Where Sicily and Mendoza Meet: Stuffed Roasted Calamari and Perlita Rosado 2015.

Wine Pairing Weekend June 2016:  Rosé  #winePW

Roasted Stuffed Calamari

This Saturday is my first experience with Wine Pairing Weekend (#winePW), which challenges food and wine writers to create inspired pairings around a different theme each month.  Big thanks to Nancy from PullThatCork.com for hosting this month’s gathering.   June’s focus is Rosé, a topic that could take us virtually anywhere!  As indicated by the title, my contribution is a combo fusing the unique cultures of Sicily and Argentina.

I’ve made this dish before, for a Sicilian-themed dinner, and paired it with a duo of wines from Mt. Etna: The white, an Etna Bianco from Graci, was elegant and crisp, reminding me somewhat of Chablis. It was a blend of Carricante (70%) and Cataratto (30%), both native to the island. The red, COS Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico, was a blend of the varieties Frappato and Nero d’Avola. A bit earthy, with lots of cherry and red currant notes, it had a lively acidity that made another inspired match-up with the food. What a fantastic meal!

But this month’s #winePW got me thinking about how I might shake things up a little.  I love rosé in all its forms.  The barely pink, bone-dry specimens from the South of France are a delight on a hot summer’s day (or any day if, like me, you happen to live in South Florida.)  But I am equally fond of the lush, vibrant magenta-hued Rosados from Spain and elsewhere.  One of my favorite on-location food pairings of all time is a fruity, flirty, unapologetically pink Rosado with fresh-grilled sardines in the Costa del Sol.  In a recent post I waxed poetic on the magic of sipping and supping local specialties on their home turf, and that got me thinking.   Fresh sardines don’t show up regularly at my neighborhood fish market, unless they’re frozen, intended for sale as bait for “real fish.”  So what else could I pair with a full-bodied Rosado that would pay homage to the original idea but be a bit easier to replicate at home?

With a bounty of fresh fish – snapper, grouper, swordfish – available year-round, choosing one of them and slapping it on the grill would have been a delicious idea.  In fact, I do that a couple of times a week and always enjoy both the dish and the pairing, whichever wine it happens to be.  Only when my husband asked me, “When are you going to make that awesome squid again?” did I feel inspired.  It was time to dust off the recipe for Sicilian Style Roasted Calamari!  Perhaps it could take the place of my beloved sardines, serving as the beautiful understudy in the starring role of my virtual trip back to the south of Spain.

Going with my original idea to shake things up, I also decided to switch out the Spanish Rosado for a new wine, one that had caught my eye from the shelf as I passed by, headed to my usual haunt among the wines of France, Spain, and Italy.  I’m fairly sure this bottle whistled at me as I went by, determined to get my attention from the middle of the South American stack.  Whether it was the simple, clean design of its hot pink-and-white striped label or the bright rosy hue of its contents, I felt compelled to take a closer look at this bottle.

Perlita Rosado

Perlita Rosado hails from Mendoza, Argentina, and is produced by Bodega DiamAndes, which is a small jewel in the Clos de los Siete crown, famed for its association with flying winemaker, Michel Rolland.  Its history dates back to 2005, when the Bonnie family, previously of Bordeaux (Château Malartic-Lagravière, Graves; and Château Gazin Rocquencourt, Pessac-Léognan) decided to pull up stakes and head to the Uco Valley, just south of Mendoza.  As you’ve probably guessed, the winery’s name is a portmanteau combining the words “diamante” (diamond in Spanish) and “Andes,” to reflect the Bonnies’ view from their special place in Mendoza.  The wine itself is 100% Malbec, from a 130-hectare parcel situated at an altitude of 1100 meters.  Perlita Rosado is produced via the saignée method, in which the clear juice macerates with the highly pigmented grape skins just long enough to give it the desired depth of color.  The juice is then separated out and proceeds through fermentation like a white wine.

Bodega DiamAndes describes Perlita Rosado as a “fruity, voluptuous wine,” with notes of raspberries and Morello cherries.  Exactly what I was looking for!  I thought that matching it with the calamari would be an interesting departure from the tried-and-true pairing philosophy of “What grows together goes together.” Sure, the Sicilian wines had been stupendous partners, but maybe this Malbec from Mendoza could take things in a different direction.

Right off the bat, I knew I was in for a treat.  The Perlita, bright pink-red in the glass, offered up beautiful notes of red raspberries and cherry pie.  There was nothing shy about this wine!  One sip revealed a wine of medium body, with notes of juicy berries and plums, and a nice streak of acidity that balanced all that exuberant fruit.  It was definitely the style of wine I had sought out for this pairing.  So now, the only question was, would it be a match made in heaven or just meh?

