Food & Drink

How to Pair Natural Wine with Vegan Pasta

A newbies’ guide with About Eatery, Bangkok.

By Bek Van Vliet

Sep 4, 2020

All photos are courtesy of About Eatery.

LOW-CARB SCHMO-SCHMARB; sometimes you just need a big-old plate of sauce-slathered pasta. For a more Earth- and body-friendly version of the above, we turned to Bangkok’s About Eatery. This cozy bistro has long been a purveyor of hearty and delicious Italian food, featuring ingredients from Uraiwan organic farm in Chiang Mai, alongside an extensive list of exclusively natural wine from around the world.

Chef Gabriele Tozzo Luna’s new About Pasta bar gave us the perfect excuse to explore a belly-busting feast on the more wholesome end of the spectrum. There are some 350 shapes of Italian pasta, About Eatery’s owner, Giulio Saverino, says—“even we don’t know them all!” The duo have introduced 10 new and fun types along with 10 new sauces, each representing a different region of Italy, and they’re all made à la minute in front of the customers.

As Giulio is also an expert sommelier who’s made it his mission to preach the natural wine gospel to Bangkok, we decided to grill him on his similarly eco-tasty vegan offerings. Read on for all you need to know about natural wines and how to pair them. 

Giulio’s Rules to Wine Pairing

Wine whiz, Giulio Saverino

1) Think holistically

First of all, you need to analyze the plate 360 degrees. This means you should not focus only on the main ingredient—the pasta, in this case—you should also consider the sauce and the cooking method. It’s not as simple as saying ‘with beef I drink this wine,’ because when we eat the dish, we experience everything. 

Freshly cut pici noodles.

2) Aim for harmony

One technique is pairing by harmony: What do you have in the food that you also have in the wine? The food and wine should have the same structure. First, you need to eat a small piece of food with the sauce and the garlic, swallow, then drink a little bit of wine, swallow, and if the flavor of the wine and food finish at the same time, it means step one is done.

3) Pair by contrast

If you have a soft sensation in the food you need a harder sensation in the wine. When you eat pasta or rice, you need a ‘harder’ wine, with more acidity and sapidity. In general, with pasta you need high acidity. If you have a stronger sensation in the food, you need a lighter sensation in the wine—one with medium acidity. When you have a liquid sensation in the food—one where you produce more saliva, like grilled beef—you need a wine with a dry sensation, with high tannins and high alcohol. 

So this is the general technique every time you pair. But within the dishes it’s important that you analyze the main ingredient, the cooking method and the sauce.

Natural vs. Organic vs. Biodynamic

Natural Wine: Natural Yeast

Unfortunately, general consumers and even sommeliers don’t really know what’s inside a bottle of wine—to me this is the biggest problem. Any other product you buy has a label on the back, but with wine unfortunately there is not. 

People think that wine is made only from grapes. But in commercial wine by law you can add up to 70 additives. My idea was to focus on clean, healthy wine made by small producers, with everything made by hand, the harvest done by hand, and fermented with natural yeast.

There are so many commercial yeasts in the market. According to what yeast you use you can even manipulate the final taste of the wine—if you want wine to taste like cherry, tannins, or full-bodied, you can use a specific yeast. But if you use natural yeast, the final taste is only what comes from the soil, the weather. It’s a big difference, so I only select wines fermented with natural yeast.

Organic Wine: Pesticides-free

To be able to ferment with natural yeast, your grape has to be clean. If you spray too much pesticide, the natural yeast is gone. So I don’t have to focus on organic certification (because I also don’t trust that)—if it’s fermented in natural yeast, you know the additives and the sulphite levels are low. 

Some people think organic wine is not as tasty. They will say, ‘Bring me a bottle of wine that is not organic.’ I will not say I don’t have any, I’ll just give them a try of something and they say ‘Oh, I like this wine,’ then I will tell them the wine is organic. 

Biodynamic Wine: The Moon and the Stars

Biodynamic is a philosophy that was created by an Austrian in 1920. It’s a philosophy that states everything we grow in the Earth has to be in relation with the moon and the solar system. There are biodynamic calendars that tell you when it’s a good time to plant, when to harvest, and also tell you which day it’s good to drink. 

Biodynamic wine is also made from organic grapes. The difference is that biodynamic wine requires makers to fertilize the soil with their own compost, and also ferment with natural yeast. The level of sulphites is even lower than organic, so if you mind sulphite, biodynamic is even better for you than organic. 

Pair 3 Vegan Pastas with 3 Natural Wines

1) Pici all’ Aglione—a Tuscan pasta with tomato sauce and a lot of garlic, paired with Valpolicella Classico Speri-Veneto, an organic Italian red wine from Veneto. When you pair wine with pasta, especially a tomato base, you need a red wine with high acidity and very low tannins. That is a general rule.

2) Casarecce alla Norma, a Sicilian pasta with an eggplant and tomato sauce, a little bit spicy. In this case, I would go with an orange wine—a skin-contact white wine, the skin contact only for a few weeks: Celler Tuets Tot Blanc from Catalunya. Usually red wine and spicy food never go together because of the tannins, because tannins with spice becomes very aggressive, very bitter. 

Trofie al Pesto Genovese.

3) Trofie al Pesto Genovese, twisted Ligurian pasta with a vegan pesto sauce, paired with a Pinot Noir MacForbes from Yarra Valley, Australia. This is a very light pinot noir. As per the basics with pasta, we need to avoid tannins. The pesto sauce is quite light and vegan pesto even lighter, because there is no cheese. 

About Pasta’s Handmade Pasta Menu is available through September 2020. The Giro D’Italia set of four pastas for two persons is Bt980. Individual pasta dishes start from Bt320.; +66 2 665 2772.

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