The Sweet Side of ILatium Morini: Sette Dame Recioto di Soave Classico with an Old-Fashioned Strawberry Cake (#ItalianFWT)


Last fall, Greg and I spent two weeks exploring central and northern Italy. I dragged him to wineries all over the place, and our very last winery visit of the trip was at ILatium Morini, not far from Verona in the Veneto region.

(Little by little we’ll hop around to all of our stops.)

We were already big fans of the wines of the Veneto region. White, red, sparkling, and dessert – they’ve got all the styles, and we love ‘em all. Our trip really just solidified our appreciation. We also kind of fell in love with Verona. Such a beautiful city! It also felt a little less crowded with tourists than most others we stopped in . . . as long as you avoid Juliette’s house. The crowds are all at her place.







As an added bonus to the wine lover, Verona is also very conveniently located to some excellent wine regions. Wonderful examples of Valpolicella, Amarone, and Soave are an easy drive away. For example, ILatium Morini is just about 30 min from the city. They also happen to make Soave, Valpolicella, and Amarone, giving an excellent snapshot of the region in one winery.



ILatium is not a huge operation (they own about 40 hectares), but I was already familiar with their Amarone wines a bit and was very interested to visit. Through an importer friend of a friend, we were able to arrange a visit and tasting on a morning in late September with Eugenio Morini.

(Note: As a member of the industry, our tastings were comped. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.)



Eugenio and six of his brothers and cousins inherited the winery from their parents. The Morini family has been growing grapes and making wine for over 40 yer old, but the previous generation mostly sold their grapes to the local Cantina Sociale (cooperative wine cellar). The current generation took things to the next level and started Latium Morini (the addition of the “i” in front of “Latium” was relatively recent) in 1992 with the purchase of a five-hectare piece of land in the Val di Mezzane with a historical farm house from the early 1900’s. Things have grown since then, and while we were there, they were finishing construction on new facilities next to the farm house.



Eugenio kindly walked us through the vineyards and tasted us through their wines. We brought back a bottle of their Campo Leòn Amarone della Valpolicella, and have another previous vintage in “the cellar”, so we will definitely get to those one of these days. In addition though, I was so enchanted by their Recioto di Soave Classico, that Eugenio gifted me a bottle to bring back.



We’ve covered dry Soave Classico before, so I invite you to take a look at this post to get to know these wines. The main grape of the region, though, is Garganega, which must make up at least 70% of the wine. Trebbiano di Soave (Verdicchio) and/or Chardonnay can make up to 30% of the blend.

I’ll share this Soave Hierarchy Infographic from WineFolly.com as an additional quick recap.




Now I know a lot of people are down on dessert wines. Quite frankly, we love them. Good ones anyhow. Some of the most complex and beguiling flavors in wine are to be found in dessert wines. Recioto wines definitely fall into this camp.

The process through which these wines are made is really interesting. The grapes go through the appassimento process, through which the grapes are essentially dried out, rasinating the grapes and concentrating the sugars. Traditionally, this was done on straw mats in a warm part of the winery. (Wines from grapes dried out in this way are sometimes referred to as straw wines). Nowadays though, winemakers are much better able to control the process in temperature regulated rooms. It's truly a fascinating system and you really get to see it in Veneto.

In Vento, the appassimento process is used for dessert wines, as well as for dry Amarone wines. Recioto is the terms used for the sweet wines made in this way in the Veneto region, and here, the white Soave versions, are much less common than the red Amarone versions.

This makes sense if you think about it. Soave and Soave Classico wines are ready to be sold comparatively early, so as a winemaker, you make your money back quicker. Recioto wines take longer, take more grapes because you have to dry them out, have a lot of production restrictions, and are kind of out of fashion since a lot of people don’t like dessert wines. And yet, they can be soooo good!

Don’t get me wrong. I really love Soave as well. However, the appassimento process really brings out very different flavors in the grapes. Here are my tasting notes on ILatium Soave and a Recioto wines from our visit, as an illustration. Interestingly, the grapes for the 2nd Soave here are dried for one month. This is really atypical, but it means this wine also demonstrates a bridge point between the fresh style of the 1st Soave, and the style of Recioto di Soave.


Soave DOC 2017 

Mostly Garganega, with 10-15% Trebbiano di Soave.
Nose:  Soft, round fruit notes with light flowers and hints of herbs.
Palate: Lemons and green apples. Crisp with a light suppleness to the mouthfeel. A suggestion of cheese rind (although Greg didn’t pick this up), and hints of stones on the finish.
Pairings: Fresh, light dishes, salads, and light fish.



Soave Campo le Calle DOC 2017

100% Garganega
Nose: Gold apples (deeper than the green apple notes above), yellow flowers, some stone fruits.
Palate: Deeper fruit tones, stones, with touches of preserved lemon, tangerine skin, and hay.
Pairings: This is a wine that can stand up to stronger fish dishes and poultry.



Sette Dame Recioto di Soave Classico DOCG 2013

100% Garganega
Nose: Apricots, lemon curd, and tangerines.  Cheese that has been topped with honey. Light herbs.
Palate: Honeyed peaches, lightly toasted almonds or chestnuts. Lemon curd, tangerine. Nicely balanced.
Pairings: Strong cheeses like Gorgonzola, and desserts.



I think it’s easy to see a through-line and progression in these wines, with many of the notes deepening and intensifying with each wine. Not only do we see richer fruit notes, but certain umami notes strengthen as well, which give complexity to the wines.


