Tuscan Vineyard and Abbey painted by Marilyn Dunlap

Tuscan Vineyard and Abbey painted by Marilyn Dunlap

Chianti, Italy, is the Classico wine region in the province of Tuscany, Italy. Chianti” is the name of the wine region but the wine from Chianti is known as Chianti Classico, to distinguish it from other Chianti wines that come from areas of Tuscany outside the Chianti region. Stretching between Florence and Siena, in the heart of Tuscany, the Chianti wine region is highly romanticized  area with its terracotta-roofed towns and vineyards stretching across sun-draped hillsides. However, you no longer will find the straw-wrapped wine bottles readily available. Today, Chianti vintners produce excellent, nuanced wines that are worthy of elegant surroundings.

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Chianti Vineyards

The Chianti DOCG covers all the Chianti wine region and includes a large stretch of land encompassing the western areas of Pisa near the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Florentine hills to the north, the province of Arezzo in the east and the Siena hills to the south. These vineyards overlap the DOCG regions of Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Vernaccia di San Gimignano.  Any Sangiovese-based wine made according to the Chianti guidelines from these vineyards can be labelled and marked under the Chianti DOCG should the producer wish to use the designation.

The first definition of a wine-area called Chianti was made in 1716. In 1932 the Chianti area was completely re-drawn and divided in seven sub-areas: Classico, Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colline Pisane, Colli Senesi, Montalbano and Rùfina. Wines labelled “Chianti Classico” come from the biggest sub-area of Chianti, that includes the original Chianti heartland. Only Chianti from this zone may boast the black rooster seal (known in Italian as a gallo nero) on the neck of the bottle, which indicates that the producer of the wine is a member of the Chianti Classico Consortium, the local association of producers.

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Sangiovese grapes

During the 1970s producers started to reduce the quantity of white grapes in Chianti. In 1995, it became legal to produce a Chianti made completely from Sangiovese grapes. For a wine to retain the name of Chianti, it must be produced with at least 80% Sangiovese. Aged Chianti (38 months instead of 4–7), may be labelled as Riserva. Chianti that meets more stringent requirements (lower yield, higher alcohol content and dry extract) may be labelled as Chianti Superiore, although Chianti from the “Classico” sub-area is not allowed to be labelled as “Superiore”.

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Antinori Winery

The Antinori family has been producing wine in the region since the 1300s.  The family company, Marchesi Antinori, is planting for the future. In the fall of 2012, a new, architecturally stunning winemaking facility, called Antinori nel Chianti Classico, was inaugurated. And in March of the following year, the glass-and-steel complex opened to the public for tours of its elegant cantina and grounds. “The idea was to bring the heart of the company back to the countryside where the wine is produced,” says Antinori, who represents the family wine business’s 25th generation. “We wanted to have a winery which was not a monument, but integrated in the landscape.”

Tasting Room

Antinori Tasting Room

The facility includes a 129,000-square-foot, multilevel winery, with an energy-efficient gravity-flow system and naturally cool underground barrel rooms that have yet to need air-conditioning. In addition, the new location houses the company’s headquarters, an auditorium, boutique, restaurant, museum, olive oil mill and a facility for producing sweet Vin Santo. Its most dramatic features are the glass-walled tasting rooms that rise above the cathedral-like barrel cellars and the exterior onion-peel staircase that climbs to a terrace built on a swooping 70-foot roof overhang.

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Wine Type

Is identified in one of three ways (see below):

Region

The region or sub-region will always be located next to the classification level

Classification (DOCG, DOC, IGT, Vino da Tavola)

Wine Name

This is never next to the classification and often indicates that the wine is a blend of grapes, as in the case of a Super Tuscan wine.

Producer Name

Italian wineries will often use words like Tenuta, Azienda, Castello or Cascina in their name.

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What makes Chianti the perfect food wine?

Chianti, a red blend from Tuscany, is as essential to Italian cuisine as extra virgin olive oil.

When you think of pairing Chianti with food, most people think of pasta and it is a perfect combination, but there is so much more that you can pair with Chianti.

It’s a great compliment to strong-tasting poultry dishes, spiced lamb or even beef (as long as it’s not overly fatty). If you are looking for a good wine with pizza, Chianti is a good choice.

Lasagna

Chianti’s is a perfect accompaniment for lasagna. It’s higher acid level stands up well to Lasagna’s rich tomato sauce and it has enough flavor to stand up to sausage or meat that is often part of the dish.

Spaghetti Bolognese

A rich meat sauce made with a tomato and wine base pairs with Chianti.

Roasted Leg of Lamb

The herbs used to flavor the meat pair perfectly with the slightly acidic nature of Chianti.

Cioppino

It was first created in San Francisco by the fishermen whose diet was pretty much limited to whatever they caught at sea and didn’t sell. Trading with other fisherman for different types of seafood brought variety and, in the process, created one of the world’s favorite seafood stews. The brininess brought by the seafood along the tomato flavor are the ideal compliment for Chianti.

