The Italy-America Chamber of Commerce of Texas recently hosted their Taste of Italy event at the Hilton Houston Post Oak. This event showcases the best of Italian wines and food with over 200 wines from over 80 wineries, and lots of great food to sample. This year’s event was organized in coordination with Slow Wine Editori, the publisher of an extensive guide of Italian and Californian wineries that operate using Slow Wine practices. These are a set of environmentally friendly practices that have grown from the Slow Food movement that started in Italy nearly 30 years ago.
The tasting tables were organized by region of Italy, so working one’s way through the event was like a whirlwind tour of Italy’s wine regions. This gave attendees an opportunity to gain more understanding of the differences and nuances of the many regions of Italy. Winery representatives were eager to share what makes their wines special, leading to a lot of great conversation. While this is a trade-focused event, it is open to the public for a few hours in the afternoon, giving a broader audience the chance to experience a wider view into Italian wines and foods.
As a Texas wine enthusiast, Taste of Italy gave me a good opportunity to follow several of the grape varieties that are popular in Texas wines back to their Italian origins. It was also interesting to see how Italian winemakers are using these grape varieties in their wines today. Non-traditional blends are going well beyond what the Sangiovese-based Super Tuscan wines started in the 1970s. Italian winemakers also greatly embrace their local grape varieties, as seen with a producer that was sampling four different Aglianico wines, using different harvest dates and winemaking techniques to show a wide range of expressions from one grape.
While the Taste of Italy is the main event, there are several other great supporting events as well. There is a larger food-focused event at night, and several seminars throughout the day. Once I saw the listing for The ultimate wine pairing: Texas BBQ and Lambrusco, I knew which seminar I had to attend.
In The ultimate wine pairing: Texas BBQ and Lambrusco, Moderator Jeremy Parzen of DoBianchi led attendees through the history of Lambrusco, tasting three different Lambrusco wines, and why they pair so well with Texas BBQ. Jeremy was assisted by a panel featuring Houston Chronicle BBQ writer J.C. Reid and Brian Larky of Dalla Terra Imports, which made for quite the knowledgeable and entertaining group to host such a seminar and tasting. Attendees got to try a smoked pork belly dish from Pappas Delta Blues, the newest restaurant from the Pappas family of restaurants. Jackson Street BBQ served an excellent beef rib, and Grant Pinkerton from Pinkerton’s BBQ was on hand to help serve his awesome pulled pork and chopped brisket slider. What a BBQ lineup!
While I never thought about pairing Lambrusco with BBQ before, I now think of it as a great pairing. These aren’t those sticky-sweet Lambrusco wines of the 1980s. These are serious but fun, well-made wines that deserve attention. If you come across Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC or Lambrusco Grasparossa DOC from the producer Cleto Chiarli at your favorite wine shop, be sure to pick up a bottle to enjoy with your next BBQ feast.
The Taste of Italy has become an annual event in Houston, and the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce of Texas also has quite of few other events throughout the year. If you’re interested in their future events, check out their Facebook page.