Tasting Tuscany: Tuna, Beans, EVOO, Chianti, Vermentino #ItalianFWT

Tuscany: Olive oil. Bread. Beans. Wine. And tuna?

Tuscany is synonymous for many with CHIANTI — the red wine made famous by the straw bottle that helped it travel here after many World War and other US Veterans grew fond.

While most Americans think of Italian cuisine as being all about pasta, Tuscans are actually known as the “bean eaters” by other Italians. Traditional, Tuscan farmers cooked their beans overnight by placing a glass jar in the embers of their fire — and by morning the beans would be cooked!

This month we’re joining the Italian Food Wine Travel group of wine writers in taking on wines of Tuscany, and we’re starting with olive oil, moving through several Tuscan tastes, and completing the picture with a high end Chianti and an affordable Vermentino.

MENU and WINE

We wanted foods that would showcase the Castello Di Brolio Barone Ricasoli Olive Oil and their Chianti Classico. When I realized how well the meal would go with a Vermentino sample I had from Tuscany, we added the Calasole – Vermentino – Maremma Toscana Rocca Di Montemassi to our evening.

Once I learned that the Tuscans were known as the BEAN eaters, I knew we had to do something with beans. Fortunately for me, Sue was on the same page. This appetizer is so good and relatively simple– it deserves to be on the table on a regular basis whether you are doing Tuscan treats or not — and it works with red and white wine! Looking forward to doing this one again! I had a can of danelle beans in the cupboard but thought making them homemade in the instant pot would be better but Sue says not to go to the trouble — that canned ones offer added creaminess not easily achieved by home cooks.

When I learned that crespelle is a Tuscan treat, I knew we had to revisit this dish — even though we just did them in September with Corsica wine!  Once again I was fortunate that Sue was willing to make them again using this recipe from Visit Tuscany for Crespelle alla Fiorentina. The source says that crespelle are “related to Caterina de’ Medici and to the age-old French-Florentine dispute on who influenced who in cooking. Crespelle, the Italian cousin of the French crêpes, are first stuffed with a spinach and ricotta filling scented with nutmeg, another favourite of Caterina de’ Medici, then either rolled like a cannellone or folded as a handkerchief, hence the other name pezzole delle nonne.” They have a wonderful creamy custard quality that both my son and I adore. They were even better the next day warmed up! Consider making this dish for your next potluck — it works for brunch, lunch or dinner! PS With an olive oil as fine as this one, you don’t really want to cook with it. Save it for a drizzle after!

But what to do for a main course? Sue sent along a couple of ideas, one that required marinating pork for a day or two and the other a tuna. When I didn’t get a chance to get back to her, it meant we were doing TUNA– which also worked well because we paired it with MERLOT while we were at it. (Read about the three merlot under $30 from Chile, CA, and WA here) The site where she found the tuna recipe, Rustico Cooking, has a number of intriguing ideas for another time.

 

A note on the Castello Di Brolio Barone Ricasoli Olive Oil – This is a lovely grassy olive oil. Like chewing on the sweet white tender portion of the grass or the hay. There is nice buttery elements as well. Super satisfying as a dipping olive oil, will nicely enhance the freshness of any meal. There is a nice peppery finish as well. It is unavailable to purchase in the US (it may not be exported at all!) but it was sent as a very special thank you gift to participants who also received samples fo the wine.

 

2018 – Calasole – Vermentino – Maremma Toscana Rocca Di Montemassi – 12.5% alcohol SRP $15
sample for my review consideration 

The name Calasole means “sundown” or “sunset”, but it’s also the name for the afternoon breeze that blows through the hills of Maremma located in Tuscany. After grapes are hand harvested and fermented for six months in stainless steel tanks, the wine is aged on the lees for six months which adds depth and complexity.

Color: Pale gold, light buttercup.

Nose: There is a sharpness to it, green grass, citrus, clean stone, earth, citrus flower, not super heady, but light and nice, very inviting.

Palate: The mouthfeel is viscous and smooth, but not oily as it rolls across the palate, lots of bright acidity, but not overwhelming. White peach at the back of the palate. Citrus, on the finish with lemon and tangerine.

Pairing: At $15, I would totally buy this wine to have after work, take to a party, to the pool, the beach or to pair with some of my favorite meals. Amazing with our white bean crostini. The tomatoes, the beans, the garlic and thyme were a beautiful pairing. The sweetness of the tomatoes tamed by the wine.

