Too often, I find, we think of wine and cheese pairings solely in terms of entertaining – but I have recently discovered that Garda sparkling wines and Piave cheeses make for the perfect pairing any day of the week.
If you are looking for a wine to pair with pizza or sushi or risotto – whatever you may consider to be your “comfort food” – the perfect pairing does exist! DOC (protected origin) wines from Lake Garda in the Lombardy region are a relatively new appellation – they have only been around since 1996*, but they have already yielded more than 7 million bottles of sparkling wine.
*The wines still have an ancient and storied history – it is just that the wines now labeled as Garda were sold under various other local DOC and IGT titles. I note this as the appellation was new to me!
A traditional Italian grape pairing of Garganega and Trebbiano is at the heart of the DOC region’s white wines, with a maximum 35 percent Chardonnay. Pinot Grigio and Pinot Bianco are also popular. I particularly enjoyed Garda D.O.C. Spumante featuring a sweetness range from Brut Nature to demi-sec.
Piave DOP cheeses from the neighboring Belluno Valley, as a designation, were also created in 1996, although cheeses called by that name effectively date back to the 1960s.
The milk for Piave cheeses comes from a variety of local dairy cows Bruna (Italian Brown), Rossa (Italian Red Pied) and Frisona (Italian Friesian) that mountain graze in the summer. Piave cheeses have five age designations – the cheese color becomes darker with age and goes from smooth and creamy to firm and salty.
Let’s talk about cooking with Piave cheese as well – it is excellent on its own, a milder compliment to an apero of sparkling wine (pick the Piave Selezene Oro) or plum jam and chestnut honey on a cheese plate. Turns out that it is also wonderful fried (Piave Mezzano) or added to risotto (Piave Vecchio) or everyone’s favorite cacao e pepe (Selezene Oro again).