Food & Drink » Anthony Gismondi on Wine

Food and drink: Plan your own ‘Big Night’ at home

Pick up a little Italian wine, a little Italian style



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To accompany the pasta, think about cooler, fresher style Italian whites from the north or those grown near the sea or at altitude. A current favourite is the Fazi Battaglia Titulus Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico 2006 from Marche ($15) . This fresh, 100 per cent verdicchio never sees any wood. Look for floral, mineral, almond, citrus notes on the nose and the palate and fine balance.

Another smart choice would be the Tommasi Pinot Grigio Le Rosse 2008 ($20) from the Verona region. The '08 jumps from the glass showing youthful, fresh, tropical fruit notes combined with bits of orange and nutty quince notes. The palate is equally fresh with weighty creamy textures and spicy, citrus tropical fruit. Classic Northern Italian white that would work well with a variety of pasta dishes and it is perfect with pesto.

The main course may sound impossibly challenging but grilled Florentine steak, or Bistecca alla Fiorentina could not be simpler to prepare. Rub the steak with a good olive oil and generously season it with salt and pepper. Then simply toss it on a pre-heated grill and prepare it to order for your guests. Grill some vegetables ahead of time - they taste sensational as the dry heat concentrates natural sugars and gives them a bold and rustic look. Now you have a main course built for big reds.

Tuscan sangiovese or super-Tuscan reds are perfect match or you could look to the south of Italy for slightly more rustic reds that are big on value. An icon and an affordable choice is the Peppoli Chianti Classico 2005 ($28) from Tuscany. Look for a fragrant, floral showy red with black cherry fruit and a wisp of mocha coffee. Antinori adds a pinch of syrah to spice up the finish. A perfect wine to tame the steak.

Ornellaia Le Volte 2006 ($34) , a sangiovese cabernet and merlot blend, is a real crowd pleaser with its smoky, peppery, meaty, coffee, black fruit nose and dry, elegant styling. Love the finesse and final acidity that makes it perfect pairing with the steak.

But the ultra-bargain steak wine comes from southern Italy's Apulia region Tormaresca Neprica 2006 ($16) . Neprica takes its name from the first two letters of each grape in its blend: NEgroamaro, PRimitivo and CAbernet Sauvignon. This is a much more rustic meaty, floral-style red with bits of liquorice, pepper and black cherry jam flavours. That said, it will tame any style of meat entree.