As much of the US tunnels its way through the biggest snowstorm in years, the Italian Food Wine & Travel writers have you covered, so to speak. Our topic this month is Italian Wines with Braised Meats or Stews: isn’t that just what we need right now? Our host is Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla, and you can read her invitation post here.
Even in Miami we’ve had our share of cold weather. I know, I know; our version of winter is laughable compared to what our northern friends are dealing with. But, this past week, our temperatures dipped into the low 40s. While I’m not freaking out like some of my neighbors, I’ll definitely be checking out the heart-warming pairings suggested by my fellow bloggers!
Speaking of which, scroll to the bottom of this post for links to all the articles featured in this month’s chat. If you’d like to join us, we’d love to have you! We go live this Saturday February 6th at 11 am ET on Twitter, following #ItalianFWT. Share your favorite Italian wine pairings and a recipe or two.
What’s Pasta e Ceci?
Although it’s made all over Italy, this soupy combo of pasta and chickpeas originated in Rome, probably to supplement the winter diets of Catholics during Lent. The church forbade the eating of meat on Fridays, and pasta and dried beans were readily available ingredients. The Roman version is more soup than stew and includes anchovies, but many regions offer a similar recipe.
My husband’s parents came from Abruzzo, and he remembers his mom making a hearty stew so thick a spoon could stand upright in it. I’m sure every Italian-American family has its own recipe, a hybrid of long-standing Italian traditions and the convenience of what was available in American grocery stores. The one I tried came from the New York Times Cooking app; with a few shortcuts (using canned beans and broth) it was on the table in less than an hour but tasted as if it had simmered all afternoon. As a favor to my husband, no anchovies were involved.
On a busy weeknight marked by a chill in the air, this soup made the perfect dinner. We added a crusty baguette and a bottle of Chianti Classico from Castellare di Castellina as accompaniments.
Chianti vs Chianti Classico: What’s the Difference?
Both are DOCG-level winemaking regions in Tuscany, Italy, whose wines are based on the Sangiovese grape. But it’s important to remember that they are separate regions, with different requirements for blending and aging: Sangiovese must make up a higher percentage of the blend, and the wines must age for a longer period in Chianti Classico. Yields are also lower.
Here is a diagram that summarizes the important differences regarding varietal composition and aging requirements, and distinguishes the categories of wine in a quality pyramid:
Each region has subzones with distinctive soils and microclimates, producing wines with unique, identifiable character. In Chianti DOCG, these zones are Colli Fiorentini, Rufina, Montalbano, Colli Senesi, Colline Pisane, Colli Aretini, and Montespertoli. Some of these have stricter production requirements than for Chianti DOCG in general. For more details on the subzone requirements, please click here.
Chianti Classico has nine communes: Greve in Chianti, San Casciano in Val di Pesa, Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, Barberino Val d’Elsa, Castellina in Chianti, Poggibonsi, Radda in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti, and Castelnuovo Berardenga. For more details on the wines of Chianti Classico, please visit the consorzio’s website.
The wine I chose for this event comes from Castellina, in the southwest quadrant of Chianti Classico.
About Castellina in Chianti
Within Chianti Classico DOCG, there are many individual terroirs, making it difficult to draw conclusions as to which are the “best” places to make the “best” wines. As Ian d’Agata says in his book Italy’s Native Wine Grape Terroirs:
“It is only by combining information about soil types, microclimates, and altitudes of each vineyard site that quality inferences can be made relative to Sangiovese wine produced at each site.”
A few things do hold true, however, regardless of site: Sangioveto (as Sangiovese is called in Chianti) prefers infertile, well-drained soils, especially the marly, alberese, the flaky, schist-like galestro, and the ancient macigno sands. An early-budding variety that ripens late, Sangiovese can be angst-provoking for the vigneron, who must worry about spring frost, and hail or rain close to harvest. As for the perfect temperarure, a not-too-hot and not-too-cold climate is the sweet spot; one with warm sunny days and cooler evenings.
Castellina lies in the southwest of Chianti Classico and is basically an amphitheater that gets lots of sun, allowing the grapes to ripen properly. It also has elevation, which cools things a bit, especially with vineyards planted between 250 and 400 meters above sea level. Aspects vary from one plot to the next, and growers often blend fruit from multiple parcels. During the growing season, conditions are warm and dry, leading to wines that are at once powerful and deeply colored, with high acidity and perfumed aromas.
This property, owned by Domini Castellare, boasts 80 hectares of agriculture: 20 are devoted to olive groves, and 33 to vineyards which occupy southeast-facing plots at 370 meters above sea level. Viticultural practices are organic (although not certified), the winery is gravity-flow, and a photovoltaic system was recently installed to reduce the estate’s dependence on the electricity grid. The domaine’s cellar, which lies 50 meters below ground, has no need of external temperature or humidity control.
Even the wine’s label is testament to the estate’s winemaking philosophy: each one features a local bird that has become endangered due to the use of agrochemicals in the region. My bottle shows a crociere fasciato or white-winged crossbill (loxia leucoptera) a denizen of the pine forests that dot the Tuscan landscape.
For their Chianti wines, only native Italian grape varieties are used. All wines are vinified in stainless steel, then age for a short time in glazed concrete vats before bottling; those undergoing barrel maturation do so in small, used French oak barrels called “carati”. Some varietal wines are made, using international grapes like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon; vin santo, grappa, and olive oil are also produced on the estate.
2018 Domini Castellare Chianti Classico (13.5% abv; 95% Sangiovese/5% Canaiolo; $23 retail)
The 2018 Chianti Classico was aged in carati (barriques) for seven months before bottling, where it aged an additional seven months before release. It was deep ruby in color, with pronounced floral aromas of lily and violet, sour cherry and rosemary; just a hint of sweet vanilla. On the palate it was more restrained, with tart red fruit (pomegranate, currant, berry), high acidity, medium+ tannin, and a moderate finish. Not as complex as I would have expected from the nose, but very enjoyable nonetheless. It was an amiable match with the pasta e ceci.
Looking for more wintery dishes with the perfect Italian wine to match? Here’s what the rest of the #ItalianFWT group is up to:
- An Afternoon at Castelgiocondo by Somm’s Table
- Braised Beef Short Ribs in Red Wine Sauce +2012 Produttori del Barbaresco by ENOFYLZ Wine Blog
- Braised Brisket with Donnachiara’s Kapemort Aglianico by Vino Travels
- Braised Pork Ragù over Pasta + Bruna Grimaldi Nebbiolo d’Alba 2017 by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- Chianti Beef Stew by Our Good Life
- Dolcettto d’Alba: A Food-Friendly Bet for Braised Chicken by My Full Wine Glass
- Farina Amarone della Valpolicella with Ground Pork in Karela Rings by Chinese Food & Wine Pairings
- Home Cooking with Sabrina Tedeschi and the Wines of Agricola Tedeschi by Grape Experiences
- Hunter’s Style Chicken and Cantina di Filippo by FoodWineClick!
- Pasta e Ceci with Chianti Classico from Castellina by The Swirling Dervish
- Pasta with Pork Braised in Red Wine with Tasca d’Almerita Lamuri Nero d’Avola 2018 by A Day in the Life on the Farm
- The Most Tender Short Ribs You’ll Ever Have, Perfectly Paired With Red Wines From Abruzzo by The Wine Chef
- Warming Up Winter with Braised Oxtail and Casa Bottega Ripasso Superiore by The Quirky Cork
- What’s the Difference? 3 Organic Montepulciano: Vino Nobile,d’Abruzzo, and Molise Paired with Ragu by Wine Predator