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Carnival at the Table

“Semel in anno licet insanire”, once a year you’re allowed to let yourself go, as the Latin saying went. The right period was precisely this one, called Carnival nowadays and the feast of Bacchus in pagan times. It was a moment when everyone came onto the streets in fancy dress to dance and sing. On that occasion, food and wine couldn’t be missed.

To elaborate on the Italian food and wine tradition of this ancient festival, we interviewed William Pregentelli, journalist of “Gambero Rosso”, who recommended the three unmissable dishes of the tradition during the Carnival and the best wines to go with them!

William gives the first place among the carnival foods to the “chiacchiere” or “frappe”, thin strips of dough, which become deliciously brittle on frying. This sweet is excellent with a Moscato d’Asti, the Sant’Ilario ’14 of Ca’ d’Gal, a cool, elegant wine, with notes of pear, white peach, sage and rosemary. For the “castagnole”, spherical fried sweets, an old recipe that can be personalised with liqueurs or pastry cream, the winning match is with Adriano Gigante’s Friuli Colli Orientali Picolit ’08, with intriguing whiffs of saffron, pollen and calamint. And finally the fritters! Here the recipes vary from one area to another, but apple fritters always have the edge on the others, especially when they are combined with the enveloping, harmonious notes of Coffele’s Recioto di Soave Le Sponde ’13.

Very interesting is the Sardinian tradition, whose carnival proposal is the “culurgiones de mendula”, fried ravioli with a filling of almonds amalgamated with orange-flower water or liqueurs. The match suggested this time is territorial, a wine of the island, almost a rarity: Columbu’s Malvasia di Bosa Dolce Alvarèga ’14, whose fragrance of oranges, honey and nuts goes perfectly with the flavours of the recipe.

And to finish, let’s try a game and ask our expert from Gambero Rosso to associate a wine with each costume.

To Harlequin, the astute, cunning, expressive and vivacious servant, William associates a fine Lambrusco Reggiano in the sweet version; to the maid Columbine, mistress of seduction, a bubbly wine with vitality and mellowness, a Franciacorta Satèn, while for Pulcinella, or Punch, the best known Neapolitan mask, the match is with a wine from the Sorrento Peninsula, the Gragnano, a sparkling, perfumed red, for carefree drinking.

So let’s thank William, choose a costume and drink a toast to the Carnival all together!