Italian sommelier Erika Gallon's hometown of Valdobbiadene is a wine-growing area and the Prosecco region of Italy, so it's no wonder she's passionate about Italian wine. When asked how to select the perfect bottle for a dinner party, Gallon says: "Everyone has a different palette and preference for wine, so it's less about choosing the perfect wine, but rather choosing the wine to complement the perfect moment."
Whatever 'moment' you're celebrating, Gallon knows the appropriate drop to drink — and it's by Santa Margherita, one of Italy's oldest wine producers. "Santa Margherita wines began in 1935 on abandoned land in the countryside of Italy's Veneto region," Gallon explains. "Today, our varietals are still richly steeped in tradition and are celebrated for their regional character. Our wines are paired with life's most treasured moments; we create extraordinary wines for everyday experiences."
Gallon, a sommelier, shares her guide to glassware, Italian wines, food pairings, and wine storage tips. Take notes and nail your next dinner party 'moment'.
Good things come in threes...
Especially when we're talking about courses with matching wines. For starters, Gallon says: "As an Italian, I'd recommend always starting with Prosecco Superiore as an aperitivo with a classic Italian appetiser. Think arancini, bruschetta or lightly fried squid."
"Next, pour a Pinot Grigio with a traditional handmade spaghetti; the notes of the wine enhance the rich spaghetti flavours. Last and certainly not least, pair a Chianti Classico with a beautifully cooked steak or lamb shank soaked in a Mediterranean sauce," she suggests.
To enhance your at-home drinking experience (and achieve the best taste possible), ensure you're storing and serving your wine correctly.
"I'm a traditionalist," says Gallon. "I'd recommend storing wine at home in a cold, dry place. I store my wine in my kitchen in a small wine fridge kept at a 12-degree temperature. It's very important to ensure the wine bottles are stored horizontally, especially if they have a cork as you don't want the bottle to dry out."
Glassware is of equal significance when it comes to drawing out both the flavours and aromas of an Italian wine.
"It's not only important — it's critical," the sommelier says. "The magic of wine is not only within the taste, but also weaved throughout the aromas. You want a big, open glass to enjoy all the aromas and nuances of the wine — and that goes for red, white or Prosecco. My tip is to choose a larger wine glass for the Prosecco, rather than going with the usual flute. The opening of a flute is too narrow to enjoy all of the flavours."
Red, white, and sparkling
According to Gallon, there's something to love about all three styles. When choosing a red wine to share at a dinner party, she recommends the Santa Margherita Chianti Classico. "It hails from the historic Tuscan region of Chianti, the spiritual home of Sangiovese. Elegant and complex, this wine has fruit and spice flavours that follow through to darker fruits and mellow herbal notes," the sommelier says.
As for a crisp white, the Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio is her drop of choice for its freshness, approachability, fragrance and easy-drinking style. But as a Valdobbiadene local, Gallon's personal favourite is — of course — Prosecco Superiore. In particular, the Santa Margherita Prosecco Di Valdobbiadene.
"A match made in heaven, the bond between Santa Margherita and Prosecco Superiore is one that dates back to 1952 when the founders first recognised the potential of sparkling Glera Wine in the hills of Conegliano-Valdobbiadene," she shares. With a striking straw-yellow hue, this glass of bubbles is light and dry, yet sweet on the palate.
Above all, Gallon says: "The best way to discover your own perfect preference for Italian wine is by drinking!"