I’ve mentioned before in Bristol Wine Blog that Italy – and the south of that country in particular – is an excellent source of good value and very drinkable wines. The warm Mediterranean climate that the area enjoys might suggest that the focus would be on reds and there are certainly some attractive examples to be found there. But the hilly areas inland from Naples are a little cooler and for me, produce the best wines of the area: fresh, characterful whites from high quality native varieties such as Greco, Fiano and Falanghina. I’ve noticed Fiano among some supermarkets’ premium own-label wines and it’s worth a try if you see one but, as none of these grapes is especially well known or fashionable, prices anywhere should be quite reasonable.
Italian wines are generally very food-friendly and are often my first choice to pair with possibly tricky food flavours. And a Skate wing gently poached and served with a sauce involving orange and lime juices, fresh ginger and lemon grass has enough tricky flavours to defeat many wines; the citrus juices provide both a sweetness and a sharpness and the ginger and lemon grass bring in aromatic oriental flavours. Added to which, skate is quite a robust fish and so the wine needs to be similarly full-flavoured.
Enter Calvese’s ‘La Gusca’ Falanghina (DBM Wines, £12.99) from vineyards in the Sannio region north-east of Naples. A lovely, rich, mouth-coating white, completely unoaked with fresh flavours of lemon- and lime-peel that perfectly complemented the dish and with just enough weight from the 13.5% alcohol to neither overpower the food nor be overpowered by it. All in all, an ideal pairing for a dish that might have proved difficult to match, although the wine was so delicious on its own as an aperitif, my wife and I were at risk of drinking it all before we even started our meal!