After a long week of record breaking heat, high winds, and even a fire that threatened the homes of friends in nearby Casitas Springs, a group of us gathered after work on a warm Friday evening under the waxing full moon for an Italian dinner and a World Series baseball game.
“When we do wine pairing at your house, Sue, it is always so much more of a party,” I pointed out with a laugh as we began on our evening’s adventure.
When you have a dozen siblings with most of them living nearby like John does, you need to be prepared for a party at any time.
Which, fortunately, is what Sue and John are great at! And so is Chianti wine paired with pasta and puttanesca sauce! We had two of his siblings over with their partners, plus our partners and kids for Friday with some gathering around the fire outside — and others around the Dodger game inside! Either place, it was a beautiful evening.
For today’s Italian Food Wine Travel, we have five wines from the Chianti region of Tuscany Italy that won’t break the bank– even if it is a Friday payday!
Did you know that Chianti Classico is celebrating the three hundredth anniversary of its “birth” — of the edict that for the first time delimited its production territory?
According to a 2015 press release from Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico, “Chianti Classico’s origins go back to 1716 when the Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo III established the borders of the Chianti production zone, an area lying between the cities of Florence and Siena.” Membership in Italy’s oldest wine consortium brings together some 600 wineries of different sizes and origins under the same symbol, the Black Rooster. This is an unmistakable trademark that since 2005 has stood for the entire Chianti Classico denomination, and expresses the energy and elegance of the wine itself.
“The real strength of Chianti Classico is therefore union within diversity,” writes the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico, “many different stories and experiences that every day give life to different interpretations of a wine and a territory, while all being united by the irreplaceable DNA of the Rooster and its Sangiovese.”
Paired with a simple, delicious, and inexpensive vegetarian pasta and salad dinner, this makes a fun, memorable evening. While the Italian Food Wine Travel prompt from Lauren at Swirling Dervish was once again about Chianti and its famous red wine, we decided to add a Vermentino from famed Chianti producer Cecchi to round out the meal.
We went for simple, easy fare for this Friday after work meal:
- Charcuterie including homemade oven-dried tomatoes and garlic with Purple Haze goat cheese (fennel pollen and lavender)
- Artichokes with Sue’s homemade dipping sauce
- Bitter greens salad wth a lemon and oil vinaigrette and olives
- Basil linguine pasta with puttanesca sauce
No surprise but they all went great together. All of these Chianti were very similar in characteristic, with slightly different nuances; all of them went well with the meal across the board, from the cheese plate, through the salad and into the dinner.
Artichokes: Sauté garlic and red pepper flakes in some olive oil in a large sauce pan. Artichokes were cut in half with the tops cut off and choke removed then placed face down into sauce pan with high sides. Add 2 cups of stock, put lid on the pan and steam/boil for 45 minutes or until artichokes are ready to eat.
Dipping sauce: combine a bit of mayo, a bit of sour cream and lemon juice.
Super Simple Salad: bagged bitter greens (aruglala with a spring mix(, equal parts olive oil and lemon juice, toss, salt and pepper place kalamata olives on top. A fantastic salad that went with both red and white wines.
5 Chianti plus a Vermentino
- 2014 – Cecchi La Mora Vermentino – 13% alcohol – $20 (sample)
- D’Aquino – Chianti – Red Wine – 12.5% alcohol – $10 (Trader Joe’s)
- 2013 – Contemassi – Chianti Riserva – 12.5% alcohol – $16 (thanks Edie!)
- 2013 – Monsanto Chianti Classico – 14% alcohol – $17 (Costco from Edie)
- 2015 – Cecchi Chianti – 13% alcohol – $16 (sample)
- 2014 – Cecchi Chianti Classico – 13% alcohol – $22 (sample)
2014 – Cecchi La Mora Vermentino – 13% alcohol – $19.99
We loved this wine so much when we had our dinner with Mr. Cecchi himself. Super refreshing and lovely.
Nose – The nose is very pleasing with its stoney minerality, Sue found a bit of apricot on the nose as well, citrus specifically very much lemon More Eureka Lemon over Meyer lemon. Spanish lemon.
John felt it was kind of nutty, and I definitely got hazelnut on the nose as well as marzipan on the finish. After Sue felt there was apricot on the nose, I found it on the palate.
Day at the beach or picnic wine, evening on the beach eating calamari. perfect with our goat cheese smothered in oven roasted tomatoes.
If you like Sauv Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and unoaked Chardonnay, then look out for Vermentino! (Here’s one from Oregon’s Troon you might check out.) It has similar bright fresh fruit characteristics but it has more weight on the palate, and while racy with acidity, it also has a lovely texture.
Sheila felt this wine was “precious” but she wasn’t sure how to express that idea more — beyond the fact that she too liked it!
