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Welcome to the WineGuyMike™ Radio Show© this Sunday morning.
Now that fall is upon us I have been focusing on wines that are seasonally transitional and offer great value. This week I want to share Italian wine with you, specifically Chianti.
What is Chianti? Is it a grape, is it a wine style, or is it a place? What is Chianti beside the fact that it is a wine that is great to drink especially with a meal.
Italian wine is arguably the best food wine in the world and Chianti certainly fits this profile. Italians love their wine bright with fruit, acidic, and with a slightly bitter finish. Chianti is a perfect example of this style of wine.
The bright fruit of an Italian wine is what you first notice in your glass. As you examine the aroma you smell the fruit or what is known as the nose of the wine.
Once you take in the aroma of your Chianti your sense of smell now makes your mouth or palate desire a taste of the luscious liquid in your glass. Take a small sip and swish the wine about in your mouth, that’s right just like your mouthwash. Once your swallow the wine think about all the things you are experiencing with this particular wine. With Chianti you will notice four different sensations on your palate. The fruit delivers the first impression, and then you will notice the mouth-feel which is the weight or body of the wine, and the texture. Chianti is a lively or acidic wine, this will also be apparent on your palate. This is important to a food friendly wine because this is what brings out flavor in food. As you swallow your wine you will then notice the tannin in the wine which comes from the wine being macerated or together at the beginning of the winemaking process with the stems and skins of the grape. This is the sensation in Chianti that you will experience and think to yourself, this wine is dry. The last sensation you may be left with is a slightly bitter finish, this is not a bad thing. Remember we are talking about Chianti, an Italian table wine made to be enjoyed with a meal from the Tuscany region.
Chianti is made predominantly from the Sangiovese grape. Sangiovese produces wines that can be spicy, are medium bodied with nuances of cherry and raspberry flavors. The Sangiovese grape is a warm weather varietal that thrives in the Tuscany region of Italy. This grape is grown and producing lovely wines in California too.
Tuscany is the region of Italy in which Chianti is produced; remember Sangiovese is the main grape varietal used in a Chianti wine. Within Tuscany lies the Chianti and Chianti Classico grape growing and wine producing areas.
It is very important to know that there are three different levels of Chianti wine that are governed by an Italian law or what is known as the DOC and DOCG. You will see this printed on the label of your Italian wine. There are many Italian wines that do not adhere to wines specifications within particular regions and these wines will be designated on their label as IGT. The difference between the DOC and DOCG is that the G in DOCG stylistically is guaranteed to meet the standards set forth in Italian wine laws for specific regions.
The DOC governs:
- Geographical limits of each region
- Grapes varieties allowed in wines
- The percentage of each grape used (Classico must be 80% Sangiovese)
- The amount of grapes that can be grown and harvested per acre
- The minimum percentage of alcohol in a wine
- Minimum aging requirements. How much time a wine is aged in barrels or bottles
These wine laws became effective in 1963 in Italy.
As you look at the label on a bottle of Chianti it will be designated one of three things.
- Chianti – a basic table wine from a broad general area within the Tuscany wine region. This is the least expensive Chianti.
- Chianti Classico – this wine is more expensive and comes from the inner historic district of Chianti. This is a better quality wine that has been given more attention in the winemaking process. The grapes come from better vineyards that produce wines with a sense of place.
- Chianti Classico Riserva – these are the finest Chianti’s made the very best grapes, are a result of the most laborious winemaking attention, and are aged for a minimum of two years and three months. These Classico Riserva’s also come with the highest price tags.
Chianti is great wine to drink with an Italian meal. Because of the natural acidity in a Chianti wine you are assured that your wine pairing will bring out the all flavor in your meal. Chianti is a medium bodied wine that will not compete with your meal. Remember with big robust foods you do not want a wine that is equally robust or they will simply nullify one another.
My recommendation for pairing Chianti wine with your meal is this; pasta dishes with red sauces and chicken, meatballs or sausage I recommend Chianti. This wine is a perfect partner to these dishes. The perceived bitter finish from table Chianti when it is tasted alone is non-existent when enjoyed with your meal. This slight bitterness helps balance the sweetness from the fruit in a tomato based sauce, it is not a bad thing this just enhances your meal.
Chianti wines are made to keep your meal and your palate lively and awake and craving more. Most traditional Italian dinners are multi-coursed and this is exactly why Chianti is balanced and structured the way that it is.
Italian dinners that would be considered fine dining as opposed to the family style Italian dinners my family enjoys this time of year is the time to serve a Chianti Classico. If it is a special occasion you might consider serving a Chianti Classico Riserva. The Classico and Classico Riserva will have a little fuller and richer mouth-feel to them on the palate. Either of these wine selections would pair perfectly with my favorite dish that I share with you, Bracciole. The Classico Chianti’s have more depth, tannin that is more refined, in general a much richer wine than a table Chianti. Considering the rich style of Chianti Classico these wines will pair nicely with more elegant Italian beef based dishes.
Enjoy this wonderful wine from Tuscany with a beautiful Italian dinner, Salute.
Chianti Wine Recommendations
The history of the Mazzei family is deep in Tuscany’s winemaking tradition and history. The first recorded mention of the Mazzei family was noted in documents traced back to the early 11th century.
Poggio alla Badiola IGT Toscana retails for under $15.00 is a blend of 70% Sangiovese, 30% Merlot. This IGT Chianti has beautiful depth in color and intensely aromatic dark fruits and mocha. Balance, depth, and structure deliver a supple and smooth wine on the palate. A long finish of dark fruits and berries, delicious.
Fonterutoli Chianti Classico DOCG retails for under $25.00 is a blend of 90% Sangiovese, 2% Malvasia Nera, 3% Colorino, 5% Merlot. Bright Ruby red with streaks of violet are what you see from this beautiful wine in your glass. On the nose this wine has subtle aromas of smoke, red cherries, and thyme. Delightful indeed. On the palate this wine is refined, fruity, and lively with acid. A great food wine.
Recipe for Bracciole
1 stick of real butter
2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
8 four inch pieces of Round Steak pounded thin
Salt and Pepper to taste
4 garlic gloves smashed and finely chopped
½ cup of Italian Parsley
4 hard boiled eggs medium chopped
1 cup of Italian bread crumbs
Tomato Sauce, prepare your favorite basic sauce
Melt butter and olive oil in a sauce pan then brush onto both sides of meat.
Next apply salt and pepper to taste.
Spread Garlic onto one side of meat.
Next add the layer of bread crumbs.
Now add a layer of the Italian parsley.
Now layer the chopped hardboiled eggs.
Now you need to roll the meat up and tie with poultry thread.
Next you brown the rolls of meat on a medium heat for about 4 minutes. Turning the rolls and being careful not to overcook.
Take the rolls from your pan to the pot of tomato sauce and simmer for about 4 hours.
Make your favorite pasta, add the sauce with a couple of the rolls of Bracciole.
This is my favorite Italian dinner that I share with you.