During a quick wine trip to the Lake Garda area in Northern Italy, I had the pleasure of stopping by at the famous Zenato winery.
The goal was simple but dual:
- Discover Zenato’s wines
- Find the best type of Grana Padano cheese to pair with each.
One of the Best Cheeses for Pairing with Wine
You see, Grana Padano is probably one of the best cheeses to pair with wine.
Hard cheeses are naturally excellent matches for wine because their texture and taste don’t overpower the wines too much. They’re not too creamy or too strong in flavors.
But on top of that, Grana Padano has the advantage of coming in various ageing levels with increasingly strong taste and crumbly texture.
· Grana Padano 9 Mesi:
This is the youngest (as in lesser aged) Grana Padano, aged at least 9 months, and no more than 16. It is lighter in flavor, and not crumbly, but rather creamier with an elastic texture. Its flavors are soft and creamy, tasting like field flowers and delicate butter.
· Grana Padano Oltre 16 Mesi:
So, this is aged at least 16 months, and no more than 24. Its texture starts to get quite crumbly from the ageing, we enter the world of grating cheeses. It’s got more acidity than the 9-month-old, and more herbal and lactic flavors. It also melts in your mouth more easily, coating your palate with delicious yet still subtle nutty and cheesy tastes. It is extremely versatile for pairing with wine.
· Grana Padano Riserva:
Aged for a minimum of 24 months, or two years, it has stronger flavors, and crystals of tyrosine (a protein component) are present make it a little crunchy. More animal notes, more cooked and nutty flavors, increased savoriness, oilier texture and much longer in taste.
At a Grana Padano Cheese Factory
Zenato Winery in Brief
Zenato winery makes a variety of red, white and sparkling wines.
It was founded in 1960 by Sergio Zenato in the heart of Lugana, in Peschiera del Garda where the main winery still stands. Here, white wines under the Lugana DOC are made.
Soon, Zenato also extended its operation to the land of Valpolicella, in Sant’Ambrogio, Verona province.
Take a Quick Video Tour of the Zenato Winery
Today, the company continues standing out in the world of wine, thanks to the hard work of Sergio’s wife Carla and his sons Alberto and Nadia, who consolidated and expanded the project begun by founding father Sergio.
Discovering Zenato Wines
To start discovering the great variety of wines produced at Zenato’s, you ought to first try some of their flagship wines: the white wines from Lugana made under the S. Cristina label, and the classic Valpolicella wines including the famous Ripasso and Amarone styles.
Find my wine reviews of Zenato wines below:
2016 Azienda Agricola S. Cristina Lugana
Score: 90/100 pts. Made from 100% Trebbiano di Lugana grapes. Very fresh nose, super citrusy, touches of fresh nuts (macadamia) and leesy tones (brioche). Opulent but very fragrant and fresh mouthfeel, dense and crisp minerality. Powerful ripe lemon 🍋 and plenty of subtle vegetal tones of acacia and honeysuckle. A salivating round and complete fresh white, yet super vibrant and crisp, refreshing with shiny fruit and floral.
2014 Sergio Zenato Lugana Riserva
Score: 93/100 pts. Aged for 2 years in botti (oak vats). Extremely elegant but also powerful nose, with much herbal character (much anis and juniper) but also filled with plenty of citrus, and sweet oaky tones. Round and oily body, dry with powerful flavors.
Follow the links below to find the full review articles:
Also find out all my reviews & ratings of Zenato wines
Which Grana Padano for Which Wine?
Young White with 9-Month Old Grana Padano
The 2016 Azienda Agricola S. Cristina (Santa Cristina) Lugana is simply fantastic with the 9. Mesi Grana Padano, the cheese comes in with subtle nutty, creamy and just slightly herbal, waking up the palate to subtle flavors. After starting on this, the wine comes in reinforcing punchy grassy flavors and bringing in intense suavity from its ripe citrus flavors, while the freshness and acidity of the wine easy cuts through the saltiness and richness of the cheese, never overpowered by the cheese.
Riserva White with 16-Month Old Grana Padano
2014 Azienda Agricola S. Cristina Lugana Riserva, with more body and more spices and depth than the crisp ‘standard’ Lugana, because of the long ageing in oak, pairs wonderfully with the 16-month old Grana Padano. The nutty tones of the cheese highlighting the complexity of the wine without overpowering it.
How to Pair Red Valpolicella with Grana Padano Cheese?
To best pair the Valpolicella wines by Zenato with this Italian hard cheese, one must start with a minimum of 16 months of ageing. The 9-month old cheese, mild and creamy, is simply a little too delicate even for the lightest style of Zenato’s Valpolicella Superiore. The latter though, goes wonderfully with the 16 months cheese, and ok with the 24-month cheese.
The Ripassa, fuller-bodied and with richer flavors, also goes superbly with the 16 months cheese, but is not quite enough powerful enough to withstand the flavor-power of the 24-month-old version.
The Amarone however, with its density and intense fruity and spicy flavors is fantastic with the tastier 24 months cheese. Together, they bring out a generous, if not explosive tasting sensation. A must-try for any wine and cheese lover.
There is a wine for every Grana Padano cheese.
More surprisingly, we’ve learnt at Zenato’s that there actually is a Grana Padano cheese for every wine.
This is why I now often say:
Grana Padano may well be one of the very best wine-pairing cheeses you will find.