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Bocca di Lupo launches limited-edition wine pairings

Soho Italian restaurant Bocca di Lupo is continuing its ‘An A to Z’ menu series with a new selection of wine pairings that offer a taste of some of the more overlooked Italian grapes and regions.

The menu, devised by restaurateur Jacob Kenedy and Rome-based food journalist Rachel Roddy, is called ‘An to Z di Vini Divini’, combines Bocca di Lupo’s focus on regional Italian cookery with wines that might not necessarily be on one’s radar just yet. ‘An A to Z’ has its roots in Roddy’s An A to Z of Pasta cookbook, with Bocca di Lupo creating ‘An A to Z of Italy’ menu last year.

Those expecting ‘An A to Z di Vini Divini’ to be a full 26 courses with 26 different wines to pair might be slightly disappointed to discover that it is in fact just six wines, each being made from a grape or coming from a region that begins with one of the letters in the phrase ‘An A to Z’. The restaurant’s head sommelier Phill Morgan explained to the drinks business: “We thought of it, or of doing 26 dishes and matching, but it’s a bit much to handle by the glass, and there are definitely letters we’d struggle with. We’ve gone with something of a compromise, and I’ve been sure to make the spread of grapes north to south. You can’t get much further apart geographically than Bolzano and Pantelleria!”

However the menu itself does not begin in Alto Adige or Sicily, but Piemonte, with ‘A’ standing for Arneis, a white grape strongly associated with the hills of Roero. The menu matches Malabaila di Canale’s 2022 expression of the grape, Le Tre, with another Piemontese classic, bagna cauda, a warm (and, indeed, warming) garlic dip.

‘N’ does lead one to Alto Adige with the white variety Nosiola – Azienda Agricola Cesconi’s 2020 Nosiola is paired with ravioli fritti, with the optional addition of speck surely a must for the full taste of mountain fodder.

The second ‘A’ plummets to very near to the bottom of the boot with an Aglianico from Basilicata. This small region sandwiched between Italy’s heel and toe is becoming hotspot, thanks in part to the appearance of Matera in recent Bond film No Time To Die, but its wines haven’t really made much of a splash in the UK yet. However, paired with tumact me tulez (a dish described by Bocca di Lupo as an Italo-Albanian dish consisting of tagliatelle with breadcrumbs, walnuts, and an anchovy and tomato sauce), Paternoster’s 2021 Bariliott Aglianico del Vulture DOC may well win favour with the London crowd.

The pairing for ‘T’, standing for Teroldego, a rich red grape from Alto Adige, is, according to Morgan, “hard to beat” when paired with roast duck with apples and chestnuts. ‘O’ takes us further west to Oltrepò Pavese, an area of Lombardy garnering interesting (and investment) for its Pinot Noir, both still and sparkling (rosé and blanc de noirs). To complement Kennedy and Roddy’s classic osso buco alla Milanese of braised veal atop saffron risotto, Morgan has selected Conte Vistarino Pernice 2019.

Of course, with Z, it had to be Zibibbo. Otherwise known as Muscat of Alexandria, this is the grape utilised for a number of still white and orange wines in Sicily, but most famously, it is the grape for Passito di Pantelleria, the characterful, complex sweet wine hailing from the wind battered island of Pantelleria. The menu matches Tua Rita’s 2019 Passitio di Pantelleria Sese with another much loved Sicilian treat – cannoli.

Asked if he hoped that the inclusion of the passito on the menu might help to dispel any misconceptions diners might have about sweet wines, Morgan said: “To be honest, anything matched with cannoli is a winner for me. The Tua Rita Sese I’ve chosen dials down the sweetness well, with a hint of black tea. I think for sweet wines, you either do it or you don’t. Matching tempts some, but I know they’re not for everyone. They’re always something special though. More about the moment than the wine.”

The pairings very much seem to go along with the rule of regional Italian dishes, something which Bocca di Lupo has received acclaim for, with wines also from that region. Explaining the ‘if it grows together, it goes together’ mentality, Morgan said: “It always just seems to work, doesn’t it? There may be other wines or grapes which work better than the locals for flavour, but for a head to toe match of flavour and feel, local is best.”

The wines and dishes from ‘An to Z di Vini Divini’ will be available at Bocca di Lupo until 31 January.

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