While I definitely loved this dish with the Etna white wine I’d paired it with the first time, the Perlita brought a different set of skills to the pairing.  Its slightly fuller body and whisper trace of sweetness on the finish brought out the fennel and raisins in the stuffing which, in my opinion, made the whole dish more complex in its flavor profile.  I didn’t remember noticing them as much when paired with the white wine.  The Perlita’s fruit also provided a great counterpoint to the umami-laden anchovies and the garlic.  To sum it up, I loved this pairing!  If I were to serve this dish for company again, I would pour the Perlita alongside a more traditional, Etna white wine, and have everyone weigh in on their preferences.

If you’re interested in the recipe, it follows, below.  In the meantime, please check out what my fellow wine and food writers crafted for the June’s Rosé Wine Pairing Weekend:

Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla pairs Rose Petal-Strawberry Granita with Luc Belaire Rare Rosé.

Cindy from Grape Experiences will share Wine and Dine:  Galil Mountain Rosé and Mixed Olive Tapenade.

Jill from L’occasion is contemplating Provençal Rosé and a Summer Supper.

Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog pairs Chicken and Sausage Paella Paired with Unicorn Rosé.

Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm prepares a Seafood Boil featuring Domaine Houchart Cotes de Provence Rosé 2015 #winePW.

Jade from Tasting Pour shares Labneh (Kefir) Cheesecake with Strawberries & Del Rio Rosé Jolee.

Michelle from Rockin Red Blog will be Kicking Off Summer with National Rosé Day.

David from Cooking Chat pairs Grilled Arctic Char with Pineapple Salsa.

Lori from Dracaena Wines discusses Are You Impatient?  You Could Have Created Rosé.

Lauren from The Swirling Dervish considers Where Sicily and Mendoza Meet: Stuffed Roasted Calamari and 2015 Perlita Rosado.

Meaghan from Un Assaggio shares Cheeky Pairings: Cod Burger + Rosé #winePW.

Gwendolyn from Art Predator travels Around the World with Rosé.

Pete and Nancy from Pull That Cork pair A Corsican Rosé and Summer Veggie Pizza for #winePW.

FYI:  July’s event will be hosted by Jeff at foodwineclick, who has chosen Pairings with Sherry as his theme.


Here is the recipe, which I’ve adapted from the original in the New York Times Cooking section.  (They have a great app for iPad, if you haven’t tried it!)

Stuffed Squid Sicilian Style  (About 1 hour; Serves 4)

1 bunch of Swiss chard, washed well  (You can use spinach or other greens if you prefer)

½ of a medium onion, very finely chopped (Smaller pieces make stuffing the calamari easier)

1 small fennel bulb, sliced thinly and chopped

1-2 teaspoons of fennel seed, or to your taste

4 small anchovy fillets, chopped

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

¼ cup pine nuts, toasted and chopped

¼ cup raisins, chopped (or use dried apricots if you like)

Zest of one lemon

½ cup bread crumbs

¼ cup Pecorino cheese, grated

1 pound fresh whole squid, cleaned; keep tentacles separate  (Larger squid are easier to stuff)

Blanch the chard in boiling water for one minute.  Remove, rinse under cold water and drain, squeezing as much water out of the chard as possible.  Chop finely and set aside.

Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion, fennel, salt and pepper.  Cook until softened, about 10 minutes.  Add in the fennel seed, anchovies, garlic, oregano, and red pepper.  Cook 2-3 minutes more, stirring to make sure all ingredients have been incorporated well.  Transfer mixture to a large bowl and allow to cool.  Add pine nuts, lemon zest, bread crumbs, cheese, and chopped chard.  Mix well.  Season with salt and pepper.

Wash and dry the squid.

Heat your oven to 375.

Lightly oil a rectangular baking dish and place it next to the mixing bowl of stuffing.  This next part is a bit messy, so have room for a damp hand towel or plenty of paper towels nearby!  The original instructions call for you to use a teaspoon to stuff the squid bodies with the stuffing.  I found that a bit difficult and preferred using my bare hands, using my fingers to press the stuffing down into the squid.  (Messy, yes, but ultimately easier than wrestling with the spoon, which is too big for the squid.)  Take your time, it will all be worth it.  As each squid has been filled, place it in the oiled dish.  When you’ve finished, scatter the tentacles over the dish and season once more with salt, pepper, a little oregano, smoked paprika, whatever you like and, finally, drizzle some olive oil over it all.

Bake for about 20 minutes, then broil for another 2-3 minutes.  Sprinkle parsley over the top, and serve with lemon wedges.  The dish can be served immediately or at room temperature.  A simply dressed salad of thinly sliced blood oranges and red onion, over a bed of arugula would make a lovely companion to this dish.


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