Pizza Margherita

Pair pizza with Chianti. Chianti is light enough to not overwhelm pizza Margherita’s simple flavors of basil, tomatoes and cheese.

Main Dish Recipes to Serve with Chianti Wine

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Tuscan Market

Pork and Mushroom Ragu 

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6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 oz pancetta, minced
  • 2 lbs boneless pork ribs, cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrots, finely chopped
  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • One 16 oz can peeled tomatoes, in their juice and chopped
  • 1/4 flat leaf parsley, minced
  • 1 lb package pappardelle pasta

Directions

In a small saucepan, bring the beef broth to a boil. Soak porcini mushrooms in the boiled broth for 30 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the porcini, chop them and set them aside. Reserve the broth.

Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan over medium high heat. Add a layer of pork ribs and brown the meat on all sides, about 3 – 5 minutes per side. Remove the browned pork, set aside and repeat with the remaining pork until all the pieces are well browned.

Pour off any remaining fat from the pan. Add the pancetta and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the cremini mushrooms and cook until they are softened and most of the released juices evaporate. Add the garlic, onions and carrots and cook until softened, about 6-8 minutes.

Add the wine, meat, reserved porcini beef broth, chopped porcini mushrooms and tomatoes to the pot. Mix well and bring it to a brisk simmer.

Cover and adjust heat to a low simmer for 1-1/2 hours. Stir frequently, add 1/4 cup of water as needed to keep it moist.

Cook the pappardelle pasta al dente according to package directions. Drain. Mix the pasta with the ragu and top with the parsley.

Chicken and Sausage Skewers

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Ingredients

  • 2 sprigs of rosemary, leaves chopped
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 2″ pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 oz. thin sliced prosciutto, cut each slice in half
  • 1 1/2 lbs fresh Italian sausage cut into 2″ pieces
  • Sage leaves
  • 12 skewers

Directions:

Over low heat in a small saucepan, heat the olive oil and the chopped rosemary leaves.  Once the oil and rosemary start to sizzle, remove from the pan from the heat and cool to room temperature (can be done 4 days in advance).

Whisk 1/4 cup of the rosemary oil with the white wine vinegar; add the chicken pieces and marinate for 30-60 minutes. Reserve the remaining oil.

Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and lightly season with salt and pepper. Wrap each piece of chicken with a piece of prosciutto.

Alternate the chicken and sausage on the skewers, placing a sage leaf between them. Each skewer should have about 2 pieces of chicken and 2 pieces of sausage to make 12 skewers.

Refrigerate the kebabs until ready to cook. When ready to grill, brush the chicken and sausage with some of the remaining rosemary oil.

Heat a grill and create a low heat section. Cook the skewers over low heat and turn frequently to avoid burning, about 5 minutes on each side. Brush with more rosemary oil if the meat appears dry during cooking.

Alternatively, the skewers can be cooked in the broiler until they are browned.

Classic San Francisco Cioppino

chantifishstew

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 rib of celery, chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 pound crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • One 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 2 cups clam juice
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon each dried basil and dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1 large cooked Dungeness crab (about 2 pounds), cracked and cleaned, still in the shell.
  • 2 pounds fresh halibut fillet or other firm-fleshed white fish, cubed
  • 24 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 dozen mussels OR clams OR oysters OR a combination of those, depending on what is available

Directions

In a large pot, melt the butter with the olive oil over low heat.

Sauté the celery, onions and garlic until soft (about 5 minutes). Add all the other ingredients EXCEPT the seafood and simmer on low heat, uncovered, for one hour. Add a little water if the sauce becomes too thick. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Add the white fish and shrimp. Simmer, covered, for about 5 minutes. Add mussels and simmer for 3-5 minutes more, until the shells open. Discard any mussels that do not open.

Add the crab last and just heat through. Ladle the stew into large bowls and serve with crusty sourdough bread and lots of napkins.

Sunday Braciole

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned dried breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated provolone cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 flank steak, about 1 1/2 pounds, pounded to 1/8 inch thickness
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix together the first 6 ingredients in a bowl. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the oil. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Place the filling over the flank steak covering it evenly.  Starting at the shorter end, roll up the flank steak into a tight cylinder. Tie the roll with butcher’s twine (kitchen string).

Heat a large ovenproof skillet or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the braciole. Brown the meat on all sides, about 10 minutes total.

Carefully remove the braciole to a plate. Add the onion to the pan and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pot. Add the tomatoes.

Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium low.  Allow to simmer for a few minutes to incorporate all the ingredients.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Put the braciole back into the pan.  Cover with a lid or foil and place in the oven. Bake turning the braciole every 30 minutes and basting with the tomato sauce.

After one hour uncover the pan and bake until the meat is tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Add more wine or water to the sauce if needed as it cooks.

Remove the braciole from the sauce and let rest for ten minutes. Remove the twine.

Slice the braciole into 1 inch thick slices.  Transfer to a warmed platter. Spoon the sauce over. Sprinkle with the basil and parsley.

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