We cannot ignore wine when speaking of Italian cuisine: it has always been an integral, complementary and mesmerizing part of it. Together, gastronomy and wine represent what is the table for Italians and the brand of Italian spirit in the world: conviviality. At the time of Artusi, wine was usually consumed during meals in all Italian regions. However, the “Artusi of wine” had not yet arrived. Mario Soldati, Luigi Veronelli and others after them, elaborated the “scientific” texts on Italian wine, in the accessible wake of Pellegrino Artusi‘s “Science in the kitchen”, almost a century later, laying the foundations for the development of the pairing art of wine and food.
“… A major law in Italy is precisely this: that, in our country, everything that has a title, a name, an advertisement, is in any case far less than anything that is unknown, hidden, and individual. Labelled wine bottles are mostly bad; unlabelled bottles and loose wine mostly good. Here, the man of worth, like a delicious wine, avoids every advertising: he wants to be discovered and known alone, or in the religious company of a few friends”. – Mario Soldati, 1955. With this in mind, it is natural that Artusi doesn’t deal with pairing topics in his book, since wine was rarely bottled, mostly “unknown” in other regions, and absolutely “individual” in consumption, travels in different timings of cognition.
Artusi, however, uses it in his gastronomic experiments as an important food, capable of changing the physiognomy of a dish. He demonstrates this in the various recipes, of which the most representative example is the Milanese risotto. He creates three versions, starting from the simple one, “Milanese Risotto I”, and then he changes it with white wine for the “Milanese Risotto II”, specifying in the description that “this risotto is more complicated and heavier in the stomach than the previous, but tastier“. He makes a completely different version by introducing a touch of wild extravagance with aged Marsala, in the “Milanese Risotto III”. The importance of the wine imprint in culinary preparations seems evident to the father of “Science in the kitchen and the art of eating well”.
Artusi goes further, becoming the first to suggest pairings: “I think that the more suitable wine for weak stomachs is the dry white, and I esteem excellent, for its pleasant taste and because it is very digestible, the Orvieto one, which can be served also at dessert. For this use, there is also the Vin Santo, Asti sparkling wine, Malaga and other similar products that are on the market; but who trusts these?”. By his words, he anticipates Mario Soldati in saying that trade doesn’t benefit Italian wine.