Elio Grasso, Dolcetto d’Alba dei Grassi 2009 paired with black bean soup

January 27, 2011

When it came to choosing a wine to serve with this spunky black bean soup with pan-roasted poblano peppers, I knew I needed a low-acid wine with round fruit flavors and not-too-forward tannins.

The obvious choices would be a youthful Beaujolais or Pinot Noir – but I decided to take a look in my minuscule cellar to see if I had a more original bottle that might fit the bill.

When I spotted Elio Grasso’s Dolcetto d’Alba dei Grassi, I knew I had found the wine I was looking for.

“Dolcetto” means “little sweet one,” but there’s nothing sweet about the wine made with this varietal. Instead, Dolcetto refers here to the tiny, early-ripening grapes that grow on the slopes of the vineyards of Piedmont.

Within Piedmont, Alba is considered to produce some of the finest Dolcettos. Elio Grasso’s Dolcetto d’Alba dei Grassi 2009 is no exception. Planted on a south-facing slope (usually reserved for the more prized Nebbiolo), his 30-year-old vines deliver a wonderfully pure Dolcetto.

Recipe: Black bean soup with pan-roasted poblano peppers and crispy shoestring tortillas

Elio Grasso Dolcetto d’Alba dei Grassi 2009
Producer: Elio Grasso
Appellation: Dolcetto d’Alba
Cellaring: 4 to 5 years
Grapes: 100% Dolcetto
Alc: 14%
Price: $18

Aged in steel tanks, this Dolcetto has a vibrant, deep ruby color and a lively, red fruit-filled nose. As expected, the acidity is mellow and the tannins, although present, are ripe and not too pronounced. The flavors, though, are a chestful of treasures: cassis and pomegranate explode in the mouth, followed by hints of herbal, vegetal (green pepper) and spice notes. And that’s not all – a slight tartness in the finish and persistent minerality add more delicious layers.

With the soup, the wine was superb. Its low acidity and ripe, soft tannins were the perfect complement to the creamy, protein-intense beans. Meanwhile the wine’s complex flavors accentuated the spices in the soup and danced beautifully with the roasted poblano peppers.

I always appreciate drinking wine with food, even when the pairing is less than ideal. But now and then a wine and a dish happen to harmonize in just the right way.

This was such an instance. The vibrancy of the wine (thanks to its sojourn in stainless steel tanks) was a delectable counterpart to the rustic, spicy, earthy soup.

© 2011 Viviane Bauquet Farre Food & Style NY LLC

Disclaimer: As always, my point of view is my own. I do not accept samples, and have no commercial relationship with any product, food or wine company.

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