Saturday, February 6, 2021

Farina Amarone della Valpolicella with Ground Pork in Karela Rings #ItalianFWT

Farina Amarone: Ruby red color with garnet hues. Mildly bitter, spicy, cocoa, sour cherry, raspberry, currant, and balsamic notes. Warm, full-bodied, structured, fine and balanced

It feels so good to kick off my Italian wine bloggings for 2021 with the topic of Italian Wines to Go With Meat Braises and Stews, thanks to the invite of Cam Mann's Culinary Adventures. With two feet of fresh snow outside my New Jersey home, I crave for a bit comfort food and wine, but want to go outside my comfort zone. Let's take a "bitterly" wild journey to taste the 2016 Farina Amarone della Valpolicella Classico and Ground Pork in Karela (Indian bitter melon) Rings.

Farina Amarone della Valpolicella 2016, SRP $30, ABV 15%, 
70% Corvina, 20% Rondinella, 10% Molinara

Farina Amarone della Valpolicella

Fairna was born and lives in Valpolicella, a land of deep-rooted and excellent winemaking tradition. Farina’s century-long expertise uniquely interprets the terroir of  Valpolicella. Valpolicella is the most famous red wine district in northeastern Italy's Veneto wine region. Amarone della Valpolicella Classico wines in particular are intensely rich, red Amarone wines from the traditional Classico viticultural zone of Valpolicella. 

Grapes drying at Remo Farina (Photo Credit:

This 2016 Farina Amarone della Valpolicella Classico is made from a careful selection of Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella grapes dried in the typical fruit drying sheds for about 4 months, and is matured first in barriques and then in Slavonian oak barrels. 

Grapes kept in drying rooms, known as appassimento in Italian, for 3 weeks to 3 months
(Photo Credit: Whole Food Market Wine)

Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara are the typical Italian indigenous grapes used to produce Amarone della Valpolicella. Corvina, with the classic bitter note, is generally considered as the finest and traditional grapes of the three. Rondinella's popularity picked up since 1960s because of its prolific yields. It is hardly ever produced as a single varietal wine, but rather is used to add herbal flavors to the Corvina base and to flesh out the blend. Molinara, which is super-acidic and easily oxidized, is a light-bodied Italian red grape that is used as a minor blending partner in Valpolicella, Bardolino and IGT Veneto wines. On its own, Molinara is fairly characterless and ultimately rarely appears as a varietal wine. 
Farina Amarone with Ground Pork in Karela Rings

Amarone - Bitter Plus Enormous Size in Italian

Amarone comes from the Italian word amaro, which means bitter, completed by the one suffix which denotes enormous size or volume. Amarone della Valpolicella is an intensely flavored dry red wine concentrated its flavors from dried grapes. This style was invented as Veneto's winemakers searched for a way to increase the body, complexity and alcohol content of their wines. The grapes are picked in whole clusters and are kept in drying rooms that have warm temperatures and low humidity (i.e., the process is known as appassimento in Italian) for anywhere from approximately three weeks to three months. When the drying process is complete, the grapes are gently pressed and the must is fermented to dry. The grapes' high sugar content translates into a higher potential alcohol, so a complete fermentation results in a powerful wine of 15 or 16 percent alcohol by volume. This is subsequently aged in larger barrels and smaller Slavonian oak barriques for at least two years before commercial release.

Indian Bitter Melon - Karela helps manage diabetics and gut health

Ground Pork in Karela Rings 

Karela, Indian bitter melon, is considered as one of the most bitter vegetables. This vegetable has a distinct "spiky" look and an oblong shape. It's hollow inside that's filled with flat seeds and pith, which are to be removed. While I care more about the bitter taste I like about Karela, this bitter vegetable is packed with therapeutic benefits such as managing diabetics and gut health. As you could tell, Karela is not for everyone - either you love it or you hate it. It is an acquired taste! To lighten up the bitterness, you could blanch the cut-up melon in boiling water for a few minutes. However, the freshly green color will turn dull. In comparison to Chinese bitter melon, which is bigger, longer and less spiky, Karela is milder in terms of bitterness. When I could handle Chinese bitter melon all my life, Karela is perfectly blanching required. 

Seasoned Ground Pork Stuffed in the Karela Rings

To retain the shape so that I can stuff the ground pork in easily, it's better just to cut up the fresh Karela in rings without softening it up by blanching. Although the seasoning of the ground pork is entirely up to you, I recommend using dried herbs, and maybe a bit garlic, paprika and cayenne pepper in my case. Try not to make the meat filling too wet so it won't be "mold" inside the round rings. First, pan fry the Karela rings in the hot pan until golden brown on both sides. Then add a bit water and put a lid on the pan to slow cook it for five to ten minutes, depending on how soft you want the Karela to be. I personally liked it more crunchy and am obsessed in looking at the vibrantly green color of the Karela. So I only cooked it for five minutes. But to make it into a "braised" dish with the softer Karela, I cooked another version of it for 15 minutes after the pan fry, and added a light cornstarch glace to wrap up the dish.

Obsessed in looking at the vibrantly green color of the Karela!

Bitter Wine with Bitter Food

Describing wines as "bitter" seems to be shooting yourself in the foot. However, this is only true when you consider bitterness as a turn-off and there's no right food to pair it. While sipping my pleasantly "bitter" and spicy Farina Amarone, which is attributed by Corvina's  signature bitter note and Rondinella's herbal characters, my taste bud was also bombarded by the stuffed Karela...bitter, juicy, spicy, porky and savory. I'm truly indulged in self-bitterness!

Indulged in "Self-Bitterness"

Check out other #ItalianFWT bloggers' Italian wines and braised meats or stews below: