Chianti: A Great Compliment to Pasta

by Dan Paulus the Wine Guy

I would like to begin by apologizing to my followers as I recently had my wisdom teeth pulled and felt my palate was distant between the open cuts and healing medicines in my mouth. As luck would prevail, I survived and as we all know when you feel better a great meal is the best way to CELEBRATE!

This particular evening, I had a group of 4 friends come for dinner and I assumed my usual role as Dean Martin, who best describes it in his song, “Poor Little Old Wine Drinker Me.” I emailed my girlfriend Christine throughout the day to find out what she would be cooking.  She decided to make  Chicken Parm with Rigatoni, an Italian favorite of mine. Now that I knew what to expect for our dinner guests, I headed towards my favorite local wine shop with my knowledge guns loaded, gusto and enthusiasm towards finding just the right wine to compliment the coming meal my wonderful girlfriend was preparing.

Knowing that I was in the market for something to compliment a pasta dish, I instantly thought of a Chianti. Chianti is a wine region in the Tuscan hills of Italy that until 1995 had a strict recipe of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo and 15% Malvasia bianca. In 1995, the region decided that bottles labeled as Chianti could be sold containing as much as 100% Sangiovese and no less than 80%, a native grape of Italy. While we touch on Italy, I will say they are one of the most strict wine regions in the world about what grapes are grown and where. If you were to bring a Bordeaux grape, such as;Chianti Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec or Petite Verdot the wine would instantly be labeled a “Super Tuscan Wine.” The Tuscan wine region accounts for approximately, 1/5 or 20% of all wine production in the World!

I ran into the store and searched the carefully planned selection of Chianti’s and found two bottles of Castello D’Albola selling for $19.99 each and decided I would give a new brand a try. Earlier, I noted I knew to flock to Chianti because the wine has a tendency to bring your cheeks together, a perfect and natural way to prepare your mouth for pasta!

I read the rear label while standing in line and expanded my knowledge of the Chianti as I learned this region is home to nobile and famous families of the Renaissance era. The wine maker suggests that the wine is best consumed with cheese, pasta dishes and roasts. A perfect match for my dinner plans. I promptly returned home to open the wine and much like letting a Genie out of bottle – let this wine, breathe!

Opening wine and allowing it to breathe is a critical step in the enjoyment of wine. I liken it to taking a bite of an apple and letting it sit on a counter for approximately a half hour. When you return you find the apple to be turning slightly brown; much to this effect, wine is best consumed in a state similar to the “browning stage” of an apple. This process allows the aromas to expand and the wine to open up so its features are best exhibited. Recently, Vinturi created an aerator that drastically reduces the “browning” stage of wine and allows the wine to open more quickly, thus allowing a faster open to consumption phase.

My guests had finally arrived and as the 4 guests would expect I had prepared myself to tell them about the Castello D’Albola Chianti Classico vintage 2006 I chose. I overlooked one huge aspect, the marketing! “How come this bottle has a rooster on it?”… “What does Classico mean?”…”This bottle has a 12.5% Alcohol content – how does this compare to beer or a mixed drink?” I truly love talking about wine and these questions I was truly short on answers, but as my hobby has taught me – learning and story telling makes any brown, green or white bottle interesting.

How come this bottle has a rooster on it?

  • A) Roosters or gallo nero in Italian is used to represent wine makers of the Gallo Nero Consortium until 2005, which then was used to represent Chianti Classico.

Speaking of Classico, what does it mean?

  • Classico refers to Chianti that has been stored in barrels for a time period of 4-7 months. Other varieties also include, Riserva is stored in barrels for up to 38 months and Superiore which is planted and harvested with a lower yield, has a higher alcohol content and dry extract while produced under very strict rules of the region.

How does this wine compare to beer, or a mixed drink in terms of alcohol content?

  • Light beers generally contain less than 4.5 – 5.0% alcohol content, while a mixed drink containing Vodka could contain more than 40% by volume.

We toasted the meal, our health and great company and it was now time to stick our nose in the glass of Castello D’Albola and allow the aromas to be discussed.  The swirling motions began and the flowery talk of the aromas were discussed as the scent of Violets was interjected by one guest. Another thought it had hints of other fresh spring flowers. The observation of the color was that of ruby red fading to a deep garnet as you gaze into the wine glass. And, at first taste, my guests fell victim to an amazing wine they both enjoyed and now became filled with knowledge.

Until the next time – bottoms up!

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  1. Thanks for the Chianti Wine lesson. I’m so bad with wine knowledge and I’ve been trying to educate myself more on this subject recently. So much to learn, but every little bit helps.

    It’s weird b/c I’ve never really been one to pay attention to my palate when eating a meal and pairing wine with it until recently. Just this past weekend my boyfriend had grilled some marinaded pork chops, (they were delish and moist which is rare since pork tends to dry out quickly while cooking if not careful) and I grabbed a beer to go with it which I hardly ever ever drink unless ice cold. I have to say it was the perfect compliment to that pork dish.

    • Gabby@FoodChowDown

      Sherri – I’m terrible when it comes to wine myself. That’s why when I met Dan and knew how much of a wine lover he was… I told him he must write because he is so passionate about wine.

      Beer always compliments grilling very well. I remember reading an old article in either New York Mag or Time out about 3 different types of meals and trying it with 3 different types of liquors, beer, wine, and 3rd drink. It was definitely an interesting article as pairings you wouldn’t expect were preferred.

  2. That was some useful information! I am more of a vodka/ beer kinda gurl, but of late I started wine and we have been trying various things to see what makes our tough happy :)

  3. Thank you for sharing this with us Gabby – great post! I appreciate the tips.

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