Just as Piedmont’s cuisine is not the stereotypical marinara and mozzarella staples Americans usually think of as Italian food, neither are the wines. Although perhaps not as ubiquitous as Chianti, the rich, lusty wines of the region are not hard to find once you look for them.
Red-Wine Risotto is the perfect, simple dish to let Marchesi di Gresy Camp Gros Barbaresco Martinenga 2001 ($70) shine. The black cherry, licorice and soft cinnamon notes of the wine will synch up nicely with the risotto, while its cheesy richness will tame the tannins and unlock the fruit. Many pros say to cook with the wine you are pairing, but there is no need to go to that expense with this dish, as long as you cook with a quality wine.
The mushroom and rosemary flavors of Hunter’s Chicken Stew are pulled out by the juicy acidity of Marchesi di Barolo Barbera d’Alba Ruvei 2006 ($16)—a wine that’s soft in the mouth and deliciously earthy and plummy. The perfect match for Italian Hazelnut Cookies is Paolo Saracco’s Moscato d’Asti 2007 ($17)—lightly sparkling, light in alcohol and apricot-scented—a pleasure-trip in a glass. One taste of this combo and you will need a regular "fix."
If you’re not familiar with Greek wines, look for specific grape varietals on the wine labels. Whites to watch out for include the indigenous grape Moscofilero, spicy and bold, or the minerally, dry wines made with Assyrtiko. For a fruity red, look for Agiorgitiko; for more robust flavor, try the richly flavored Xinomavro. Opa!
The earthy richness of Roasted Eggplant & Feta Dip screams for a red wine. Try Boutari’s Naoussa Grande Reserve 2001 ($20), spicy and earthy on its own, but when paired with the dip, its deep plummy fruit is unlocked.
One sip of Antonopoulos Moscofilero 2006 ($17) and you’ll swear you are tasting the fennel and cinnamon flavors from Butternut Squash Pilaf in the wine.
My foolproof wine tip for all Moroccan fare is: rosé, rosé, rosé! Those from southern France are completely dry with crisp acidity, red fruit flavors and spice (think red-wine complexity with white-wine weight and refreshment) and are a natural match for Moroccan dishes, particularly because the food of both regions have cross-pollinated for centuries. These recipes are no exception, combining Provençal staples like preserved lemons and tomatoes with North African seasonings, such as ras el hanout and harissa. (Do watch for Moroccan wines, though—particularly reds from the Carignan grape—which are slowly trickling into the market.)
The sweet notes in Fish Couscous with Onion T’faya are balanced by the lively acidity of Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé 2007 ($37)—which is also a delightful match for the spicy Okra & Chickpea Tagine.
The gamy and olive flavors of Kefta pair nicely with the juicy cherry fruit and hint of savoriness in Chapoutier Côtes du Rhône Belleruche Rosé 2006 ($15)—a wine largely made up of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre grapes.