Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Chianti Classico: Events & Wine Recommendations

So much Chianti Classico wine! And that is far from a complaint.

During our stay in Tuscany, we attended a number of events of the Chianti Classico è, a ten day festival celebrating the wines and foods of this beautiful and fascinating region. At each of those events, the wines flowed freely and I tasted many different wines from this region, from Chianti Classico to IGT wines. I want to provide a brief summary of some of these events, to give you an overview of the festival, as well as to provide a number of wine recommendations. The festival is an annual event, and it is an excellent way to experience the region.

But first I want to start with something that was not on our itinerary, but worthy of mention. On my first day in Tuscany, I had some free time to wander the historical city of Florence. I walked to the San Lorenzo Central Mercado, a large food market, as I had heard good things about it and I desired lunch. After haggling a bit, and buying two coats, at one of the myriad leather shops surrounding the market, I ventured inside and wandering down the rows of food stalls.

One of the most famous stalls in this market is Nerbone, a restaurant counter where you can order sandwiches and other meals. One of their specialties is the panino con bollito, a boiled beef sandwich that sells for only 3.50 Euros. The meat is topped with both a spicy red sauce as well as a green pesto sauce while the roll is fresh, though hearty and dense. The sandwich was quite tasty, with plenty of tender meat, very little fat, and with a strong spicy kick on the finish. A great bargain sandwich and well worth checking it out. Just get there early before the long lines start forming.

Our initial dinner in the Chianti Classico region was the inaugural event of the festival, the Pentecost in Castellina dinner. This event was held under the vaulted loggias, essentially a lengthy tunnel, which was a fascinating setting for this event. With all the stonework, it added an air of the medieval to the dinner, as well as protected us from the rain. It was a festive occasion and we were all made to feel very welcome. The Ristorante Albergaccio in Castellina catered the tasty dinner, with traditional items such as polenta, ravioli and risotto. In addition, we had plenty of Chianti Classico wines to taste, a mix of both traditional and modern styles. For the most part, I preferred the more traditional ones.

One of my favorite events was the Gallo Nero & Street Food Festival, which showcased street foods from all over Italy with a multitude of Chianti Classico wines. Food came from regions such as Abruzzo, Liguria, Sicilia, Romagna, Marche, and Toscana. In addition, the special guest country was Argentina, which offered a variety of grilled meats, a gift for your inner carnivore. We traveled from booth to booth, sampling the diversity of available cuisine, finding much to enjoy, from porchetta sandwiches to cannolis.

My clear favorite of the evening though was from the Sicilia booth, their Arancini. These are basically rice croquettes filled with a meat and pea filling. I have eaten many different Arancinis, but this was one of the best that I have ever tasted. About the size of my fist, the arancini was cooked perfectly, with a crisp coating, and contained plenty of a moist meat filling, which helped to prevent it from being dry. Too many arancini skimp on the meat filling so they sometimes can be too dry and chewy. This arancini was bursting with flavor, and I had to enjoy a second one too.

In the historic town of Greve, we dined for lunch one day at the Ristorante Da Verrazzano, participating in the semifinals of the Homemakers’ Trophy, a cooking contest that pits various cities and towns in Chianti Classico against each other. You can see some of the cooks above, local homemakers who prepared territorial dishes. At this seminfinal, Castellina and Radda competed, each preparing a three course lunch and we got to taste both of the dishes from each course. We then voted for which of the two dishes we enjoyed the most.

My overall favorite dish was the Galletto all Toscana, which is rooster. Rooster seems to be common in this region as we had it a couple other times during our time in Tuscany. It was moist, tender and flavorful and it is a dish that probably should be more prominent in the U.S. too. After the voting was tallied, the winner was Castellina, taking two of the three courses and my votes coincided with all three of the winning dishes. Radda won the Primi course for their pasta dish and then Castellina won for their Galletto and Torta. We were not in Tuscany during the Finals, but Castellina faced Greve, and it was Greve who ultimately won the competition.

One of the most unusual wine pairing events I have ever attended was at the Goals di-vini event. Chianti Classico and European football? The Italians are certainly passionate about both, so with days before the start of the  European Football Championship, they decided to pair these two interests. We watched films of some historic football goals, and Daniele Cernilli, formerly of the renowned Gambero Rosso, paired a wine with each of those goals. Overall, we tasted 14 different wines, and though I am not a huge football fan, it was exciting to watch these amazing goals, to see the incredible skills of the players. We enjoyed some excellent wines as well. Mmmm..which wines should we pair with hockey?

