By Cecil Flentge
You’ve loved it on Italian menus, and maybe even made it yourself. Now that the weather shows a slim promise of cooling, let’s talk about a hearty Italian stew.
Meaty veal shanks are the main ingredient in osso buco.
Ossobuco or osso buco (sometimes seen as “bucco”) is Italian for “bone with a hole” (osso bone, buco hole) or “marrowbone”, both a reference to the marrow hole at the center of the cross-cut veal shank.
The original version is ‘ossobuco in bianco’ (Osso Buco with White Sauce), which does not use tomatoes. Then there are many modern versions that do use tomatoes, simply called Osso Buco. But time marches on and it is now quite common to find this dish made with pork shanks (whole or cross-cut), lamb shanks or cross-cut legs of beef or venison. There is even a movie named Osso Buco.
No matter how you approach it, Osso Buco is the ‘black tie and tails’ version of a pot roast, so it is easy to do though it takes some time.
Osso Buco with Tomatoes, Olives and Gremolata (Recipe)
But what wine? So many will work, both white and red, and it does vary with the type of Osso Buco. No matter what country a recipe originates, you will find the same countries wines will be a safe bet. All of these wines will make you happy with your Osso Buco, as well-matched wine and food always will — so on with the Italians!
La Maia Lina Chianti Classico, Tuscany 2008:
The little pig on the label does not tell you ‘buy me’, but you should. CostCo for $11.
Fact: Sangiovese is the primary grape for Chianti and this medium red-colored example shows why they never will change. A ripe cherry nose with cedar and a whiff of raspberries. The palate echoes the cherry, blended with a ripe plum, and enough tangy acidity to keep it all fresh. After it has been open 30 minutes you get a little aroma of black raspberry jam. The finish trails a bit with cherry, mineral and plum.
Feelings: This is why I like drinking wine. You can open this one and have a glass while you cook your Osso Buco, while you dine, while you clean up, and relaxing with a book before bedtime. If you follow this outline you will probably be ready for bedtime!
Sasso al Poggio, from Piccini winery, Tuscany 2004
The 2004 is the current vintage of this ‘Super Tuscan’ offered at CostCo for $13. An excellent opportunity to see how wines develop with some age.
Fact: Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet bring the red color, age brings the caramelized pear color, and together they made a lovely brick red. Vibrant cherry, plum, and wild strawberry on the nose with smoky, earthy undertones. Cherry, mushrooms and an almost meaty component blends with toasty notes for your palate. Deep black cherry served on wood-baked bread linger with the minerality on the finish.
Feelings: Use the good china and polish the silver. Drag out that tablecloth and light some candles, open the wine a few minutes before you serve that rich and fragrant dish. Let the wine tell you stories of Italy, the scent of wild oregano and the statues hidden in marble, as you dine.
Ramitello, Biferno, from Di Majo Norante 2008
From the Molise region, about 200 miles east of Rome. Super value for $11 at CostCo.
Fact: Dark garnet red in color, there is black cherry with a touch of aged woodpile in the enticing aroma. Tasting brings forth cherry, coffee, mineral-earth and a bit of green Poblano pepper. The acidity works well to keep the wine interesting and the finish leaves you with dried cherries and coffee.
Feeling: This wine demands attention. It is like your friend that you have spirited conversations with over dinner, you look forward to the experience.
Ruffino, Modus, Tuscany 2006
Another of the ‘Super Tuscans’ with Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet available for $20.
Fact: An attractive and dramatic label enfolds a dark red wine from a well known winery. Dark cherry, graphite, and cedar were pleasantly presented in the aroma with earthy accent. The first taste repeated the cherry and cedar while later there was more of the minerally graphite and a little vegetal seasoning. Tannins were chewy in this full-bodied red, but all were balanced. One note is to decant this wine twice before serving to awaken the scents and flavors. Alternatively, buy a couple and put them away for two or three years to see how it matures.
Feeling: Somewhat akin to petting a tiger. You can feel the warmth and see the beauty, yet the power is still leashed. Be patient, it will relax as you do.
Caparzo, Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany 1998
Locally, the 2004 vintage is available at Gabriels Superstore for $49 and is rated as highly as the 1998, though it may be more approachable after 2012.
Fact: When first opened there was a toast, black cherry, dried strawberry nose. A few minutes later that was joined by warm red soil and raked Fall leaves. The flavors of red berries, soft tannins, and rich minerals coat your palate. It stays rich and flavorful through the finish, the cherry blending with espresso and chocolate.
Feeling: Ah, your favorite Aunt that always told those wonderful stories! That is what this wine mimics as it tells different stories to your palate and nose, weaving its magic into your dinnertime, sorely missed when it has gone.
Cecil Flentge is a San Antonio wine educator for professionals or novices and a cooking instructor. Restaurant events or home tastings. Questions? Email email@example.com