Home > Brunello di Montalcino, Experiences, Food, Food and wine pairing, Italian wines, Recipe, wine > Perfection, or When Everything Works Together…

Perfection, or When Everything Works Together…

Il Poggione Rosso and EVOOIf you are into wine and food (or food and wine, whatever your preferences are), I can safely bet you were looking for that climactic moment of combining the food and wine to reach a new, higher level of pleasure. Yes, I’m talking about that “oh my God” moment when your taste buds experienced that already exceptional bite of food becoming something beyond exceptional in combination with the sip of the wine. By the same token, if you were looking for that moment, I’m sure that more often than not (actually, a lot more often than not) you couldn’t find it – those beautiful pairings are often equally evasive.

Here I want to share with you my account of my recent encounter with perfection, that climatic experience if you will.

A few months ago I got a box in the mail (one of the little perks of the wine blogger). Inside, there was a bottle of wine, a bottle of olive oil, a jar of sea salt and a recipe – for Bistecca alla Fiorentina.

Bistecca alla Fiorentina is a dish coming from Tuscany (Florence) and depending on the historical account, it traces its origins either to the 16th or the 19th century – well, the history of Bistecca all Fiorentina is definitely not something we will be talking about here, so let’s move on. I’m sure you understand that “Bistecca” simply stands for “beef steak”. However, the recipe calls not for any steak, but specifically for the porterhouse or T-bone steak, which should be simply prepared rare or medium-rare over the charcoal. As the recipe is very simple, here it is in its entirety:

Ingredients (serves 4):
2 (1.5″ thick) bone-in porterhouse steaks (3.5 lb)
1/4 cup Il Poggione EVOO
Tuscan sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 sprigs rosemary

Get the charcoal ready. The distance between the hot charcoal and the steak should be about 4 inches (10 cm). The steak should be at room temperature before you start grilling (it should be out of the fridge for about 10 hours to get to room temperature). Grill steak on one side for 5-8 minutes, flip it with tongs (no forks of any kind!), salt the top surface with Tuscan sea salt and pour some olive oil. Cook for another 5-8 minutes, then stand the steaks on the bone and cook for another 5 minutes. Take it off the heat, put it down to rest, salt the other side and put some olive oil on it. After 5 minutes of rest, you can slice and serve your steak. See, can it get any simpler?

Now, it is time to talk about perfection.

First, the perfection started with the exceptional meat. In addition to what I already described, the box contained a gift card for Pat LaFrieda. The story of Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors started at the beginning of the 20th century when Anthony LaFrieda arrived in the USA and opened his first butchery – you can read the rest of the story on Pat LaFrieda website. Whatever the story is, the proof is always in the pudding – or on the fork in this case. I have to honestly tell you that I never had a better steak than this – the meat was sublime and was simply melting in the mouth – a good start for the perfect experience.

The second element of the perfection was, of course, the wine – 2016 Il Poggione Rosso di Montalcino (14% ABV, $27, 12 months in large oak barrels). Tenuta Il Poggione is one of the oldest producers in the Montalcino area, started to make Sangiovese wines – now known as Brunello – at the beginning of the 1900s. Today, it is one of the largest wineries in Montalcino, with 1500 acres, out of which more than 300 acres are under vines and 170 acres planted with olive trees (that Il Poggione EVOO in the package was superb).

The wine actually happened to be one of the best Rosso di Montalcino wines I tasted in a long time. The key word to describe this wine is finesse – it had a welcoming nose of tart cherries, medium intensity, and a hint of herbs. That profile perfectly continued on the palate, where delicate fresh cherries were joined by sage and rosemary, with clean acidity and excellent balance. Definitely one lip-smacking, delicious wine (8+).

Let’s not miss any details – we are talking about the perfect pairing here. As the devil is in the detail, there was one more element  – little, but essential – to this amazing pairing, besides superb meat and outstanding wine. The last element? Tuscan sea salt. This was not some random sea salt – this one was Tuscan Sea Salt from AG Ferrari, listing the following ingredients: “Italian sea salt, fresh rosemary, fresh garlic, sugar, fresh sage, ground black pepper” – this Tuscan Sea Salt became the bridge which connected the flavor of the seasoned meat with the perfectly aligned flavor profile of the Il Poggione Rosso di Montalcino, delivering the genius pairing and an amazing experience.

I have to honestly tell you – I tried to replicate this experience two days ago – and failed. I used the same Tuscan Sea Salt, but I had a steak from the local supermarket butcher shop (1/3 of the price compared to Pat LaFrieda), and the wine was 2015 Collosorbo Rosso di Montalcino. The steak was simply not good (happy to be blamed for it as a cook – but I cooked the one from Pat LaFrieda too). The wine was okay, but a lot fruitier than Il Poggione, thus the pairing simply didn’t work. This once again proves my point about the evasive nature of a great wine pairing.

Did you have any climactic food and wine pairing experiences you care to share with the world? Or maybe you want to recount the worst moments? Will be happy to hear about it either way. Cheers!

  1. October 1, 2018 at 5:30 pm

    Yum! That meat looks fabulous! And Il Poggione is not too shabby either…. (LOL!)

    • October 1, 2018 at 6:07 pm

      The meat was outstanding. The wine was on par with the meat 🙂

  2. October 4, 2018 at 2:31 am

    You are so right that ‘climactic’ food and wine pairings can be elusive. I’ve stopped expecting them even at the finest (and expensive) restaurants, because that only lead to disappointment. There are only a few that are very solid, like most soft goat cheese with most Sauvignon Blanc. But that is still very much “most” and not all. As you may remember from my blog I organize wine pairing dinners on a regular basis to discover more of what I refer to as matches made in heaven, but they are hard to find. From those dinners I have also noted that one’s personal perception also plays a role. For example, my palate is very sensitive to bitter notes, so if a food accentuates the bitter notes of a wine I won’t like the pairing. But others may not find that disturbing at all.

    • October 4, 2018 at 3:14 am

      Stefan, of course I remember that you run your own wine dinners – that’s why we both understand how difficult that amazing pairing is to come by. And yes, I fully agree, it will be subjective no matter what. But we will keep looking 🙂

  3. October 7, 2018 at 11:58 pm

    Looks amazing! Fond memories of that pairing in Tuscany.

  4. October 12, 2018 at 8:10 am

    Just wow!

    • October 13, 2018 at 4:14 pm

      That was a tasty evening for sure 🙂

  5. October 13, 2018 at 9:20 am

    Will have to get you working next time you are in Singapore…. Will host a barbie for you, we usually just pair the steak with great wine, no science behind it….

    • October 13, 2018 at 4:13 pm

      Can’t wait. You will not have to twist my arm, I promise…

      • October 13, 2018 at 5:54 pm

        Damn, that could have been fun….. Will have to settle for a good night then

  1. October 2, 2018 at 7:43 am
  2. December 29, 2018 at 9:15 am
  3. February 11, 2023 at 11:34 pm

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