Welcome to The OenoFiles, where we chat with the smartest sippers of wine in the ATL. This month, we talk to Dan Pernice of Roswell's Osteria Mattone and Table & Main.
Dan Pernice at Osteria Mattone. [Photo: Christopher Watkins]
Real Italian cuisine is making a comeback in America today, and Atlanta is no exception. This month, Osteria Mattone has joined the likes of BoccaLupo and Antico Pizza in satisfying our city's recent hunger for authentic Italian (we could go on about longstanding Atlanta faves like La Grotta and Sotto Sotto or Fritti, but let's stay on track). Enter the Table & Main team, Ted Lahey, Ryan Pernice, and Ryan's brother Dan Pernice. They've done the research in Italy and brought the good stuff to Roswell, including the vino.
Dan, a powerhouse sommelier formerly of the James Beard Award-winning wine program at The Modern (NYC), is there to help us explore one of winemaking's oldest cultures. Here, find out more about what makes him your new favorite expert—the only thing he asks of guests? They've got to be "up front about their priorities." So go ahead, be honest and drink up.
Tell us about developing Osteria Mattone.
Drawing inspiration from dining experiences in restaurants all over Italy, we set out to create a true-to-form Roman trattoria in Roswell, GA. Creating the wine list, I followed a simple, guiding principle that the wine had to match the cuisine. With this in mind I've chosen a list full of bottles I know people will love, replete with personal favorites.
Will Osteria Mattone play a role in the beverage program at Table & Main (and vice versa)?
Somewhat. Osteria Mattone features many great European wines, so my plan is to modify the wine list at Table & Main to have a more domestic focus. The end game is to have the complete spectrum represented between our two restaurants.
Where do you begin when pairing wine with food?
I'm pretty open-minded about wine pairing as long as the wine's structure makes sense with the food, but generally I like to match the aromatic qualities of the wine to the flavor components of a dish. For example, if the dish features mushrooms I'll look to pair an earthy, funky pinot noir or nebbiolo.
Are there any ingredients that pose a particular challenge?
Ice cream and sorbet. I'd rather just have a coffee or amaro instead of wine.
What's your favorite bottle on the Osteria Mattone list and why?
The Bartolo Mascarello Barolo. When I was in Barolo last June, I showed up to this address unannounced, uncertain how I might be received and expecting to need an appointment. Instead I was allowed in to tour the winery, taste the wine, and even meet Maria Teresa herself (she's a very busy woman). I'll never forget their hospitality, and besides, they produce some of the best wines in the world.
Can you name the most strange/funny wine question you've ever received from a diner?
People order wine based on all different kinds of criteria. Many shop for wines based on price, others vintage, some ratings, etc. I had a gentleman ask me once, "Which of these wines has the most alcohol?" I like it when guests are up front about their priorities.
Have you noticed a recent trend in diners' wine selections, whether it's a certain varietal, price point, or producer?
I'd say some trends set over recent years are continuing: pinot noir and sauvignon blanc still fly off the shelves at almost any price. However, Italian wine is on the rise, and I think it has to do with the resurgence of true Italian cuisine here in America.
Do you remember the most expensive bottle you've ever sold?
While working at The Modern in NY, I sold a 2000 Château Mouton-Rothschild for $1,600. The guy came in with his wife for lunch and wanted to completely blow it out.
Where do you think wine trends are heading next?
People are opening up to more rusticity in wines. A wine that's too polished and refined can seem over-manipulated and uninteresting. I like seeing people enjoy a wine for its unique character even if it's a bit rough around the edges.
How do you recommend that a beginner start learning wine?
Taste around to find a particular wine you like, then get to know everything about it: the producer, the region, the varietals. From there you can discover other wines by that producer, other producers in that appellation, other appellations in that region, so forth and so on.
How about collecting?
Keep a healthy amount of cheap or ready-to-drink wine around in addition to the bottles you want to hold on to. This makes it easier to drink wine often without cracking open the good stuff before it's time.
Do you have a fave budget-friendly bottle?
Right now that would be the Giacomo Mori Chianti. It's everything I want in a classic Chianti: aromas of herbs, dried fruit, and a little earth with a great tannin and acid structure. This one won't break the bank at $48 on the list.
For folks at home, do you have an all-time favorite wine and cheese pairing? How about a suggested wine and cheese party set-up?
I like Champagne with rich, creamy cheeses. The Chartogne-Taillet Cuvée St. Anne comes alive with Sweet Grass Dairy Green Hill, for example.
What's your favorite beverage to drink when you're not sampling wines?
I'm into sake now more than ever. I love its subtle complexity.
What's your number one wine-rule to live by?
Always be willing to try new things. The world of wine is too vast to be close-minded about what you drink.
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