On the Hunt for the Pecorino Grape #ItalianFWT

Pecorino wine in a Riedel Performance wine glass

Pecorino shows a pretty pale gold in the glass

Is Pecorino the Next Big Thing?
Phoenix rising from the ashes, Cinderella, rags to riches. They all describe the recent arc of the Pecorino Grape in central Italy. Pecorino is an old grape, believed to be indigenous to the Sibillini mountains in the Marche region of Italy. The grape ripens early, and legend says it earned its name because sheep coming out of the mountains in the summer to their fall pastures loved to stop and eat the ripe grapes.

In 2000, there were only only 87 hectares (1 ha = 2.2 acres) planted in all of Italy. My go-to reference on Italian wine has always been “Vino Italiano”, even though it was published back in the early 2000’s; things just don’t change very fast in Italian wine. Vino Italiano had no mention of Pecorino, only a single word map reference to the Offida DOC (which is Pecorino based). The book lists Verdicchio as the only white grape worth knowing from the Marche.

The yearly “Slow Wine” guide is only occasionally available in English, and my 2014 copy does list Pecorino, and elevates one example to their Great Wine status. Today, the grape continues to gain recognition and is now up to 1800 ha! At higher elevations, it shows as light and crisp, gaining fullness and ripe character when planted at more moderate altitude. If you’e like to read more, here are a couple of articles from Wikipedia and Imbibe magazine.

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Pecorino in Minneapolis
Minneapolis is blessed with a number of small independent importers and a vital group of independent wine shops.  I usually have no trouble finding examples of even rare Italian wines in town. Alas, Pecorino has yet to be discovered in Minnesota. After striking out at several independent shops, I was able to find a bottle at Total Wine, thanks to their willingness to put all their stock online.  Several of my favorite indie shops have done this, I sure wish everyone would join in. Hint Hint!

Saladini Pilastri Pecorino white wine

It seems the association of Pecorino and sheep extends to the branding for many producers of the wine!

Saladini Pilastri Pecorino Offida DOCG 2017 ($13 at Total Wine, or online here) 13% abv
Eye: Clear, pale gold color
Nose: Clean, medium+ intensity. Floral, white flowers with underripe pear, peach, with a bit of chalk.
Mouth: Dry, medium intensity flavors. Medium+ acidity with tartness balanced by a nice creamy texture. Medium body with medium alcohol and a nice lingering finish.

Certified organic grape growing. Bottled by Saladini Pilastri in Spinetoli Italy.

Pecorino with Seared Scallops and Risotto
While this Pecorino was more on the light & crisp side, it had refreshing acidity and a nice medium, creamy texture. It went well with the rich umami flavors from the seared scallops, backed by the herb and pea flavored risotto. All in all a delicious meal.

Other Pecorino Posts from Fellow Italian Food, Wine and Travel Bloggers

 

Seared scallops with spring pea risotto paired with Pecorino white wine from Saladini Pilastri

Scallops and risotto are nice and rich, so you’ll appreciate a white wine with a bit of body. Pecorino fits the bill!

Seared Scallops on a Spring Risotto


There are two parts to the texture of a risotto. The texture of the rice kernels should be cooked but still a bit firm with a bit of bite, not mushy. The overall firmness of the dish is up to the cook’s preference. Some prefer their risotto nearly soup-like. Others like it firm enough to mound on its own, or even be molded. Still in all cases the individual kernels should be the same: cooked but not soft & mushy.

Ingredients

  • 12 Dry Scallops, approx. 1.25 lbs
  • 3 Tbsp butter, divided
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup Vialone Nano, Arborio or Carnaroli rice
  • 8 oz. dry white wine
  • 32 oz. poultry stock (homemade is best)
  • 4 oz. Parmigiano Reggiano – finely grated
  • 4 scallions sliced crosswise, including plenty of the green upper section
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • Handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • Several sprigs of a fresh spring herb, mint or basil, chopped

Instructions

  • Start by bringing the stock up to a simmer, just under boiling.
  • Melt 1 Tbsp. butter in a pot large enough to hold your finished risotto, add the onions and cook until they are translucent, just a few minutes.
  • Add 1 Tbsp butter, then add the rice and continue cooking until the rice becomes slightly glossy and translucent, but not browned.  This will only take 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the white wine and stir.  Adjust the heat to keep the liquid at a high simmer. Wait until the liquid is absorbed.
  • After the liquid is absorbed, add a ladle of stock to the rice and stir.  You don’t need to stir constantly.  Some good advice: stir every time you take a sip of wine!
  • Continue to add stock and stirring, 1 ladle at a time, allowing the liquid to be absorbed before adding another ladle.  All the stock will be absorbed in about 20-30 minutes, but you’ll want to judge by tasting the nearly finished rice.
  • Near the end of adding stock, pre-heat a cast iron skillet to a medium heat.
  • Fold in the peas and let them heat through and lightly cook, 1-2 minutes.
  • Add 1 Tbsp butter to the cast iron skillet, add the scallops. Be careful to let each scallop sear for 3 minutes undisturbed.
  • Fold in grated cheese to the risotto, heat and gently stir until it melts.
  • Turn the scallops and sear the other side, again for 3 minutes.
  • Fold the fresh herbs into the risotto just prior to serving.
  • Plate the risotto and immediately add the seared scallops on top.
  • Enjoy with a glass of Pecorino white wine!

Seared scallops and risotto served with Pecorino white wine.

Comments
9 Responses to “On the Hunt for the Pecorino Grape #ItalianFWT”
  1. Pinny Tan says:

    Causal yet elegant pairing – the Saladini Pilastri Pecorino Offida and the perfectly seared scallop.

  2. Lynn says:

    I tasted the Saladini Pilastri Pecorino some time ago. Looking back on tasting notes, both bottles were pretty consistent. Thanks for the reminder of the Slow Wine guide. I was able to down load an English copy to Kindle on my computer but out of sight, out… Their description of Pecorino, aromatic sophistication is right on!

  3. Love a Pecorino. Was in Le Marche last year and got to try lots of great examples. Should have saved the names!

  4. Katarina Andersson says:

    Great that you could find a bottle of Pecorino at last. 🙂

    Yeah, I used Vino Italiano when I taught at a local university here for American students. A bit biased book in my opinion, and very kind of 1990s Robert Parker inspired often. In my opinion, it is not a book really revealing the local reality even in the 1990s ;-)…But that is for another discussion 🙂

  5. Beautiful dish! The pecorino seems to be well priced amongst the group too. I love Vino Italiano as well, but I do find situations like this we need an updated version.

  6. Yum! That scallop dish looks scrumptious. You’re lucky to have such variety of wine available in Minneapolis. It can be a challenge to find less-common bottles in Miami so, when I’m in NYC I take full advantage of the bounty!

  7. crynning says:

    We have a ways to go, but in my book, Pecorino is up front and center as a delicious white wine from Italy. Thanks for the delicious recipe – what a wonderful pairing!

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