My favorite across the board, but Sue reminded me that whites are always a favorite…
Cecchi La Mora Vermentino went perfectly with the salad of mixed bitter greens with a lemon vinegerette, then kalamata olives over the top. It brings lemon curd out in the wine.
Cecchi La Mora Vermentino also went beautifully with our artichoke, especially with our dipping sauce made of, a bit of mayo, a bit of sour cream and lemon juice. Fresh and bright and brings you into a happy place. Great first course wine, as much as we liked it with the calamari, it was even better with our artichoke. would be great with an artichoke ravioli
Sue liked the Cecchi La Mora Vermentino so much that she did not want to move on to the chianti which is so unusual for this red wine lover!
Everyone loved the Vermentino: it was the first to be finished!
Mora means “horse” in Italian, and this wine is a tribute to the cattle-herding cowboys that historically lived in the Maremma region. And yes there are horses on the property!
D’Aquino – Chianti – Red Wine – 12.5% alcohol – $9.99
This is not a fine wine but for $10 it’s not bad at all! Plus you get the classic straw bottle experience. (Learn more about the straw bottles here).
On the nose John found some must on it, kind of like a wool coat hanging in the closet, Helen thought it smelled like wool socks, and it reminded me of a ski lodge.
Not only that, it is a wine that you could take skiing!
Not much body, a bit thin, but great with any red sauced dishes. Finish has some nice anise licorice notes on it leading you to believe that it would go greatly with itallian sausage, or things that go well with itallian sausage. Goes oh so well with parmesan cheese– and the one Sue bought cost twice as much per pound as this whole bottle of wine! Great for casual Italian potluck.
This wine went so well with our salad it amazed us: it brought out a nuttiness in the wine that wasn’t there when we were sampling the wine on its own.
As long as you’re not disturbed by the nose, what a fantastic wine for the price! One of Sue’s favorite wines of the evening and we were really glad we decided to open it and give it a swirl.
It went well with all of our foods from beginning to the end of our meal, not overbearing or overly complex, but in sync with all of the dishes. In particular, it went beautifully with our pasta and the artichoke.
This is a bargin wine that goes great with a potluck itallian meal. It will carry you from the appetizers to the salad to the red pasta dish. would go well with a deli sandwich or a pizza as well
2013 – Contemassi – Chianti Riserva – 12.5% alcohol – $15.49 at Claro’s Italian Market in La Habra California
color -we stopped stating the color of the wines finding that most of them were very similar!
nose -subtle nose, some fruit, some spice, nothing distinctive to make this an amazing go to wine except that it will go well with any red sauced italian meal.
palate – very mild, should go well with the food, mocha on the finish
Fleshiness of the puttanesca and the acidity of the wine works well together. It is so fleshy that is is unbelievable that there isn’t any meat in the pasta!
Sue found this to be one of the least interesting of the evening, and later in the evening, John felt that this wine was not as drinkable as the rest of the wines. I wasn’t a fan either.
2015 – Cecchi Chianti – 13% alcohol – $15.99
color – richer color, richer wine
nose – there is a little bit of musky earthy truffely , but with spice, not the Italian alps sweat lodge on the nose!
palate – has a gorgeous long lasting rhubarb finish. minerals, cranberry, christmas spice. Nice minerals and herbs with bright fruit, still not very heavily bodied. more fruit forward without the tannins on the finish.
Great with spicy cured meat, it likes strong salty dry cheeses, didn’t fight with the cambozola, and went great with the Italian salami.
Could work with an antipasti salad, or a green salad with blue cheese dressing.
Much of this wine was finished before our evening was over. It was great with the artichoke, alright with the puttanesca, but not my favorite in comparison to the others we tasted throughout the evening. Also went well with the salad, which Sue thought was because of the salty kalamata olives.
2013 – Monsanto Chianti Classico – 14% alcohol – $16.99 at costco
91 points – very romantic label, in a sense that you want to be where they are picturing on the label but somehow I did’t get a decent picture of it and the bottle was recycled at Sue’s long ago… but you get the idea
felt this was oldest of what we tasted, but could stand laying down some more
nose – nice vanilla, mocha; we agreed the mocha is really nice
palate – tannins on the finish, not quite as fruit forward, lots of minerality; fruitier on the nose, more prunes and cherries than the rest after being open today
cranberry, pomegranate and rhubarb on the palate with the food, but not the favorite of the other wines on the table tonight.
2014 – Cecchi Chianti Classico – 13% alcohol – $21.99
nose – violet, pastilles, forest floor
This wine is totally worth the extra $5. This is more of a date night wine.
palate – more fruit
“I had a chunk of roasted garlic on a crostini followed by this wine? Fabulous!” enthused Sue. “You have to try this with the parm too!”
Cecchi is a very large winery, producing 30,000 cases of Chianti Classico, 20,000 cases Cecchi Chianti, but only 300 cases Vermentino.