Now onto to some wine recommendations.

The Fattoria di Rodano winery is located in the Castellina region and was located on an ancient pilgrimage route. There was even once a Benedictine house on the property which was a rest stop for these pilgrims. In 1958, Carlos Pozzesi, a medical officer, bought the estate and planted vineyards. Currently, the estate constitutes about 100 hecatres, with one-third possessing vines. They produce traditional style Chianti Classico and I was impressed with their wines.

I tasted both their 2006 and 2007 Chianti Classicos, which are a blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo & Colorino. The wine is aged for about 18 months, 80% in Slavonian oak barrel and 20% in barrique. They are elegant and rustic wines, with a nice depth of flavor and are excellent food wines. The 2004 Viacosta Chianti Classico Riserva is 100% Sangiovese from the Viacosta vineyard. It was aged for about 24 months, 60% in French oak and 20% of that is new. It had an alluring aroma and on the palate it was superb! Complex, elegant, rustic, spicy, and with a lengthy and pleasing finish. One of my favorite wines of the entire trip and an excellent example of the potential of Sangiovese.

The Bibbiano winery, owned by Tommaso and Frederico Marrocchesi Marzi, possesses about 25 hectares of vineyards and they still use many old agricultural methods. The 2009 Montornello Chianti Classico is more of a traditional style, with prominent fruit flavors, but also some nice spice and hints of earthiness. Elegant and delicious. The 2007 Vigna del Capannino Chianti Classico Riserva is made from 100% Sangiovese from the del Capannino vineyard. It too is elegant and delicious, with more spice notes, greater complexity, restrained ripe fruit, violet notes and a lengthy, satisfying finish. A winery you should notice.

The 2004 Vegi Silvio Chiostri Chianti Classico Riserva is made from 100% Sangiovese and has a light red color with nice, restrained cherry flavors and hints of earthiness and spice. Very good acidity made this an excellent food wine. Another traditional style wine which appealed to me.

The 2007 San Fabiano Calcinaia Cellole Chianti Classico Riserva is mostly Sangiovese with a touch of Merlot. As such, it seems a bit more modern in style, but still is restrained. Ripe cherries, silky tannins, vanilla and spice. It would be good with a hearty dish, such as pasta Bolognese or a nice steak.

Poggio al Sole (which means "the sunny hillock) once belonged to the Passignano Abbey but was purchased by a Florentine goldsmith during the 1960s. In May 1990, he sold the estate to a Swiss couple, Johannes and Kathrin Davaz. Johannes learned about wine from working at his parents' vineyard, and his brother took over that vineyard. When they purchased Poggio, there were only 8 hectares of vineyards and they have increased that to 18 hectares, now producing about 80,000 bottles annually. They grow all of their own grapes, and the vineyards are primarily planted with Sangiovese.

The winery produces a Rosé, two Chianti Classicos and 3 Table wines. To me, their wines are mainly produced in a more modern style so though they are good, they are not my preference. But, I was impressed with the 2009 Casasillia Chianti Classico Riserva. "Casasillia" is the former name of the Poggio al Sole estate. It is made from 100% Sangiovese and aged in barriques, 50% new, for about 16-18 months. It had an intriguing aroma and on the palate was a complex melange of dark fruits, smoke, spice and a hint of earthiness. It was elegant, with a lengthy finish, and nice acidity. Strongly recommended.

The Casina Di Cornia winery, established in 1979, consists of only 24 hectares, 7 which have vineyards. They have been certified organic since 1983 and believe in minimal intervention during the wine making process. The 2010 Chianti Classico is made from 100% Sangiovese and is very traditional, with plenty of cherry flavors, hints of violet and an earthy backbone. The 2007 Chianti Classico Riserva is also in a traditional style, with more spicy notes and tastes of prunes and blackfruits.

The 2010 Villa Cerna Chianti Classico, another traditional wine, presented intriguing smoke and spice elements while their 2007 Chianti Classico Riserva was very elegant and restrained, with dried cherries, violets, earthiness, and great acidity.

A few more Chianti Classico recommendations include the 2008 Casaloste "Don Vincenzo" Chianti Classico Riserva, the 2008 Castello di Fonterotoli Chianti Classico, and the 2008 San Donatino Poggio Chianti Classico Riserva.

No comments: