‘I fell in love with her food, and then with her’. This being Italy, he might be forgiven. So might we, for expecting a tale of formaggio, pasta and tomato sauces, stirred suggestively beneath the olive trees of Tuscany. But we are in Le Marche, on the Adriatic coast of Italy and the man speaking, being a biodynamic-cum-natural winemaker, has more adventurous tastes. The food he fell in love with was a sesame prawn; the lady was from a local Thai family.
Perhaps Natalino Crognaletti is not the first man to be seduced thus but perhaps he also sensed a deeper affinity. His natural winemaking, Thai and Italian food all share an aesthetic – simple ingredients, minimal intervention; let things be, allow them to shine as they are, let the cook step back and allow nature to show her hand.
Curiously, under his direction of simplicity, the normally light and fresh Verdicchio wine has become a richer, more profound contender – with fine fruit sweetness and the medicinal tang of dried chrysanthemum flowers that the Chinese use as herbal tea. And if, on his side, the wine has become a better partner for Asian food, then her cooking has embraced the range of local ingredients – buffalo milk, salt cod and pasta in place of coconut, grouper and noodles – but has kept the Thai trademarks of purity and freshness.
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