This wine is smoother, mellower, more balanced than others we tasted throughout the evening.
This wine went perfectly with our artichoke as well because, according to Sue of the way that the artichokes were prepared, with some olive oil and stock more flavors were imparted with a bit of extra umami, which went exceptionally nicely with this wine.
This was my most memorable wine of the evening, the one that stood out most with its violets, fennel pollen, forest floor offering a subtlety and a complexity, a lovely distinctive quality.
We were very enthusiastic about this wine and are definitely Cecchi fans as you can tell from our thoughts about the three wines we featured!
On Sue’s birthday last May, we attended a press lunch with Andrea Cecchi of Cecchi Family Estates . We learned that
- Cecchi pioneered the Maremma as one of the first producers to establish vineyards in what the Maremma is commonly referred to as the “wild, wild, west”
- Andrea was invited to present a special bottle of Chianti to the Italian Ambassador in Washington DC in commemoration of Chianti’s 300th Anniversary this year
- Their estate at Villa Cerna has an award-wining restaurant
- They will soon be launching a cooking school
Here are some of the photos:
We have more notes and photos from this delicious lunch! What a great way to celebrate Sue’s birthday!
From a press release about Chianti Classico Collection 2015:
Many faces, many stories, one trademark: the Black Rooster
Florence, May 18, 2015
The Black Rooster trademark representing all the spirits of Chianti Classico was recently revised to make it more contemporary and eye-catching on every bottle: the outlines are bolder and it is no longer located on the state seal, but in the front on the neck of the bottle or on the back label.
Chianti Classico’s origins go back to 1716 when the Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo III established the borders of the Chianti production zone, an area lying between the cities of Florence and Siena. In the early 20th century, when the fame of Chianti wine was increasing year by year and the production territory was no longer able to meet a growing national and international demand, wine began to be made outside the Chianti zone delimited in 1716 that was also called “Chianti” or “Chianti-style wine.”
In reaction, in 1924 the “Consortium to defend Chianti wine and its original trademark” was created, choosing as its symbol the Black Rooster, the historic emblem of the ancient Military League of Chianti and painted by Giorgio Vasari on the ceiling of the Salone dei Cinquecento in Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.
In 1932 the suffix Classico was added to distinguish the original Chianti from the wine made outside the territory delimited in 1716. Since then Chianti has been the wine made outside the geographical area called “Chianti” (often in different zones with additions to the name, such as Chianti Rufina, Chianti Colli Senesi, Chianti Colli Aretini, Chianti Colli Pisani), while Chianti Classico is the wine made in the original zone called “Chianti.”
In 1984 Chianti Classico obtained DOCG (Controlled and Guaranteed Denomination of Origin) status, the highest for premium Italian wines. In 1996 it became an independent DOCG, and in 2010 a law was passed to prohibit making Chianti wine in the production zone for Chianti Classico. In 2013 the consortium members’ assembly approved a number of changes to production regulations that led to a real revamping of the denomination.
Next year Chianti Classico will celebrate the three hundredth anniversary of its “birth,” or in other words of the edict that for the first time delimited its production territory.
The consortium is confident that the professionalism of the press to which this communication is addressed will prevent it from changing or abbreviating the name of “Chianti Classico.” Writing “Chianti” instead of “Chianti Classico” is an error that radically changes the news we are imparting because Chianti and Chianti Classico are, in fact, two different DOCGs with separate and distinct production territories, histories and consortiums.
Now to see if we follow this edict or not!
What else did people taste? Other #Italian FWT participants include:
Jeff from FoodWineClick who will serve as our guide to Exploring Chianti Rufina with Marchesi Gondi.
Jennifer from Vino Travels will be Venturing through Chianti with the Sangervasio Winery.
Katarina from Grapevine Adventures brings us 2 Chianti Classico Wineries, 2 Different Sub-Zones at #ItalianFWT.
Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla offers up Sangervasio Chianti with a Soup from Brazil.
Tracy from The Traveling Somm shares her experience of Living the Dream in a Relais and Chateau in Tuscany.
Lauren at The Swirling Dervish will compare Two Weeknight Wines: Chianti Classico and Chianti Colli Fiorentini Riserva.
Join us on Twitter at 8am Pacific time Sat 11/4/17.
Who are we? About the Italian Food Wine & Travel group:
We’re a group of food and wine writers who are passionate about all things Italy. In an effort to further our education on Italian culture, winemaking, and cuisine, each month we study a particular region, grape variety, or style of wine. In December we’ll indulge in Christmas Feast Wines, hosted by Susannah of Avvinare. Our posts go live and our Twitter chats occur on the first Saturday of the month, at 11 am ET and 8am Pacific (yes that is EARLY on a Saturday for those of us on the West Coast but we are devoted!) Please join us!