Wine Time

A Meaty White Wine for the First Pesto of Summer

Fresh basil has been arriving from our Community-Supported Agriculture subscription, and that means it's time for long noodles with pesto at our house.

Traditionally, Genoese pesto is made with freshly grated pecorino, sheep's milk cheese. But at our house, we go for the pan-Italian (or pseudo-Genoese) version, which calls for Parmigiano Reggiano, exclusively.

As a result, the pesto is a bit heavier (and fattier) than the rigidly traditional version, and it has a more piquant character to it.

While I'd pair a light Vermentino or Pigato with the traditional stuff, I need something a little more meaty -- in terms of body and unctuousness -- to go with our family's pesto.

The 2010 Nascetta by the Elvio Cogno winery in Piedmont is one of the most underrated white wines available in the U.S. today. I can't begin to tell you how many wine reps I've heard say that "it's a light white wine, made from on an indigenous and forgotten white grape from Piedmont," where red wines dominate the vinous landscape.

It is indeed an indigenous and once forgotten grape, but it's not a light quaffer, as most would tell you.

In fact, it produces a richer-bodied, mineral-driven white wine that can age well. Its renaissance was launched in the early '00s by Valter Fissore, winemaker (and son-in-law) at Cogno, who first was inspired to grow the grape after tasting wines made from the vineyards of an old farmer who had never grubbed the vines up (as most had done, replanting with the more lucrative Nebbiolo).

The grape name is easy to pronounce: nah-SHEHT-tah. Valter began calling it Anas-Cëtta using a dialectal inflection in order to skirt labeling restrictions.

In our market, it weighs in under $30, and it will age well if cellared correctly (after I tasted a 2001 at Valter's place in 2010, I've laid down bottles in my wine locker with great results).

Another mistake that wine reps and sommeliers make is that they serve the wine too cold. My recommendation is to take it out of the fridge about 20 minutes before you serve it. Open the bottle and pour it into your glasses, letting it aerate before you dig into the pesto and the wine. You'll be rewarded with balanced minerality and unctuous dried stone-fruit flavors (think apricot and peach).

I'll post my sure-fire recipe for pesto later this week...

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Jeremy Parzen writes about wine and modern civilization for the Houston Press. A wine trade marketing consultant by day, he is also an adjunct professor at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Piedmont, Italy. He spends his free time writing and recording music with his daughters and wife in Houston.
Contact: Jeremy Parzen