Macarons and Recioto – Wine & Cake #2
Welcome to the second article in an occasional series about pairing wine with cake. This time it’s Macarons with Recioto della Valpolicella, the classic sweet red wine from Italy’s Veneto region.
Who invented Macarons? There are rival claims aplenty. While proto-versions have Arabic origins, France and Italy both claim it as theirs. One of the possible explanations is that an Italian chef working for Catherine de Medici introduced it in France during the Renaissance. Although a Florentine by birth, Catherine married Henry II and became Queen of France. Whether or not this is the true origin of Macarons, it cleverly includes both countries in the creation story.
The modern Macaron has become ubiquitous in recent times. It’s meringue-based, almond flavoured and assumes colours both various and garish. The buttercream filling has flavours including chocolate, multiple fruits, pistachio, vanilla, mint and many more. The best part is the texture; the bite is initially firm but gives way to a squidgy consistency.
As for making them, are you kidding? A well-meaning relative once gave me a Macaron making kit. But unfortunately, it was so complicated that using it was clearly beyond me. Hence that kit remains unused to this day, slowly collecting fluff in the back of a drawer.
Macarons are now so widely available it’s far easier to buy them. Being a cheap date, those road-tested for this article came from Lidl, smartly packaged while looking and tasting far more luxurious than the £3.99 paid.
Those who are perhaps skilled or masochistic enough to make them should first look here.
Recioto della Valpolicella
Meanwhile, Recioto della Valpolicella is a red dried-grape wine made in a sweet style, the forerunner of the now more famous dry version known as Amarone. It’s an Italian classic, awarded DOCG status in 2010.
With Recioto, the grapes dry by appassimento for between 100-200 days. The juice must be capable of fermenting out to 14% alcohol if it were dry wine. Hence a typical recioto is 12-12.5% alcohol with around 50-90 g/l of residual sugar.
During drying, the grapes lose 50% of their weight and 40% of their water. However, the process involves more than mere concentration. It’s a metamorphosis, creating new compounds such as glycerol and resveratrol. Other natural flavoursome changes happen too; in sugars, acidity, amino acids and tannins. These all add complexity and nuance to the final wine.
Recioto is always a delicious treat where moderate sweetness balances the acidity, so good examples are never cloying or sticky. So here’s one example worth trying.
Cantina Negrar. Recioto della Valpolicella Classico DOCG, 2017. 12.5%
Cantina Negrar is one of Italy’s best co-operatives, founded in 1933. There are 600 hectares of vines in their Classico zone alone, with 230 growers. Consequently, it has access to high-quality grapes and can produce every Valpolicella wine style at value prices. Their Recioto della Valpolicella is an excellent example where the grape drying lasts for 120 days and is a typical blend of grapes; 70% Corvina with 15% Corvinone and 15% Rondinella.
This recioto is moderately sweet with 50 g/l residual sugar balancing the fresh acidity. Flavours of raspberry, black cherry, plums, and prune all feature in a creamy mix. Consequently, it’s dangerously easy to drink and superb value for the quality on offer. It also comes in convenient half bottles.
Waitrose £15.99 (50cl)
Recioto will perfectly match whatever macaron flavour you have to hand. So why not treat yourself to a fantastic wine and cake combo!
Cantina Sociale Negrar
Via Ca’ Salgari, 2
32704 Negrar (VR)
Those wanting to discover more about Recioto can look at this article.
The first wine and cake article is here.