The Pairing


We recently opened our bottle of the iLatium Sette Dame Recioto di Soave Classico DOCG 2013 at home.



We took down similar notes on the wine this time around: notes of honeyed apricots, cream, beeswax, nuts, almonds, marmalade, candy cap mushrooms, honeysuckle flowers that have begun to dry. We had leftovers of the wine, and interestingly, it improved over several days stored in the fridge, developing notes of dried mango, dulce de leche, and a deep nutty finish. It became even more luscious.

If I’d been planning the recipe to match the wine, I would’ve probably chosen a fruit dessert based around stone fruits or candied citrus, perhaps with some blueberries mixed in. However, I’d recently purchased what can only be described as a shit ton of strawberries at the farmers market. We had fresh strawberries macerated in sugar.  The had to be used up! We had them fresh, and I made both jam and preserves. There were still more, so I also made  a couple of Old-Fashioned Strawberry Cakes based on a recipe on New York Times Cooking.

The first of the cakes I made to take to a dinner with friends and I followed the recipe just as it’s written (almost). It had a lovely biscuity texture. We’ve been trying to be low-carb-ish when eating at home, so I decided to make a second cake at home to pair with this wine and played with the flours, using ground almonds and Bob’s Red Mill Paleo Flour in place of the all-purpose flour in the original recipe.

The texture of the second cake wasn’t as fluffy as the first, and the ground almonds gave it a coarser crumb. (One can buy more finely ground almond flour, though.) I liked the almondy texture, however, Greg did prefer the texture of the first cake. (He also thought there should be more strawberries in the cake in general.) That said, it’s a pretty small trade-off if you’re (sort of) watching  your carbs. With the extra strawberries and whipped cream on top, there was very little trade-off at all!



We had this second version of the cake with the wine. I also made a batch of sous vide strawberries that had been flavored with a splash of Triple Sec (in place of the Champagne recommended in the recipe), which I thought would work with the citrus notes in the wine. I also made some homemade whipped cream that I flavored with the same.

I might not have initially picked strawberries deliberately to pair with this wine, but this combination worked beautifully together! The notes of Triple Sec, while subtle, also really shined in the pairing. Neither version of the cake is super sweet either, which is rather in keeping with the Italian style of desserts, making it all the more appropriate. Also, a key to pairing dessert wines successfully is to have the wine be sweeter than the food, so you actually don't want you desserts to be too sweet if you're planning a combo. This combo hit a really nice balance and made a delicious pair!

For the record though, it was also delicious with a Peach Crisp.


Yield: 8 to 10
Author:

Low-Carb(ish) Old-Fashioned Strawberry Cake

prep time: cook time: 60 Mtotal time: 60 M
This recipe is essentially the same as the one presented in New York Times Cooking, so the real credit for the recipe goes there. I simply made a few key ingredient swaps: almond meal and paleo flour in place of regular flour, and coconut sugar in place of the majority fo the white and brown sugars.

ingredients:

  • 1/2 cups unsalted butter (1 stick), softened, plus more for pan
  • 1 cup ground almond meal
  • 1 cup Bob's Red Mill Paleo Flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 10 ounces strawberries, hulled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown or demerara sugar, for sprinkling 

instructions:

How to cook Low-Carb(ish) Old-Fashioned Strawberry Cake

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Smear or brush a bit of butter onto the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan and line with parchment paper (either cut to fit the bottom, or leaving some hanging over the edges for easy removal).
  2. Whisk together the almond meal, paleo flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl.
  3. In a stand mixer (or using an electric hand mixer and a large bowl), beat butter, coconut sugar, and vanilla together on medium-high, periodically scraping down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything incorporates, until the mixture is pale, light, fluffy and creamy, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating to blend between additions. (This is a good time to scrape down the sides again.)
  5. Reduce the mixer speed to low and carefully add half the flour mixture, followed by half the buttermilk. Repeat with remaining flour mixture and buttermilk, beating just until no large lumps remain.
  6. Using a spatula, gently fold in half the strawberries and transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan. Scatter with remaining strawberries and sprinkle with brown or demerara sugar.
  7. Bake until cake is puffed, deeply golden brown on the top and pulling away at the sides, 45 to 50 minutes. (It should spring back slightly when pressed in the center and appear fully baked where the strawberries meet the cake.)
  8. Let cake cool completely before removing it from the pan (either by inverting or lifting with the parchment lining). The cake can be baked up to three days ahead and stored tightly wrapped at room temperature, or refrigerated. We actually found that the texture improved on the second day.
Created using The Recipes Generator






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The Italian Food, Wine, Travel group is exploring Passito wines this month, so be sure to check out their offerings as well. If you happen to catch this post early, you can join in our Twitter discussion at 8 a.m PT, 11 a.m. ET by following #ItalianFWT. We meet online the first Saturday of each month. 

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7 comments

  1. Oh wow, Nicole, my mouth is watering with this cake and wine. Thank you!!!

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  2. We thought our wines, especially the Amarone, would love to be paired with a strong cheese as well. I am loving that rustic strawberry shortcake, it is gorgeous.

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  3. Even though it was strawberries and not peaches, I would have said yes to a piece of your cake with that wine! As long as it's fruit and cream, I think you get a winner with a passito style wine.

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    Replies
    1. Agreed! And it was 100% a winning combo. Thanks Jeff!

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  4. A winery I do not know, so very interesting to learn more about them. And Recioto di Soave is another of Italy's hidden wine gems.

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