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Category Archives: Tuscany

Chianti Classico and the Black Rooster

A couple of weeks ago, we were out to dinner with friends at a quaint, local Italian restaurant. As one does when dining Italian, we ordered a bottle of Chianti, or more specifically, Chianti Classico. As we sat enjoying the food, wine, and company, the discussion turned to the little black rooster on the Chianti Classico bottle. Perhaps you’ve seen it…

I started to explain the history behind the black rooster, and why it appears on every bottle of Chianti Classico. However, much to my own embarrassment (I’m a wine blogger, after all; people look to me as a font of wine knowledge and wisdom) I couldn’t recall the story. I knew there was some dispute some centuries ago, and that a black rooster was somehow involved, but that was all I could remember at the time.

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So I did what any self-respecting and self-proclaimed wine “expert” would do.

I Googled it.

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Contrary to some popular belief, Chianti is not a wine grape. It is a region in Tuscany, Italy, renowned for its red wines made from the Sangiovese grape. Sure, a few decades ago, Chianti suffered from a bit of an identity crisis, but then again, didn’t we all? Back then, Chianti was usually a cheap, low quality wine, better known for its gitchy “basket” bottle (bonus points if you know that it’s called a “fiasco”) than for the wine quality. The fiasco, in turn, was better known as a holder for colorful, dripping candles than as a vessel containing delicious wine.

 

The Chianti wine region is expansive, spanning some 100 miles between Florence in the north and Siena in the south. However, the most highly regarded Chianti wines come from what has been designated the Chianti Classico region. The Chianti Classico region is that portion of Tuscany considered the original and best Chianti hills and vineyards, dating back to the 1700’s when the Chianti region was first designated.

Which brings us to our story.

As legend has it, in the 13th century, before Italy was a unified country, Florence and Siena were engaged in a land dispute. Can you blame them? If you could claim rights to a prime wine region, wouldn’t you? Anyway, the two feuding cities decided to end their dispute with a race. The plan was that at the crack of dawn on the day of the race, each city would send a rider on horseback toward the other. Where the riders met, the new land border would be established. Of course, 800 years ago, they didn’t have Smartphones to wake them up, or even alarm clocks. Back then, they relied on the good old, low tech rooster!

In Siena, a white rooster was selected as the most dependable, and was given the task of waking their rider. Of course, some strategy must be employed to ensure victory, so the people of Siena fed their white rooster well, to keep him happy and crowing strong! To the north in Florence, a black rooster was chosen. However, the people of Florence had a different strategy. They put their rooster in a box for a few days before the race, with no food.

On the morning of the race, the very hungry and understandably grouchy black rooster of Florence woke at the first sign of light and began crowing, waking the town and more importantly, the rider. In Siena, however, the white rooster, content with a full stomach, slept in a bit.  Thus, the rider from Florence got a head start on the rider from Siena and covered much more territory. So much so, that they met just 20 kilometers (about 12 miles) from the walls of Siena. The new border was established, much in Florence’s favor, and the black rooster was established as the mascot of Chianti. The emblem was first adopted in 1384, and has been in use ever since.

Now that you know the story, make a reservation at your favorite local Italian restaurant, order a bottle of Chianti Classico, and amaze your friends with your very impressive knowledge of this entertaining tale.

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds

References:

https://www.chianti.com/wine/chianti-classico.html

https://www.wine-searcher.com/regions-chianti

https://vinepair.com/wine-blog/how-a-starving-rooster-made-chianti-classico-famous/

 

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Review: Tommasi Poggio al Tufo Rompicollo 2014

On a recent business trip, Robyn met a fellow conference attendee who gave her a recommendation for a new wine. Frank said this wine is one of he and his girlfriend’s favorites, and suggested Robyn and I give it a try. The wine is Tommasi Poggio al Tufo Rompicollo, from Toscana, Italy. Robyn texted me a picture of the bottle, and I went on the hunt. I didn’t have to look far. Our local Total Wine & More store just happens to carry this wine.

When Robyn arrived home from her trip, she had a little surprise waiting for her on the counter. We adore Italian wines, and some of our favorites are the Sangiovese-based wines out of Tuscany. So naturally, I had stopped at Total Wine on my way home from work the day after her text, and bought a bottle to try.

