Italy and wine, the two go together like Chicago and the wintertime, except for the wines of Italy bring much more joy to our lives than the arctic tundra we call winter. So just before hibernating for the winter, I made my way over to Eataly, located conveniently at 43 E Ohio St in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, to taste some wines of Veneto and to stock up.
Featured right now in the expansive wine selection of Eataly are the United Wines of Veneto, a region in northern Italy known for producing Prosecco and Soave, but delivers much much more.
The Veneto region is the largest D.O.C. producer and accounts for 30% of the wines in Italy. The United States is the 3rd largest export country for the region, so it seems we have found a nice match.
The tasting was hosted by members of the Unione Consorzi Vini Veneti D.O.C., or UVIVE, the United Wines of Veneto. It was clear from the moment I walked into the state-of-the-art tasting kitchen on the second floor of Eataly, that everyone was very passionate about Veneto wines and wants to share the fruits of their region with the world.
Place settings were already laid out with 8 glasses each, ready to take our palette on a tour of Veneto. Our tour guide, or M.C. for the day, was a charismatic man named Nazareno Vicenzi whose Italian accent only added to the entire experience.
We started with a classic Prosecco from Villa Sandi, with enough crisp fruit notes to awaken my senses and plenty of bubbles to help ease everyone into the tasting. Eatalian wine expert, Massimo Serradimigni, shared his tasting notes with each wine, adding that the fruity bouquet and peach notes of Prosecco help to make the Bellini (Prosecco + peach nectar) such a crowd-pleaser.
Chef Adam Weisell of Eataly prepared three dishes to accompany the tasting starting with a Salmon Tartare on a Parmesan Cheese Frico. The mild flavor of the steel head salmon balanced the salty salmon roe a top the tangy yogurt sauce, while the crisp added more salty texture making the appetizer the perfect pairing with the lighter white wines.
The next stop of our tour was another Prosecco, the Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco from the Astoria winery on the hills of the Astoria Estate in Crevada. This Prosecco was more full and hearty, with hints of tropical fruits, also pairing nicely with the appetizer.
We finished off the bubbly wines with a Durello from Marcato Azirnda. Well known in the Verona area, the Durello grapes are hearty with thick skins. The Alpone Valley of Verona, where the Marcato Azienda winery is located, has rich mineral soil adding to the acidity and robust body of this sparkling wine.
After three sparkling wines we easily transitioned into white wines, starting with Custoza from
Cavalchina. Massimo described this wine as having “bright acidity” and “ripe fruit”. He related this to a Pinot Grigio which he mentioned they do not sell by the glass in Eataly. Who does not sell the American favorite white, Pinot Grigio, you ask? Well, the Eataly philosophy is based on teaching and introducing Italian culture, cuisine, and wine. Because Americans are already well acquainted with Pinot Grigio the people of Eataly feel the obligation to introduce us to some other delightful Italian wines. Queue the Custoza.
At this point, the scent of caramelized shallots was causing me to salivate while Chef Weisell was describing the Risotto with Radicchio he had been stirring up in a large pot at the front of the room. They began to describe the next wine as they passed out dishes of risotto and my one track mind zoned in completely on my plate. The risotto was creamy and salty, tangy and sweet, complex and comforting. I begged to share the recipe, so for the sake of your taste buds the recipe follows the article, courtesy of Simple Italian Food by Mario Batali, 1998.
Once the initial sensation of food euphoria faded, I was able to focus on the wine in front of me. The Lugana white from Ottella followed. It was hearty and well balanced with mineral notes and could stand up to the risotto. Massimo noted this to be similar to a Savignon Blanc.
We were then given a Soave Classico from the Cantina di Soave winery. A traditional wine that did not disappoint. The floral notes, combined with ripe apple, made this wine much different from most whites. It was a big wine with a fresh taste, making it my personal favorite wine of the day.
We then moved on to the reds, beginning with a Bardolino Classico by Villabella. This wine was similar to a Pinot Nior in style, a bit lighter in body with notes of spices like clove and hints of red fruit like raspberry. It is a versatile wine that was a great transition from white to red.
Chef Weisell dished up some meatballs to pair with the reds, but broke from the traditional bread crumb and ground meat combo by adding some Yukon potatoes and cured meat to the mix. Paired with a simple tomato sauce, the Polpettine Veneziane (Venetian-Style Meatballs) finished up the tasting well as they were not too heavy but still rich enough to balance the next red wine which was the biggest of them all.
We topped off the tasting with the Valpolicella DOC Superiore by Cesari Wines of Verona. This wine is made with fresh wine poured over dried Amarone grapes, reconstituting the grapes and adding great complexity. You could smell the ripe fruit, as well as, fruit preserve. While the elegant finish left me wanting more.
The UVIVE members and Eataly folks sure made a good team, teaching and informing us of classic and less known wines of Veneto. If you would like to take your taste buds to Veneto, all of these wines are featured at Eataly the month of December. Also there are tastings of the United Wines of Veneto throughout the month, visit Eataly Chicago for more information.
Visit the UVIVE website for more information.
Risotto al Radicchio (Risotto with Radicchio)
Recipe courtesy of Simple Italian Food by Mario Batali, 1998
Yield: 4 servings
3 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 ounces pancetta, cut into small cubes
1 medium shallot, cut into 1/4 inch dice
2 cups Carnaroli rice, preferably Acquerello
1 cup dry red wine
1/2 head Chioggia radicchio, cored and cut into 2-inch squares (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup freshly grated Grana Padano
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a medium saucepan, heat the chicken stock, and allow it to simmer on a back burner.
In a large saucepan of Dutch oven, heat a splash of olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the pancetta, and cook until the fat has rendered. When crispy, place the pancetta onto a plate lined with paper towels. Add the onion to the rendered fat, and cook until it becomes soft, for about 8-10 minutes.
Add the rice, and stir with wooden spoon until the rice is toasted and opaque, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and a healthy pinch of salt, and continue cooking over medium heat until the liquid is absorbed. Begin adding the warm stock one ladle at a time, waiting until the stock is completely absorbed before adding next ladle. Stir the risotto between each addition to incorporate. Continue to add the stock until the risotto is cooked and creamy in texture.
Remove the risotto from the heat, quickly stir in the radicchio, butter and cheese. Season the dish with salt and pepper, and thin with additional stock if necessary. Serve immediately.
43 E Ohio St, Chicago, IL 60611