By Kay Pfaltz
A cracked and fluent heaven, and a brown earth. I had these, and my food and sleep—enough. —Louise Bogan
Simplicity, like dignity, courage or humility, is one of those sacred words whose very mention I think uplifts. Yet simplicity and humility can seem the weaklings in a Yang society driven by material gain, and not simplistic living—a society that extends its admiration not to the humble Gandhis of life but rather to acquisition and power.
While I’ve had my share of excess and overindulgence (Michelin-starred restaurants figure prominently), my heart belongs to simplicity, in particular to the simple bistro. One of my most memorable meals was a trattoria in central Italy, the name long forgotten, where we ordered from a blackboard, placing our trust in the chef, which is often the best way to go: an artichoke split open, lightly drizzled with olive oil and grilled; homemade pasta imperceptibly seasoned, allowing the freshness of individual
ingredients to speak loudest. And on it went from there.
Thus, in celebration of the simple, as well as the seasonal (no artichokes in January), I offer one of life’s simplest and most perfect pairings: wine and cheese. Castello di Lucignano, Chianti Classico, Riserva, DOCG, 2003 – For those who like a bit of age without a crazy price tag, this 100 % Sangiovese is for you. The beautiful bricky brown color points to its age, a minimum of 27 months aging for Chianti riservas. Pop the cork and stick your nose to the neck of the bottle. You’ll get an immediate whiff of mushrooms. As the wine opens and evolves in your glass, the nose changes to notes of tobacco and cedar mixed with black cherry. That initial smell is the “bouquet”, which only comes through aging and is distinguished from the “aroma”, which has to do more with the grape varietals and the fruit. A wine’s bouquet is considered a tertiary aroma and develops as it ages in the bottle, whereas aroma is evident even in very young wines; think Beaujolais Nouveau. Good, mature wines will have complex bouquets.
And for the perfect pairing—which need not be anything more fancy than a rustic, crusty loaf of bread, preferably fresh from the oven, wine and cheese—try Caciocavallo Provola with your new friend, Castello di Lucignano Chianti. While not a Tuscan cheese, these two still make a good marriage. Caciocavallo, which means “cheese on horseback,” gets its name from the way in which the cheese is tied together with a rope in a pear shape then hung over a wooden board to drain and age. A drawn-curd, sheep’s milk cheese from southern Italy, it dates back at least to 500 BC when Hippocrates first wrote of its pungent gustatory pleasures. Delicious earthy flavors that complement the aged Sangiovese beautifully. Simple perfection.
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