Not all Italian-Americans are interested in connecting with their Italian roots. Many are perfectly happy with “The Godfather” and Frank Sinatra and spaghetti and meatballs and jug wine.
But what is “jug wine,” and how do I describe it to someone who lives in a wine region? And all of Italy is a wine region.
In America, we have wine that is sold in large, four-litre glass bottles, with metal twist-off caps. This inexpensive but repulsive liquid has a taste that would be unfamiliar to an Italian.
One of the most striking culinary differences between America and Italy is that, in America, when you go to a pizzeria or restaurant and ask for the “house wine,” you get the above-described jug wine. In Italy, you instead get the wine from that town – fresh, delicious local wine that perfectly matches the fresh, delicious local ingredients on your plate.
Neapolitan wines are not very well-known in America. We have Tuscan wines in profusion. They are overpriced and overrated, and they go badly with Southern Italian cuisine. I was determined to try something from the Vesuvius region.
The local liquor store had only one Vesuvian bottle: a Falaghina by the esteemed wine producer from Avellino, Feudi di San Gregorio. I was stunned by the taste of this wonderful wine. It had a fruity flavor but was dry at the same time. Certain historians think that Falanghina was descended from the famous Falernian wine (vinum Falernum) from the Roman era.
I immediately wanted to try Feudi di San Gregorio’s red wines. And there was no doubt which one I wanted to try first. The wine mentioned by Dumas, by Voltaire, by Marlowe, by Hawthorne, and by the prince in “Three Coins in the Fountain.” Lacryma Christi, the tears of Christ.
I searched several stores and could not find Feudi Lacryma Christi. But I could not afford to order a case. (In America, Feudi’s wines cost $18 a bottle.) I begged several friends to be partners with me in the acquisition of a case. We ordered it. I took a bottle. I opened it. I poured it into my glass. And only at that moment did I see that the wine was white. Feudi uses dark bottles for all of their wines, white or red. Nothing on the box or bottle had indicated a white wine.
Not that the wine wasn’t magnificent. I mean, the bottle was open; I couldn’t send it back ...
I explained the situation to my “partners.” And the wine store was gracious enough to replace the case.
The 18th of July, 2012, was a historic day: the first time in my life that I tasted Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio! This was the flavor that I remembered from the region of Mt. Vesuvius. Problem was: I had to make something to eat with it, lest the wine overtake me completely!
With this powerful wine, the sauce had to be red and meaty. But I had nothing prepared. The water was boiling. And as the saying goes, “The pasta never waits for the sauce.”
with the soppressata was an almost magical contrast. The squash was
sweet and light; the soppressata was piccante and, of course, meaty. Both the taste and the texture were phenomenal!|
This improvised recipe (which I have named “Spaghetti Chiaroscuro”) was a great success. And with the wine ...
(Note: Depending on the fat content of the soppressata, the addition of oil might not be necessary. )