This month the Italian Food, Wine, and Travel Writers were invited to a “Cavalcade of Chianti” hosted by Liz Barrett of What’s in that Bottle? Well, it was meant to be hosted by Liz. Liz got things all set, then had a last-minute trip to Vietnam! (Go, Liz! I can’t wait to hear all about it!) Luckily she had most things set up and well in hand, and Cam of Culinary Adventures with Camilla has jumped in to take care of the rest! (Big thanks to both of you!)
Liz set up some samples for many of us, so you will see below that many of the writers will be tasting and pairing wines from Cecchi.
I received these wines as media samples. No other compensation was received.
All opinions remain our own.
Chianti was the perfect, inexpensive wine to pair with pizza in my youth. I remember the straw-wrapped bottles that I now know are called a fiasco, designed to keep the round bottomed bottles standing upright and protect them from breaking during shipping. When empty, I, like many, filled with taper candles, the drippy kind, and set the mood in my bohemian apartment.
It’s much rarer today to see those straw-wrapped bottles, and the quality of Chianti has definitely increased.
Diving inside the Chianti Region
Eight regions within Chianti may be listed on the label, including Colli Fiorentini, Rufina, Colli Arentini, Colli Senesi, Colline Pisane, Montespertoli, and Montalbano. In the center of these regions, sitting between Florence and Siena, you find the Chianti Classico DOCG. This is the historic heart of the Chianti region. It was one of Italy’s first DOCs (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) and became and DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) in the 1980s.
Within the Classico region, there are 11 UGAs (Unità Geografiche Aggiuntive or Additional Geographic Units.) These are smaller geographical areas. The Chianti Classico region spans 70,000 hectares. These Geographic Units have not yet come into force for use on labels, but producers will tell you about them. These include: Greve, Lamole, Radda, Gaiole, Castelnuovo Berardenga, San Casciano, Montefioralle, Panzano, San Donato in Poggio, Castellina and Vagliagli.
The Story of the Black Rooster
There is a story about the iconic black rooster on the label for Chianti Classico.
In the Middle Ages, Siena and Florence fought a bloody war over the region. They staged a competition to end the war and the debate over the border. The contest was a race from each city by a rider on horseback.
On the appointed morning, as the rooster crowed to start the day, each rider would ride forth from their city. Where they met would determine the border between the lands.
In Siena, they chose a white rooster to awaken their knight. They fed the bird well and carefully cared for him. The Florentines had a black rooster, and they starved him for three days before the ride.
As a result, the black rooster awoke hungry before dawn, let loose with a crow, and the Florentine rider set forth long before the Siena rooster crowed. The Florentine rider was almost to Siena when they met.
Sangiovese and Chianti
The wine in Chianti is primarily Sangiovese. If the bottle says Chianti DOCG, it must be at least 70% Sangiovese. They can use other red varieties, including Canaiolo Nero, Colorino, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot, and white varieties Malvasia and Trebbiano for the remaining 30%. But the white grapes combined can be no more than 10% of the blend.
The Chianti Classico DOCG has slightly higher standards. Here the blend must be at least 80% Sangiovese, and white grapes are not allowed.
Our wine comes from Castellina a UGA in the Chianti Classico Region in the Siena province.
Cecchi (pronounced Che-kee) has been around for almost 130 years. This label on their 2015 Reserva shows that they hit 125 years in 2018.
In 1893 Luigi Cecchi was a wine taster; by the 1930s, he was internationally known. In the 1950s, the family bought prime properties in Tuscany and began bottling Cecchi wines. In the 1970s, they moved to Castellina to produce Chianti Classico.
Now in the 4th generation of this family cellar, they have acquired the historic Villa Rosa.
Cecchi feel the land must be respected and protected. Sustainability is something that they see as a duty. In the 1990s, they were the first in Tuscany to build a plant-based wastewater treatment center.
The Chianti of Cecchi
We tasted 2 wines
2015 Chianti Classico Riserva di Famiglia DOCG
This wine is 90% Sangiovese and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon from vineyards at 250 meters. It spends 12 months in oak casks and three months in bottle before release and is only produced in the best years.
14% abv $48 SRP
2020 Chianti Classico Storia di Famiglia DOCG
Here the wine is 90% Sangiovese and 10% Colorino and Canaiolo. Again it spends 12 months in wooden casks and two months in bottle before release.
13.5% abv $27 SRP
Pairing with a Tuscan Style Ragu on Pappardelle
This is Tuscany and Pappardelle is a popular pasta here. It is perfect to carry a delicious Ragu. Tuscan sauces are thicker and meatier than other sauces in Italy. These wines speak of family, which speaks to me of a hearty sauce.
Typically a blend of wild boar, and beef, a Tuscan Ragu is started with Soffrito, the Italian name for Mirepoix, that holy trinity of carrot, celery, and onion. Dice that finely, cook with olive oil, add garlic and pancetta, ground meats, wine, tomatoes, and herbs, and cook this down, so all the flavors integrate.
Since I could not find wild boar, I used a bison, beef, and pork trio. I also added some Tuscan kale at the end that I found at the farmers’ market. And of course, I found Marzano tomatoes to cook in the sauce.
Michael and I both found that we enjoyed it best with the 2020 Chianti Classico Storia di Famiglia DOCG. This wine was generous and delicious, with notes of tart cherry, orange peel, menthol, and tobacco. It enhanced the sauce and made it better.
