Wine pairings for Rigatoni alla Gricia
White: Coenobium Rusticum from Suore Cistercensi; Trebbiano d’Abruzzo
Producers of Trebbiano and Montepulciano: Gianni Masciarelli, Emidio Pepe, Eduardo Valentini
The mind-blowing simplicity Rigatoni alla Gricia calls for a wine in the same vein. How do you get so many flavors through the blend of so few ingredients in this pasta? You get it when the base ingredients are so very good…just like in good wine.
In the US, we are most accustomed to varietal wines, or wines based on one grape variety. However, it is just as customary to make wines from one variety as from a blend of varieties. Blending different grape varieties adds complexity to wines just like contributing ingredients and spices do to certain dishes. However, some components of food blend so singularly well they need little else. This is the case with Rigatoni alla Gricia.
In line with the Italian calling of local food pairing with local wine, I first think to the wines of Rome’s surrounding areas. The regional classics Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone and Frascati are the obvious white wines to pick, and white wines can compliment Rigatoni alla Gricia brilliantly. However, they can only do so if they are rich enough, and these two local wines tend to be fairly simple and refreshing. Those qualities are admirable enough but they don’t match this pasta dish. Unfortunately, most of the traditional wines from Rome’s surrounding area are too easy-going for the earthy strains of Ragatoni alla Gricia, and the ambitious wines of the Lazio wine region are often over-oaked for this richly flavored dish that can easily envelope the senses. Hence, my taste buds wander inland to Umbria (and Orvieto) and Abruzzo. Be these wines blends or varietal inspirations, these slightly warmer climate wines tend to fit the bill. My favorites include the creations of the Suore Cistercensi with their white Coenobium Rusticum and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo from Gianni Masciarelli. But if a red calls to complement this pasta, look no further than Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, and certainly no further than that of Masciarelli. They brim with a cheerful core of red fruit that isn’t overly ponderous for this abundantly flavored dish and satisfy the neophyte and collector alike with their toothsome deliciousness. If you are looking for complementary wines that require a bit more coin, the Abruzzi wines of Emidio Pepe and Eduardo Valentini should also not be missed.
p.s. Check out our recipe for Rigatoni alla Gricia and our About post that gives a brief history of the recipe that uses pancetta and onions.
Christy Canterbury, Master of Wine (MW)