.
Mouth: Tart red fruit with lively acidity, low tannins. Nice with meals, a very nice lunchtime wine.

Super Umbrian

The Castello di Magione Morcinaia was a pretty serious red wine in the “Super Umbrian” category

Castello di Magione Morcinaia Colli del Trasimeno DOC Rosso Scelto 2008 ($40 SRP)
This wine is described as Castelo di Magione’s “Super Umbrian” a takeoff on the Super Tuscan concept of an Italian wine made from tradition Bordeaux (gasp!) grapes with lots of Bordeaux style attention paid to the wine, like new barriques for aging. The Bordeaux grapes were evident, but this wine didn’t go over the top as so many Super Tuscans do.

Eye: Clear, medium+ intensity ruby red, cool toned edge
Nose: Clean, medium+ intensity deep ripe red and blue fruits,
Mouth: Medium acidity, medium tannins, nice red fruit and medium+ body. Cedar and vanilla notes from the oak, but well integrated with time. Nicely balanced with a depth of flavor and medium+ body. Not jammy at all, very nice.

pasta amatriciana with wines from Castello di Magione

The town of Amatrice is very close to the border with Umbria, so these wines are from the neighborhood!

Pairing with Pasta Amatriciana
How did the wines fare with the Pasta Amatriciana? First, the guanciale lends an intense, clearly Italian savory pork flavor to the pasta, with the red pepper providing just a bit of heat.  The Grechetto was very good for a white wine choice. It had sufficient body to stand up to the flavors and the acidity to cleanse the palate. The red wine winner was the Morciana. Its deep flavors and balanced texture seemed at home with the savory pork flavor of the guanciale. The tannins were well enough softened to not clash with the spice of the red pepper.

winestudio_amatriciana_umbria 20160830 69

Pasta Amatriciana – Don’t Forget the Pasta
I investigated a number of recipes for my Amatriciana, landing on this one, from Mario Batali.

  1. First, pasta choice. Many people, including Mario, have picked bucatini, but I found this was a version popular in Rome.  In Amatrice (according to my research) spaghetti is preferred.
  2. Guanciale. What’s guanciale? It’s a bit like bacon or pancetta, but it comes from the cheek of the pig. When you see it, you might gasp; it appears to be about 90% fat. Don’t be dissuaded, buy it! If forced, use pancetta. Bacon is a distant cousin and misses the key flavor of the Italian ingredients.
Rusticella d"Abruzzo pasta

Pass on the Creamettes, and invest an extra dollar or two on artisan pasta from Italy. You’ll taste the difference.

A key maxim of Italy pasta cooking is this:

  • The sauce is a “condiment” and should not overwhelm the pasta. Good pasta needs to be the centerpiece of the dish!

Like all Italian cooking, a good cook pays close attention to high quality ingredients.

Note: Thanks to WineStudio, R&R Marketing and Fritz Winery for arranging to provide the wines! All opinions expressed are mine.

Local Sources
Broder’s Cucina Italiana has an excellent selection of cured meats, cheeses, fresh and dry pasta for your Italian cooking needs, including guanciale, Rustichella d’Abruzzo pasta and aged Pecorino Romano cheese!

sagra amatriciana


4 Responses to “Honoring Italy with Umbrian Wines, Pasta Amatriciana and #Winestudio”
  1. SPQR says:

    Kudos for your article on Umbria. I’ve seen the promotion to aid the people of Amatrice, which as you note is not in Umbria. As to the bucatini all’amatriciana, I generally like what Batali does but the onion in the recipe seems to be a Roman adjunct. Try it without the onion and certainly without the garlic. Use whole canned Italian tomatoes and add the pecorino Romano to the sauce before you put in the pasta. It’s much tastier and simpler, probably closer to the original. Also feel free to use regular spaghetti. They’re less messy to eat.

    • Thanks so much for visiting, what a treat to get a comment from SPQR! Thanks for the advice on my next try with Amatriciana. I’m always interested in trying to get an understanding of what the authentic dish is. Cheers!

  2. Vino Travels says:

    I’m glad we pulled together for the #virtualsagra to make a difference. Looks like you had a wonderful tasting of Umbria.

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