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Wine and bell peppers, a spicy union

Wine and bell peppers, a spicy union

I got the idea from Daniele Cernilli and his sweet and round bell peppers stuffed with tuna and matched with Vermentino Maremma DOC.  A desire for something different




By Donatella Cinelli Colombini Fattoria del Colle agriturismo with restaurant


All about matching wine and bell peppers


Let’s start by saying that this vegetable comes from the Americas, probably Peru. It was brought to Europe during Christopher Columbus’s second transoceanic journey in 1493. The scientific name is “Capsicum” that comes from the Latin word “capsa” which meant box.  In America they called it chilli or xilli and still today maintains the name while the word pepper, used over here, depends on its similarity to pepper

Once arrived in Europe, the cultivation of bell peppers spread rapidly especially in the warmer climates around the Mediterranea




This grows on a perennial plant with a short life, and is picked in June –July and September. To cultivate them the seeds must be planted in February and to increase their hotness, when the fruit has formed, one must reduce the watering, and doing so only when the leaves are droopy. The difference between red and green bell peppers, of the same species, depends only upon the level of ripening, the green ones are unripe.

There are infinite varieties of bell peppers but 5 are the most common:

  • Capsicum annuum, the sweet peppers, the most popular pepper in Italy, Cayenne pepper, and the Mexican jalapeño
  • Capsicum baccatum, like the bishop’s hat
  • Capsicum chinense, originates from Amazonia , among which the very hot habanero, the incandescent Naga which is an hybrid
  • Capsicum frutescens, that includes Tabasco
  • Capsicum pubescens, among which the rocoto


The hotness increases with the ripening and evidently when it gets dried after being picked. It is measured using the Scoville units and it depends on the presence of the alkaloid capsaicin that produces a burning sensation in the mouth, in the stomach and in the anus. Sweet peppers are valued 0 while the last hybrids such as Carolina Reaper reach 2.200.000 US and are very very hot.

To the contrary of what many think the hotness is not in the seeds but most of all in the white material that envelops them and that is called placenta

For relief from the hotness it is advisable to drink milk or even alcoholic beverages such as wine.


Peppers have many beneficial effects: they are slightly antibacterial and cooked foods with peperoncino added last longer. They have antioxidant effects and are often used to combat bronchitis, pneumonia, and sinusitis and for pain relief. Even though there is no scientific proof their aphrodisiacal virtues are well known


Very often red or white wines are among the ingredients in the preparation of bell peppers. In these cases it is better to serve the dish with the same wine at the table.

Peppers filled with vegetarian stuffing (cous cous, rice or bulgur, spinach cream) or crabs, fish, or seafood are much better matched with whites, whereas fillings and sauces that are tasty and made of meat are preferably matched with reds, ones that are quite robust such as Montepulciano d’Abruzzo if pork or lamb meats are used. Better use bubbles with very tasty fillings and cheeses.

“Risotto ai peperoni” and peperoni gratin require a still white wine that is intense but not too aromatic, something like an Orcia Doc Bianco, Falanghina, Locorotondo, Ribolla Gialla dei Colli Orientali del Friuli, Verdicchio ..

Meat with bell peppers is well matched with young red wines that are powerful such as Rosso Piceno or Teroldego. Another pleasant combination is chicken with bell peppers and Castel del Monte. Evidently the choice of the wine follows the tastiness of the dish.

Many experts advise a matching for affinity between the spiciness of the bell peppers and that of the wines, to pointing towards Syrah, Malbec, and Zinfandel. Another piece of advice regards the origin of the recipe to present, so some dishes from Calabria with red peppers, like the “spianata”, are to be accompanied with Cirò bianco DOC.

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