Thursday Pairing: Penne alla Zucca With Ribolla Gialla


I have friends coming over for dinner and I have been thinking what to make for dinner. Then it came to me, Penne alla Zucca (Pumpkin) one of my favorite all time dishes paired with Ribolla Gialla, a fabulous grape from Friuli. I make the pasta with white wine but sometimes I add a dollop of panna (cream) to finish it off.

Ribolla gialla is said to hail from Greece. From there, it made its way to Slovenia and then onto to Friuli. Boccaccio, the Italian poet mentioned this fabulous white grape as early as the 14th century.

The first time I ever had a ribolla gialla was in a Japanese restaurant in Milan. I was with someone from my Italian wine school, AIS, and he suggested it. It was subtle and elegant, sensual and complex – the wine not the guy…

Oddly enough, it paired very well with Japanese food. It had enough sweetness to contrast some of the savory flavors in our meal but it was also delicate enough with great acidity to match salmon. If memory serves, it was a wine by Josko Gravner , a very precise and particular wine maker who ages his wines in amphorae in the ground. He’s been doing that for most of this past decade although he began in a much more traditional style. He also experiments with open vats. While he refuses to call himself organic or biodynamic, his philosophy is as little intervention in the winery as possible. He uses only ambient yeasts as well.

His was the only amphora aged wine that I had tried at that point. Apparently, many others are experimenting with his technique. I read this on Alice Feiring’s blog about her latest tasting of Amphora aged wines. Sounded like a great tasting.


I met Gravner at a tasting in 2007 in Monza, a city outside of Milan where they hold Formula 1 races. The tasting was a small intimate affair. Gravner was there with his son, who tragically passed away some years ago in a terrible motocycle accident.

Gravner was very serious when he spoke about his wines and how much time he had wasted in his initial winemaking years. He also told me California should stop making wine.

We had a vertical of Breg and some of the Anfora Ribolla Gialla as well. I loved the wines. My friend did not. He found them hard to drink. Il mondo e’ bello perche’ vario…

I am hoping to see this variety on many more wine lists. I don’t think it is getting the right amount of attention in the United States. It is a versatile grape and can pair with Asian cuisine, Indian cuisine or anything else for that matter.

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