A Grape Varietal Good Enough to Marry


By Jamie Gabrini
The Wine Chicks

Macchialupa Greco di Tufo
sausagepepperswine

There comes a time in every enthusiasts life in which you would like to acknowledge your own ancestry. Call it egotistical if you will - because lets face it, you had nothing to do with your cultural heritage - but it can be satisfying to go back to your ancestral roots and preen your own feathers in pride. Being of both Italian and French extraction, I have ample opportunity to do just that.

This week, I had my heart set on preparing one of my favorite dishes that my father would make when I was a wee one: sausage and peppers. There are a few dishes my dad can make that are completely incomparable, and I really, really felt the need for the comforting scent of sweetly sauteeing onions and peppers cooking down with sausage.

But, what to drink? Sure, I could go safe with a … … Chianti, but since I wasnt using any tomatoes, I thought a white might be an interesting choice. But which Italian white would best compliment the spicy sweetness of the sausage with enough acidity to cut through olive oil and fat? The answer came to me from the clear blue heavens (or from the Italian aisle at work, if youre less of a romantic): Greco di Tufo.

Id once very seriously avowed that if Greco were a person, Id marry it. I love it that much. Hailing from Campania in Italy, the name Greco is an obvious reference to its Hellenic heritage, since it is one of the oldest varieties found in Italy. While thats fascinating enough for me, the flavor of a good Greco is an all-out sensory phenomenon. Heady floral aromas jump out of the rich golden liquid, followed by ripe apricot and cantaloupe fruit and punctuating grassy acidity. Theres always a lingering honeysuckle-melon finish that makes you just ache for another sip. This was certainly something to consider for my dinner.

Let me add that Id never had a budget Greco; the only Grecos Id ever tasted were in the $20 range, which made me very skeptical that it could be done at all for under $15. I considered a $20 Greco, but I found Macchialupas 2003 for about $12. How bad could it be? I reasoned. I brought it home and chilled it, skeptically refrigerating a pricier Greco as a back-up.

I prepared the sausage and peppers while the wine was chilling. I thinly sliced a large sweet onion and sauteed it in olive oil over low heat until it softened. I added thinly sliced red and green bell pepper and ground fresh pepper and salt as it slowly cooked down. Just as the pepper got tender, I added chopped chicken sausage with sun-dried tomatoes to the pan. I served it with a crusty olive batard. In a true trial-by-fire, I opened the wine and served it to my guest without a test run first.

Happily, Greco did not fail me. While Macchialupas certainly isnt the most complex Greco Ive ever tasted, it filled the role I needed. A touch of sweetness, it had the great honeysuckle and apricot characteristics, though not as pronounced. Still, it matched the sweetness of the peppers and onion. The acidity wasnt as bold as other Grecos Id had either, but since Id used chicken sausage, bolder acidity might have been too much. For $12, Macchialupas was a pleasant surprise. The back-up bottle happily remains in my fridge. And my guest and I just as happily ate and drank and debated while I preened my Italian feathers in pride.

(Thanks, Dad!)

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