Sampling Italian Wines At Eataly Chicago's Baffo

Italian wines and Eataly's finest restaurant made a perfect pairing in Chicago as the Consorzio Carignano del Sulcis was introduced in a trade tasting at Baffo. Five producers of Carignano del Sulcis, a red grape that has yet to gain popularity in the U.S., each brought a wine to pair for this exclusive event to promote this little-known Italian varietal. Carignano del Sulcis is grown in the southwestern corner of the island of Sardinia. It benefits from the terroir, which has an abundance of warm sun, wind, and sandy soil, producing a hardy red grape. Mario Batali's Baffo met the challenge of putting together a five-course lunch that brought out the best in these wines. Each course lived up to the restaurant's reputation for fine Italian dining. The dishes are all available on Baffo's daily menu.

2011 Calasetta Tupei
Prosciutto, fiocco, and salumi served with gnocco fritto (fried dumplings)
The fruity, rich semi-dry wine picks up the salt in the salumi selection for a nice blend.

2010 Mesa Buio Buio
Farfalle con Gambieri
Farfalle pasta with rock shrimp, pancetta, chili flakes, and tomato
With the inclusion of 15-percent syrah, this wine was a complex mix of licorice, plum, and casis notes that matched well to the also-complex pasta dish.

2011 Barrua AgriPunica
Papparedelle al Ragù
Handmade pappardelle with a Bologna meat ragù
This wine is 85-percent Carignano, with the other varietals not noted. It offers a bit of red fruit and herbs on the initial taste, with a white pepper finish. The pasta also has a long finish, so it was a good accompaniment.

2009 Is Arenas Sardus Pater
Costolette D'Agnelo
Grilled lamb chops with eggplant and pine nuts
This was quite an unusual dish, with rare Italian grilled lamb chops served with an eggplant that looked and tasted like a Greek baba ghanoush. The wine was also quite unusual, as it presented on pouring as an amber color (similar to an aged moscato from Sicily) and changed by the time the course was reached to more of a red with a sweeter finish. Though the wine did retain its earthy nose and plum notes, it was definitely highlighted by the lamb.

2008 Terre Brune Santadi
Formaggi Sardi
Selection of cheeses and jam
This wine is 95-percent Carignano with the remaining blend filled by bovaleddu, also from Sardinia. The combination is extremely complex, with blackberry and blueberry hints, leading to spice, tobacco, and even chocolate. Combined with the hard savory cheese and sweet jam, it was quite a collection of flavors.