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  • Writer's pictureCulinary Cam

A Cheese Board Anchored on a Trio of Italian Cheeses + A Pinot Nero from Alto Adige #ItalianFWT

This month the Italian Food Wine Travel group is looking at Italian cheese with Deanna of Asian Test Kitchen at the lead. Read her invitation here. She includes a great rundown of Italian cheeses and their sales data in the United States.

All of the posts will be live between Friday, December 2nd and the morning of Saturday, December 3rd. Here's the line-up...

I decided to create a cheese board anchored on three different Italian cheeses that I picked up at a local market. Here we go...

Bocconcino Di Langa

Bocconcino means 'little mouthful' and this is made by Caseficio dell'Alta Langa. Based between Alba and Cortemilla, in Northern Italy, this operation specializes in making Italian cheeses using traditional recipes but with modern production methods. Bocconcino is a goat's milk cheese with the addition of cream. It's then aged for about ten days. Since one traditional way to serve this cheese if wrapped in prosciutto, I placed small prosciutto rosettes around the Bocconcino.

Gorgonzola Dolce

I have always been a fan of bleu cheeses and the Italian version is Gorgonzola whose two varieties are Gorgonzola Dolce and Gorgonzola Piccante. The dolce is the less aged of the two; both are made from cow's milk. The Gorgonzola Dolce that I picked up had a pale yellow body with blue and green veins. It was creamy, mild, and - true to its name - sweet. I placed it next to some salted nuts and fresh golden kiwis.

Bel Paese

This semi-soft cheese was created in the early twentieth century in a small town called Melzo in the Lombardy region. Its name means 'beautiful country' and is said to refer to a book by Antonio Stoppani though - much, much earlier - Dante and Petrarch also use that phrase to describe Italy. Bel Paese is a cow's milk cheese that ages for six to eight weeks. It pairs nicely with lighter red wines that are fruit-forward.

Abbazia di Novacella Pinot Nero 2021

And now we get to the Italian wine that I poured to accompany these Italian cheeses. I selected the Abbazia di Novacella Pinot Nero 2021. It's a Pinot Noir made in the Alto Adige, the northernmost winegrowing region on the southern side of the Alps.

Abbazia di Novacella, called Kloster Newstift in German, is a monastery that sits in Brenner Pass, an important way across the Alps. During the Holy Roman Empire, Via Imperii crossed the pass and allowed armed forces, merchants, and pilgrims to traverse the daunting mountain range. By the 900s the pass was a stronghold for the Catholic church and in 1142 the monastery church of Novacella was consecrated and run by the Augustinian Canons. Abbazia di Novacella is the second oldest winery in the country.

With mineral-rich soils and a cool climate, the ripening period is longer for the grapes and they grow a variety that includes Sylvaner, Kerner, Gewürztraminer, and Veltliner as well as Vernatsch, Pinot Nero, and a completely new-to-me grape called Rosenmuskateller, 'Rose Muscat', described as lusciously sweet and whose name derives from its overwhelming scent of roses. Though I know Jake would despise that - he dislikes rose-flavored anything - I would love to try it!

This wine poured a dark brickish color with a paler rim. On the nose I noted red and black fruits along with a slight woody aroma. On the palate the wine mirrored its aromas with more acidity than I anticipated. Sour cherry and orange rind came together for a bright, pleasing acidity. This food-friendly wine was a delicious match for all the flavors on the board.

Rounding Out the Cheese Board

I have actually just created a digital recipe planner that provides the four basic steps to creating amazing cheese boards along with some fun recipes to level up that board. You can view the contents of the planner (here) and if you inclined to order it, visit the Digital Recipe Planners tab (here).

But, basically, you want to offer a variety of textures, colors, and tastes to create your board. In addition to the trio of Italian cheeses, I rounded out the board with golden kiwis, carrot sticks, celery wands, walnut-stuffed dates, hard-boiled eggs, garlic-stuffed olives, prosciutto, dried figs, salami, pickles, nuts, crackers, and chocolate-dipped dried orange slices.

That is a wrap on my December #ItalianFWT offering...and a fun way to end our 2022 explorations of Italian wines and pairings. I have recently been watching the travel-food documentary with Stanley Tucci called 'Searching for Italy.' And you can bet that I will be re-watching those episodes as we traipse around the boot again next year! I will be kicking off 2023 by inviting the group to join me in looking at wines from Sicily. Stay tuned!

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