We had some capers wrapped with anchovy, and this wine took on those strong saline flavors and made quick friends. Any fish or chicken dish with capers would pair well.

It would also be great with Cesar salad or fried calamari. The olive oil and bread brings out the nice pepper spice in the olive oil, and a grapefruit quality to the wine. The nutmeg, the spinach and the cheese in the crespelle are harmonious with this wine and the wine brings out the brightness of the meal. With the herb crusted tuna, it was fabulous. It loves the spice of the arugula as well.

This was definitely a perfect meal with this wine, and I’m so glad I had this wine on hand!

 

2015 – Castello Di Brolio – Barone Ricasoli – Chianti Classico – Gran Selezione – 14% alcohol SRP $70
90% Sangiovese, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot.

HISTORY According to their website, the oldest “stones of Brolio Castle date back to the Middle Ages. The castle passed into the hands of the Ricasoli family thanks to an exchange of lands for which records can be found as early as 1141.” Because of various battles, “the castle has been rebuilt and modified several times and today it bears the marks of the different eras: there are the fortified medieval bastions, Romanesque and neo-Gothic additions and unique nineteenth century Tuscan details. Brolio Castle towers over the Ricasoli company lands, the most extensive in the Chianti Classico area, that unfold with a continuous succession of colors and hues over gentle hills, velvety valleys and thick woodlands of oaks and chestnuts. The 1,200 hectares of property include 240 hectares of vineyards and 26 of olive groves, in the commune of Gaiole.”

The House of Ricasoli began producing wines at least as early as 1141, making it, according to Burton Anderson, “the world’s oldest winery.” An early Baron developed the appellation system and in 1874 Baron Bettino Ricasoli came up with the Sangiovese-based blend now famous as Chianti. In the 60s and 70s, foreigners owned the winery but in 1993 Francesco Ricasoli, the 32nd Baron of the original family, regained control and replanted several vineyards with improved clones, improved the vinification technology, and invested in new cooperage. Today Barone Ricasoli is part of a group that owns several estates throughout Tuscany and it vinifies its own and other estates’ wines, including those of Castello di Brolio, and is known as a leader of the Super Tuscan movement.

Barone Ricasoli’s Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione uses their best Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and petit Verdot grapes from the estate’s vineyards located at 250 to 450 meters above sea level, facing south/southwest on stony soil. Fermentation and maceration in stainless steel tanks with 14-16 days of skin contact followed by 18 months in 30% new oak and bottling in June 2017.

Color: Ruby red, medium density, rose ring

Nose: Lovely spice, pepper, clove, cardamon, cigar box, fresh cherry, very light undertones of mint, kind of like a chocolate mint.

Palate: Medium body in taste, bright acidity, this is not a heavily oaked wine. Tart cherry, fresh cherry. This is a nice wine without food, but with food it is going to be amazing. Over time the complexity that is found on the nose will come through. Right now it is just full of fun bright fruit. There is a nice mineral finish leaving the mouth very clean. There are very nice tannins, very balanced and smooth.

Pairing: Nice with the crostini, the tomatoes bring out a nice black pepper spice in the wine, which in turn compliments. What a great appetizer/first course to go with this wine. The crespelle dish was better paired with the Vermentino than the Chianti, it fought a bit with the sweetness of the nutmeg, but it was not horrible, especially when you go back to the wine, it brings out a fun sweetness.

With the fish they both become light and bright.

Often times you think of Italian food as being heavy and dense but this pairing is contradictory to that line of thinking. The acidity of the wine and the arugula even works. The olive oil was nice with the wine as well bring out that lovely sweetness.

“What grows together, goes together”

There is such a lovely richness that plays together between the wine and the olive oil.

The tuna recipe was out of this world and went so well with our meal tonight. It is all about the herbs and how it went with the wine, especially the fennel. Think fennel sausage if making a dish to pair with this wine. I later paired this wine with steak and wish I’d had this rub for it!

Over several days, the wine continued to develop and flower, so do your best not to drink it all in one sitting! Better yet, buy a few bottles to lay down.

 

Join us for the twitter chat this morning at 8am Pacific by following the hashtag #ItalianFWT. If you missed it, you can still check out the conversation by searching for the hashtag.