Tommasi Family Estates has been producing wine grapes since 1902. The family got their start in Valpolicella Classica, Verona, and has since expanded to other regions in Italy. They launched the Poggio al Tufo line of wines in 1997 with the acquisition of the Pitigliano Estate, 66 hectares of vineyards planted in volcanic soil, in the rolling Tuscan hills. The addition of two more vineyards, the 24 hectare Doganella Estate and the Scansano Estate, 80 hectares in the DOC Morellino zone, expanded the operation. The Doganella Estate is an organic production, producing high quality grapes due to the hot, dry Tuscan summers and cooling breezes from the Tyrrhenian Sea.

The Tommasi Poggio al Tufo Rompicollo is a blend of 60% Sangiovese and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. Several vintages of this wine have won numerous awards and accolades, including 93 points from Vinous Media (2012), No. 31 in the Wine Spectator Top 100, with a 92 point score (2011), and 87 points from both Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast (2010).

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The current release, at least what is available in our local store, is the 2014. We opened it to enjoy with our meal of grilled filet mignon steaks, baked potato, and spinach salad with warm bacon dressing. Exquisite is the best word to describe it! Here’s my review posted on Vivino:

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Delicious Toscana blend. Dark purple and ruby colors. Aromas of bing cherry and soft cedar. On the palate, juicy cherry and blackberry flavors meld with notes of cola, vanilla, and oak. Soft, silky tannins and medium acidity balance the wine and make for great dipping or food pairing. Long, black fruit and spice finish. We had this with grilled filet steaks and it was outstanding!

I highly recommend this outstanding Toscana wine. And at $15.99 retail, it’s a bottle you can enjoy often!

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds, with inspiration by Robyn Raphael
  • Photos by Kent Reynolds (unless otherwise credited)

 

Review: Maurizio Castelli Merletto Sangiovese 2014

Maurizio Castelli Sangiovese

Old World versus New World. What does that even mean? For those accustomed to Californian or other Western Hemisphere, New World wines, many Old World (European) wines may seem pale and acidic. The stereotype is of ripe, fruity New World wines that are enjoyable on their own, versus dry, acidic Old World that are best with food.

Here we have a great example of an Old World Italian wine. Historically, wine is much more a part of European culture than it is in the U.S. Remember, it was we crazy Americans who passed the Volstead Act – Prohibition – the effects of which still linger today in the U.S. In Europe, a meal isn’t a meal without a glass of wine.

Exclusively from NakedWines.com, the 2014 Sangiovese by Maurizio Castelli is a classic Italian wine, meant for Italian food. Below is an excerpt from Maurizio’s bio on his NakedWines.com page:

A famous Brunello consultant – Maurizio had a hand in many of the region’s most  famous wines like La Ragnaie (100 point wine), Mastrojanni, Badia a Coltibuono,  Bastianich, Mastrojanni, Grattamacco and a long list of other delicious wines that are even more expensive than they are difficult to pronounce.

And on top of knowing how to make landmark luxury wines, he knows how to create remarkable everyday sippers like Integolo (the top-rated value wine in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list)

Here’s my review, posted at NakedWines.com:

This is a young wine. Do yourself and Maurizio a favor and decant or aerate before drinking. You’ll enjoy it more. It’s also an Old World wine, leaning toward subtle fruit and food-friendly acidity. For some who only like California style smooth, jammy fruit bombs, that’s strike two. But if you are looking for a fresh tasting, complex wine to pair with some classic Italian cuisine, look no further!

The color is dark Ruby in the glass. On the nose, blackberry bramble and plum. Flavors of blackberry, cedar, and spice dominate, followed by subtle blueberry. Tannins are a bit harsh yet; as I said, it’s young; but smooth out with exposure to air. The acidity is brisk; not atypical for classically made Italian wines. This is a food wine. We paired it with spaghetti squash and marinara with Italian sausage. The wine enhanced the food, and vice-versa.

If you have a few bottles, lay them down a bit. This will be excellent in a couple of years.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 hearts

Price: Retail $17.99, Angel (member) price: $9.99

To get your bottles, click here to join NakedWines.com.

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Cheers!