When you visit certain regions of Italy and get lost in the multitude of flavors that are so specific to the land, the simple thought of not bringing home some food is in general inadmissible. Parmigiano, lardo, salame, extra virgin olive oil, a couple bottles of wine you just need to have your friends try. How many times did I pack it all up in the dirty laundry secured in my luggage, then fly back home, hoping that the smell of a hot and humid summer on my tank tops would be enough to trick that brown beagle roaming the basement of JFK airport with a USDA agent on its leash?
As the world is shrinking, though, many of the ingredients you can savor while traveling through the bel paese are now somewhat available in the United States — and more so on the Internet. Once you have developed a taste for something Italian that you cannot live without, rest assured that with a little research, chances are you can relive your tasteful experience back home, wherever that might be.
Whenever we travel to Fiesole, Italy, one of our excuses for bouncing around villages like pinballs is to taste all the new batches of the wines we are fond of, make notes of new ones we discover along the way and occasionally buy a couple of cases.
Growing up on a farm, I developed a taste for cheap young farmers wine; while I surely can appreciate a good vintage or a more fully bodied wine in general, my heart is settled for young Chianti. I spent my youth bottling big jars of wine that my family either produced or bought from neighbor farms. My mom and I would syphon wine into traditional flasks, seal them closed and store them in our dark and humid cellar; to this day I cherish doing that when I am home in Fiesole. That is the only kind of wine you would find in our house, besides the fact that in Brooklyn we do not have room for a wine collection, so we never buy more than a couple of bottles at the time, and they’re usually from farms we know.
Here are some Chiantis that Debi and I love to drink while in Italy and also buy here in the U.S. Please note, we rarely think in terms of “wine pairings”: We always have a bottle open in the kitchen, we drink mostly red wine, we are very loyal to the flavors of Tuscany, and at the table, wine is as important as water.