Quibranza: Exclusive, exquisite wine pairing dinner

WONDERFUL DINNER. Acqua executive chef Luca D’Amora and his entire team.
WONDERFUL DINNER. Acqua executive chef Luca D’Amora and his entire team.

It was a fine Saturday night. The 20 or so people stood near the beachfront enjoying the gentle breeze brushing against our cheeks while getting warm and cozy with a few cocktails. Shangri-La Mactan Island Resort and Spa, together with The Wine Club and Banfi Wines, hosted a wine pairing dinner at the resort’s Acqua restaurant last Jan. 27, 2024.

Banfi is a brand of Italian wines that was founded in 1978 by Italian-American brothers, John and Harry Mariani. Today, Cristina Mariani-May, representing the third generation of the family, sits as president and chief executive officer.

After resort general manager Dave Junker greeted the table, he turned our attention over to Guillaume Blanchard, Banfi regional manager for Southeast Asia.

“Today, we’re having wine from a family-owned winery. The wines we’re having here are coming from Southern Tuscany, from a town called Montalcino,” introduced Blanchard. “We’re also known for producing our Super Tuscan Wines and Chiantis, too.”

The night promised to be a date with the exquisite wines of Banfi and it sure did not disappoint. In fact, it was a wine pairing dinner worth the ride from Cebu City to Mactan Island.

For aperitivo, we had smoked aubergines topped with caviar served with a bit of wasabi sour cream. Antipasto was lobster carpaccio with a green mango sauce, with a seaweed salmoriglio and lemon confit; Both paired with a Banfi Le Rime Pinot Grigio 2021.

“We were one of the first producers in Tuscany to start planting Pinot Grigio,” said Blanchard. “So you get a rounder style of Pinot Grigio, the acidity is not going to be as high as the ones you’ll find in the northern part of Italy.” Indeed, the Le Rime complemented the light and fresh seafood dishes well.

For pasta, we had spaghettone with cod fish and salsa verde. Technically, spaghettone is thicker than normal spaghetti. For this prima portata (entrée), we had the Banfi Chianti DOCG 2021. A medium-bodied red that paired really well with the pasta — a pairing Blanchard attributes to the spirit of culinary experimentation. “It’s always nice to experiment and not just stick to the same old ‘white wine with white meat’ and ‘red wine with red meat.’”

Now, we had two wines left — the Super Tuscans.

For seconda portata (second entrée), we had a risotto with tail and beetroot ragout which was paired with the Castello Banfi Magna Cum Laude Toscana IGT 2019 — a personal favorite. For portata principale, we had a tasty tomahawk steak served with a “1,000-layer” potato, served with mushroom and a salty zabaione (custard). This was paired with the Castello Banfi Summus Toscana IGT 2018.

The story of Super Tuscans is one of rebellion. It was coined by critics to label Italian wines that were the product of different grapes and blends. Italian winemakers in the 1970s thought they needed to take matters into their own hands during a time when the quality of Italian wine was perceived to be in decline.

“The Cum Laude is a blend of four varieties — Cabernet, Merlot, Sangiovese and Syrah — aged for 12 months. The Summus is a blend of three varieties aged for 22 to 24 months — Sangiovese, Cabernet and Syrah,” said Blanchard. “The idea about Super Tuscans is that a lot of producers in the 1970s did not always want to follow a recipe. They wanted to bend the rules a little bit and decided to blend wines with local varieties.”

To end the meal on a sweet note, we enjoyed the mont blanc with rosemary and chocolate. Would have I paired it with an espresso at 10 in the evening? Maybe next time!

Kudos to Executive Chef Luca D’Amora and his entire team for the wonderful dinner, and cheers to Banfi Wines for hosting a delightful night of conversation, education and degustation.


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