One of the great pleasures of food and wine is marrying the familiar with the exotic and the anticipation of how they will match up. I did this the other night with a tried and true pasta dish I like to make and a wine called Morellino di Scansano. Ever hear of it? I’ll explain in a minute.
Whether in summer or winter, there is nothing quite like a pasta sauce built around tomatoes. The variations are endless and can include meats, vegetables, a variety of fresh herbs and, depending on the season, the tomatoes themselves — fresh from the garden or farm stand, or canned Italian plum tomatoes, which are inexpensive and usually loaded with flavor. The wine? For me, the only rule is that it has to be Italian, usually something with fresh fruit and relatively high acidity, which are typical of young Italian reds and make them so compatible with tomatoes. After that, the possibilities are almost endless as well.
And so my recent dinner exercise began. The sauce was simple — some finely chopped onion and garlic sautéed for a few minutes before adding the tomatoes (canned), then, as they cooked, some Italian parsley and lots of fresh little thyme leaves pulled off the sprigs. Tossed with thin spaghetti (cooked al dente, of course), it was sweet and delicious and, as I like to say, went well with the evening’s wine.
The 2002 Morellino di Scansano from the Pupille estate of Elisabetta Geppetti and Stefano Rizzi was young and full of ripe fruit, with an emphasis on black cherry and plum, along with interesting herbal and earth notes and fine tannins that provided good structure. It will develop nicely for another year or two.
This $17 wine is from Tuscany, in central Italy, and is made primarily from the Sangiovese grape, as are the more familiar and famous Tuscans from Chianti, Montepulciano and Montalcino. While they are in the middle of the region, Morellino di Scansano is from the warmer southeastern corner of Tuscany, with Morellino the local name for Sangiovese and Scansano the specific area.
I found the wine approachable and easy to drink but also liked its complexity and elegance. It’s not a muscular wine, but, with a relatively light tomato sauce, a turbocharged red wasn’t required. The wine and the food were beautifully complementary -- each enhancing the other while maintaining its own personality. I think that’s just about a perfect recipe for a marriage of food and wine.
Edward Deitch's wine column appears Thursdays. Write to him at .