Wine pairings for Penne ai Porri e Gorgonzola
Spumante e Frizzante:
There are only four ingredients in this pasta, not counting the salt and pepper, so each makes its presence known. Yet naturally, the leeks and gorgonzola dolce stand out. Those two each give this dish a pleasant contrast of a hint of sweetness along with savory earthiness. That’s an unusual combination to find in wine. However, it’s one that a range of Prosecco Superiore DOCG styles can cover with ease. Furthermore, Prosecco’s lightness will match this pasta’s mid-weight palate.
Prosecco is traditionally made with the Glera grape. Sometimes it is sweeter; sometimes it is drier. Its style is noted on the label by one of several indications. Extra Brut is absolutely dry, and Brut ranges from quite dry to showing a hint of sweetness. Confusingly, Extra Dry is rather sweet and Dry is even sweeter!
These designations may seems like nonsense, but they date back to the days when Champagne used to be extremely sweet (though a bit exaggerated, think of maple syrup sweetness.) As fashions changed and drinkers wanted drier wines, the Champenois created the Dry category then followed with the Extra Dry. So, what was quite “Dry” or even “Extra Dry” then is sweet, indeed, today. However, never fear sweetness in Prosecco DOCGs! Those with residual sugar rebrilliantly balanced with high, sometimes razor-like acidity that offers a solid counterbalance.
My selections include Col Fondo, Brut and Extra Dry wines. Col Fondos are the original Proseccos. For these wines, the second fermentation creating the bubbles occurs in bottle rather than in tank (these wines are later funneled into bottles.) The second fermentation yeast remain in the bottle (hence “col fondo,” or yeasts at the “bottom of the bottle”), potentially creating a cloudy appearance in the wine. You can either stand the bottle upright a few days and allow the sediment to collect at the bottle’s bottom so that it pours almost clear into the glass, or you can shake it up and sip up the additional flavor the lees provide.
Col Fondo wines are a bit earthy and biscuit-y and are the least floral in style. They are also entirely dry. If you want a wine with some bite and less pronounced floral notes, this is the way to go. Brut wines show Glera’s typical florality, and the ones I listed are particularly minerally. Both Col Fondo and Brut styles will provide contrast to the pasta’s sweetness. The Extra Dry wines will be the most decadently floral and will offer a like-on-like pairing with the delicate sweetness of the star ingredients.
One final note: Be sure you buy a Prosecco with a “G” at the end of “DOC”. DOCG Proseccos are made exclusively from fruit grown in the hills of the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene region, and these are the “cru” or top quality wines. They may cost $5-10 more, but I guarantee their complex expressions and more profound flavors will be well worth your extra cash.
Check out our recipes for Penne ai Porri e Gorgonzola.
Christy Canterbury, Master of Wine (MW)