The Riserva di Famiglia seemed closed, even after we had it open for a while. Perhaps it was in a closed phase? While I found complexity on the nose, it was overwhelmed by heat and menthol. Maybe it needed decanting? We found it just not as generous on its own or with the food as the other wine.
Regardless, the meal was delicious, and we easily finished off the bottle of Storia di Famiglia and would happily look for this wine again.
More on Chianti from the #ItalianFWT Writers
Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “A Classic Chianti Pairing and a Book Review”
Cam of Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Cucina Povera and two bottles of Chianti Classico”
Jennifer of Vino Travels shares “The History of Family with Cecchi”
Cindy of Grape Experiences shares “At I Veroni in Chianti Rufina, Elegance and Balance Characterize Its Wines”
Linda of My Full Wine Glass shares “Chianti Classico and Spaghetti to warm the Body and Soul”
Jeff of Food Wine Click shares “Rufina – One Straw in the Chianti Haystack”
Katarina of Grapevine Adventures shares “3 Chianti DOCG wines Show the Potential of 3 Different Subzones”
Gwendolyn Alley of Wine Predator shares “Fall Flavors: 2 Cecchi Chianti Classico Paired With Instant Pot Bolognese”
Susannah at Avvinare shares “Cecchi Family, A Piece of Tuscan History”
And Liz of What’s in that Bottle? shares “Two Chianti Wines for Fall“
Pappardelle with Tuscan style Ragu
This lush and filling Tuscan Style Ragu incorporates bison, as wild boar is hard to find in the states. But if you have boar, by all means, use that.
15 minutes of chopping, 1 hour of active cooking time, and 1 hour while that pot cooks down integrating all those flavors into a delicious sauce.
This is a perfect pairing with a Chianti. I would suggest going with a Chianti Classico like the Cecchi Chianti Classicos that we paired with!
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 medium carrots (finely chopped)
- 3 stalks of celery (finely chopped)
- 1 white onion (finely chopped)
- 4 cloves of garlic (minced)
- 2 ounces of Pancetta (diced)
- ½ lb ground beef
- ½ lb ground pork
- ½ lb ground bison
- 1/2 cup wine (I used Sangiovese)
- ½ can of tomato paste
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1 - 28 oz can of San Marzano peeled tomatoes
- 1/4 cup fresh basil (chopped)
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley (chopped) divided
- 2 tbsp fresh oregano (chopped)
- 1 sprig of fresh rosemary (minced)
- 1 tsp fish sauce
- 1/2 tsp Worchestershire sauce
- Salt + Pepper
- ½ cup Tuscan kale chopped
- 1 lb dry Pappardelle pasta
- 4 oz of unsalted butter
- 6 oz of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano to finish
- Cook the soffritto (carrots, celery & onion) in olive oil over medium heat until translucent. (5-6 minutes)
- Add the garlic and pancetta and cook until golden. (about 15 minutes)
- Add the ground meats and saute until cooked. (about 10 minutes)
- Add the wine and cook until it is evaporated. (about 10 minutes)
- Add the tomato paste and flour and stir into the meat and vegetables until blended.
- Puree the tomatoes in a blender or food processor.
- Add the tomatoes, parsley, basil, oregano, fish sauce, and Worcestershire sauce, and season with salt and pepper.
- Bring this to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Cover and cook, occasionally stirring, for 1.5 to 2 hours, until the sauce is almost dry.
- 30 minutes before the sauce should be done (1- 1.5 hrs in - check how much liquid you have left)
- Start the pasta water.
- Add the kale to the sauce.
- Cook the pasta to al dente in water that is salty, like the sea.
- Return the pasta to the pot, ladle in 2 scoops of sauce and the butter, and cook until the butter has melted and the pasta is coated. (1 or 2 minutes)
- Serve in individual bowls with additional sauce on top.
- Garnish with grated Parmigiano Reggiano and chopped parsley.
Amount Per Serving Calories 641Total Fat 42gSaturated Fat 19gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 20gCholesterol 148mgSodium 627mgCarbohydrates 29gFiber 3gSugar 5gProtein 34g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.
More on Italian wines from Crushed Grape Chronicles!
- Vermentino from Sardinia – Sunlight in a glass #ItalianFWT
- Le Marche Italy – Verdicchio and beyond #ItalianFWT
- Pallotte Cac e Ove & Orecchiette with 2 Brilliant Cherry Red Rosatos from Southeast Italy #ItalianFWT
- Bertani – Finding a way through innovation and tradition to maintain quality amidst climate change.
- Dreaming of Lake Garda with a wine from Lugana #ItalianFWT
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine and WSET 3 Certified. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.
I did a deep dive into Chianti a few years ago with the group and learned so much. Your post was a super review. I’m all for the UGAs as each of them really do exhibit their own sense of place. Re your dish- looks so tasty!
Thanks, Lynn! It’s a fascinating and beautiful region, I wish we would have had time to explore it during our last visit, but that will be for another trip! The Ragu was delish!
Great recap of the legend of the Black Rooster as well as the family history of the Cecchi winery. A large brand that often does not profile its long history, etc. Fab recipe!
The legend makes for a fun story! I’m glad you like the recipe! It was delicious!
Chianti and Tuscan fare – what could be better? Too bad the Riserva was closed for your pairing. Happens.
Indeed. It was sad about the Riserva being closed, but truly we so enjoyed the approachability of the Classico with (and without) the food. Sometimes you want something a bit more joyful and less brooding!