Four years ago we had a fantastic experience at Enoteca Pinchiorri, click here for my review of that dinner. Back then I already decided we would be back for an even better experience at “grand cru” rather than “premier cru” level for the wines. At first we did not plan to go to Toscana in this trip, but after reviewing what I had written about the wine pairing at other three star restaurants in the North of Italy (not so positive) compared to what I thought of Pinchiorri, I decided to make a detour to go to Firenze and replace two other three star meals with one at Pinchiorri (because with grand cru wines I knew it was going to be twice as expensive as going to another three star restaurant).
We stayed at a campsite in Firenze and arrived by bicycle. I don’t think many guests arrive at Pinchiorri arrive by bicycle.
On this warm summer evening, we were seated in the courtyard.
I already explained about how we ended up at Pinchiorri and about the different levels of wine pairings in my previous review, so I’m not going to repeat all of that here. It is worth mentioning however that unlike the previous time, the sommelier was less inclined to include additional (cheaper) wines to make better pairings than at our previous visit.
This is the ‘level’ that we picked, and we opted for 3 wines for 625 euros per person. The sommelier will pick from the wines listed here to pair with the food. The wines are organized per vintage on this chart.
The aperitif on the house was a Franciacorta.
The first amuse bouche were a ‘peanut’ and some kind of burrata with roasted tomato, which had great flavor.
The first wine of our wine degustation was Gaia & Rey 2018, a Chardonnay made in the Langhe by famous Barbaresco producer Gaja. It had great length and complexity, with wonderful minerality. According to the sommelier it is the best white wine of Italy. (To be honest I would have preferred a Batard-Montrachet or Corton-Charlemagne.)
The second amuse bouche was fried baccala with a beetroot sauce.
First course: raw red shrimp with baccala mayonaise, bell pepper oil e fried seaweed. This was a very nice dish, with the shrimp served at room temperature so you could taste them well. The seaweed was too thin to be completely crunchy. The baccala mayo was very nice. The Gaja & Rey could handle the dish, but the dish did not enhance the wine. 9/10
Ravioli with endive and mascarpone that were pan-fried rather than boiled, with bottarga and herring. These were a bit low in flavor, with only a few very small pieces of herring adding real flavor and a tiny amount of bottarga. This dish did not enhance the wine, either. 7/10
The second wine in our wine degustation was a 2017 Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru, a Pinot Noir from Burgundy. It was youthful with a nice touch of oak.
The third course of the menu was creme caramel from fresh pepper and guanciale, with caviar, onion tempura, stock made with whiskey, and bread fried in egg (pan fritto). I could not really make out the guanciale or the whiskey, but the pan fritto soaked in the broth was nice. The dish did not enhance the wine. 8/10
Scorpion fish with crispy skin and a reduction of Cacciucco (fish soup from Livorno). This dish had a lot of flavor and the Bonnes-Mares could handle it. But it did not make the Bonnes-Mares shine.
Our third and officially final wine of the degustation was a Sassicaia 2017, a famous wine from Bolgheri from Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Spit-roasted suckling pig of the Mora Romagnola breed with millefeuille of potato and onion, sweet and sour garlic puree. This was nice with tender pork and crispy skin, and a good pairing with the wine. 9/10
The sommelier proposed to move to Barolo Sperrs 2014 by Gaja for the next course. Due to the rainy vintage this was not like other Baroli I have tasted.
The final savory course was tordellini (a type of ravioli) stuffed with salama (air dried sausage), saffron cream, pistachio pesto, and camomile. The dish was very creamy and made the wine very astringent rather than softening the tannins as a good pairing would have done.
He then suggested this Biserno, a ‘Super Tuscan’ more southern than the Sassicaia. Although it was not as bad as the Barolo, this still enhanced rather than softened the astringency of the tannins.
This Nuits-Saint-Georges Premier Cru was a better pairing, but the dish did still not enhance the wine. The ravioli were quite nice though. 8/10
The pre-dessert of almonds, lime, and extra virgin olive oil was a good palate cleanser. I really liked the almond powder, with great almond flavor.
The dessert consisted of many components. This was a ‘biscuit’ of sweet paprika.
These cakes were really nice.
And the best part were the crunchy and sorbet beetroot.
A wine pairing was not offered spontaneously, but when we asked this 40-year old Tawny was presented. It was very nice, especially with some components of the dessert.
Coffee or tea came with a selection of chocolates.
The maitre stopped by to ask how we had enjoyed our evening, and we answered truthfully that it was not as good as the previous time, while we had expected it to be even better as we had chosen a higher level of wine pairing. As a gesture he then came up with a Chinato del Chianti, similar to Barolo Chinato but made with mint and much more velvety than Barolo Chinato. Paired with chocolate it was absolutely wonderful, reminiscent of After Eight but with much more complexity. As a surprise at the end there was also a discount on our bill.
A visit to Pinchiorri is not complete without a tour of the magnificent cellar, about which I wrote extensively in my previous post. During the lockdown the cellar has been reorganized and is now less ‘cluttered’.
It is clear from the above that our second visit to Pinchiorri was a disappointment. It was not a bad evening, but when you spend so much money you expect a bit more. Compared to 2017 we doubled the ‘budget’ for the wines (from 100 euros per wine to 200 euros per wine), but got wines of the same price and quality level as in 2017. And if memory serves me right, they seemed to be poured more frugally now than in 2017.
What was worse though, was that the food this time around was not paired well with the wines. I can see why it is difficult, because there are only two degustation menus and several different wine degustations that should all go with those menus. And so the dishes should be designed such that they will work with the wines that are typically in the wine degustations. A good example of where this goes wrong is the shrimp and baccala mayo dish. The baccala mayo is nice, but it won’t work with the high-end Chardonnays that are in the wine degustations because the creaminess of the mayo will make the wine contract rather than expand. Many of the dishes that were paired with a red wine, would probably work better with a white wine. Compared to 2017 the dishes were more ‘experimental’. The restaurant is not called enoteca for nothing, the wines should be allowed to take center stage. That requires another type of dishes. Like I wrote in 2017: “The food is very good. Perhaps not as good as some of the best three Michelin star restaurants, but it is at a very high constant level and a great accompaniment to the wines. The wines are selected such that the food supports the wine; the wines are mostly slightly more flavorful than the dish. Usually I would comment on that, but for these wines that is exactly what you want in order to taste all the nuances.” Unfortunately this statement is no longer true in 2021.