  • 11:00 – Q1 Welcome! Where are you tweeting from? Introduce yourself, share a link to your blog. Visitors and wineries too! Remember to use the #ItalianFWT hashtag during our chat so we can all see what you’re posting. 
  • 11:05 – Q2 Did you taste a Chianti or a wine from a neighboring region for today’s event? #ItalianFWT
  • 11:10 – Q3 Did you receive a sample of @ricasoli_1141 Wine and Olive Oil for today’s event?  Would love to hear your thoughts. #ItalianFWT
  • 11:15 – Q4 Most of the red wines of Tuscany feature Sangiovese grapes while the white wines feature Vernaccia.  What was the primary grape of your wine? What was the blend? #ItalianFWT
  • 11:20 – Q5  Let’s talk about olive oil for a minute.  Olive oil tasting, for me, is much like wine tasting.  I love the different nuances and flavors provided by terroir as wines are.  Are you an olive oil fan? #ItalianFWT
  • 11:25 – Q6 Did you do a food pairing with your wine?  Tell us about it and share a link. #ItalianFWT
  • 11:30 – Q7 Some of us were provided with olive oil from @ricasoli_1141 for this event.  Did you use it in the meal you paired with your wine? Thoughts and impressions? #ItalianFWT
  • 11:35 – Q8 Have you had the opportunity to visit Tuscany?  Share your trip with us. #ItalianFWT
  • 11:40 – Q9 Are you familiar with the new class of wine called “Super Tuscans”? #ItalianFWT
  • 11:45 – Q10 Super Tuscans allow Italian Wine Makers to add grapes not indigenous to the area.  Does that surprise you? #ItalianFWT
  • 11:50 – Q11 Are you familiar with any other regions of Italy that allow this blending of non-indigenous grapes?  #ItalianFWT
  • 11:55 – Q12 Any last comments/questions? Share a thought, comment, or question! #ItalianFWT
  • 12:00 p.m. Thanks for joining us #ItalianFWT today! I want to thank our #sponsor @ricasoli_1141 and  @foodwineclick for arranging the samples. Join us next month as we visit the Lesser Known Wine Regions of Italy with Susannah of @Vignetocomm
2019 #ItalianFWT Calendar with links to posts on Wine Predator (which links to everyone’s posts) 
  • January: Camilla M. Mann hosts “Italian Wines for Cold Winter Nights”
    “4 Montepulciano Paired with Osso Bucco Warms Up Winter Italian Style plus #ItalianWFT plans for 2019”
  • February: Jeff Burrows hosts “Umbria, with a focus on Sagrantino”
    “Get to Know Sagrantino #ItalianFWT”
  • March: I hosted a Focus on Sustainable Agricultural Practices in Italy
    “La Maliosa Biodynamic Procanico and a Pasta Bar with Santa Barbara Uni and Mussels #ItalianFWT #WomensHistoryMonth”
  • April: Jason Or Jill Barth hosts “Island Wines of Italy”
    “Island Wines of Italy: 3 from Sicily paired with pizza #ItalianFWT”
  • May: Lynn Gowdy Marche and the Pecorino grape
    “Pairing Pecorino d’Abuzzo from Ferzo: Lemon Caper Shrimp #ItalianFWT”
  • June: Katarina Andersson hosts “Lambrusco”
    “Bugno Martino’s Organic Lambrusco Defy Expectations #ItalianFWT”
  • July: Camilla M. Mann hosts “Prosecco”
    3 Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG and Calamari with Lemon Caper Sauce #ItalianFWT
  • August: Kevin Gagnon hosts “Northeastern Italy”
    “Celebrating Summer with 4 Wines from the NE Mountains of Italy with 4 Vegetarian Courses #ItalianFWT”
  • September – Jennifer Gentile Martin hosts “Passito Wines”
    “Let Pasqua Put a Little Love in Your Life Appassimento Style #ItalianFWT”
  • October – David Crowley hosts “Abruzzo”
    “Beautiful Abruzzo: 3 Montepulciano and 1 Trebbiano with simple Italian cuisine #ItalianFWT”
  • November: Wendy Klik hosts “Chianti” and we have “Tasting Tuscany: Tuna, Beans, EVOO, Chianti, Vermentino #ItalianFWT”
  • December: Susannah Gold hosts “Lesser Known Wine Regions of Italy (Molise, Basilicata, etc)”

5 thoughts on “Tasting Tuscany: Tuna, Beans, EVOO, Chianti, Vermentino #ItalianFWT

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