Tuesday, February 23, 2010

#40 - Sunday Gravy With '05 Nero d'Avola

Sunday gravy is a sort of Italian/Italian-American hybrid.

The conventional story behind its creation is the combination of all the leftover meat from the week's meals thrown into a tomato sauce and stewed for a few hours.

It goes by 12,000 different names. In our house, it's called Sunday Gravy because two years ago, within the span of a few days, Mrs. Ney saw/read a chef talk about it and within a few days, Cook's Illustrated had a recipe for it, both calling it Sunday Gravy. It was one of those weird convergent moments when you hear about something you've never heard of/heard heard about for years and you hear it twice within the span of a few days. So we tried it. And it was delicious.

Like meat and meat with a side of meat.

Food: Sunday Gravy consisting of ribs, meatballs and spicy Italian sausage stewed in tomato sauce

In the meat competition, the baby back ribs won out. Succulent and well...meaty. I'm not a rib guy but these were some good ribs. Homemade meatballs that fell apart a bit but were still solid. Kinda served as the backbone of the meatfest, filling in the gaps here and there. The Whole Foods sausages were below average, having a sawdust quality (that's twice we've been burned by Whole Foods sausage - we live and you learn, people).

The recipe used was this one almost verbatim.

San Marzano tomatoes negates any use for tomato paste and has a tendency to ruin the brightness that comes from the best tomatoes on the planet.

With three hour stew time, the entire concoction, while a bit coma-inducing, is and was delicious.

Typically served over pasta, we opted for homemade garlic spread on Pugliese bread. It was a wise choice as the garlic bread was probably the best part of the meal, dipping it in the stew and sopping up the sauce. Great stuff. Just really great stuff.

Wine: 2005 Nerojbleo Nero d'Avola Gulfi ($18 Binny's ?)

This is the fourth time we've had this wine and it's been different each time.

A couple of years ago at Cellar Rat on North, we had a tasting of it. It was like drinking the juice of herbed and grilled meat. The finish stuck with me for hours. Just glorious.

We bought a bottle right after that, trying it a few weeks later and couldn't replicate the experience. In fact, it was pretty ordinary. Did it again a few months later with the same result.

Figuring the wine was probably open at Cellar Rat for a day or so, we tried a three-hour decant last night and it started to approach the first experience.

Dark red in the glass. Almost black in the center. Big basket of freshly-picked raspberries and cherries on the nose - stems, leaves, earth and all. Tar, black cherry, a hint of grilled meat with a nice herbs de Provence background on the palate. Medium finish, slightly bitter. Softer tannins.

A solid nero d'avola, better than the Cusumano/Regaleali/Colosi world but short of the reserve-level stuff I've had through work.

Plays perfectly for its price point and maybe a little above. A clean, slightly bitter wine right out of the bottle. A much more complex wine after three hours. I would be interested to see what a six-hour decant or even what two days open would do.

For $18, good stuff. I've always been a fan of the simplicity of the Cusumano, its versatility with food and its heft and spice you got from the $12 price point. But for $6 more, the Nerojbleo is infinitely more complex.

Nero d'Avola seems to be getting the respect it deserves recently. Almost dead just a couple of decades ago and then only almost exclusively used in blendings to give body to a wine, it's worth trying, is still inexpensive for the most part and pairs perfectly with grilled meats and/or more rustic Italian fare. Like a Shiraz without the flashy fruit.

Pairing: Yeah, that'll work

It was going to be a good pairing if the Nerojbleo started to wander out of its touch of bitterness and into the meaty quality we first experienced and it did.

I am the furtherest thing from an Italian freak, both food and wine. I think it tends to be overrated, a lot of bluster, chest-heaving and sound and fury in my world for the most part for food that just doesn't warrant that much hagiography.

But Italian food with Italian wine works for a reason. Like French wine and food, the Italian cuisine evolved in lockstep with the wine over hundreds of years. There's a harmony that can't be forced or manufactured.

Last night was no different. The food made the wine more supple and graceful while the wine brought out more meaty goodness from the meat extravaganza.

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