Tag Archives: Chianti

Wine and food pairings 9: Mushroom ragu, since it’s so difficult to find meat

mushroom ragu

The Wine Curmudgeon pairs wine with some of his favorite recipes in this occasional feature. This edition: three wines with a mushroom ragu

The Wine Curmudgeon buys dried mushrooms, and then they sit on a back shelf,  almost forgotten. So, when I found a package while rummaging through the pantry, I thought: Why not use them to make a mushroom ragu, a dish ideal for dinner at time when even ground beef is in short supply?

In fact, almost everything in this recipe can be substituted for what’s on hand. I like spinach noodles, but almost any noodle or spaghetti will work. Less expensive dried mushrooms will work just as well as pricey shitakes. Don’t have dried mushrooms? Then just use more fresh and substitute vegetable stock for the mushroom soaking liquid.

The other thing about this recipe? No tomatoes or tomato sauce. You can certainly add them if you want, but given how many of us are eating spaghetti with red sauce with regularity these days, a pasta recipe without tomatoes is likely most welcome.

Click here to download or print a PDF of the recipe. This is light red wine food (or even rose), since you don’t want to cover up the subtleties of the mushrooms. These three suggestions will get you started:

• Santa Julia Reserva Mountain Blend 2018 ($10, purchased, 14%): I bought this Argentine blend of malbec and cabernet franc when the European wine tariff was wine’s biggest problem, but not because I wanted to drink it. Once again, don’t judge the wine until you taste it. There is sweet berry fruit (but the wine isn’t sweet), as well as some grit and body from the cabernet franc. Very well done for this style, and people who appreciate this approach will want to buy a case. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

• Badenhorst The Curator Red 2017 ($11, purchased, 13.5%): Nicely done Rhone-style blend from South Africa, with rich dark fruit, soft tannins, and a pleasant mouth feel, There’s not a trace of the pinotage in the mostly shiraz mix, which is not easy to do. Imported by Broadbent Selections

• Cheap Chianti: This post, featuring five Chiantis costing $10 or less, speaks to pairing wine with food from the region. Each of them show why this is such a terrific idea.

Full disclosure: I forgot to take a picture of the ragu; the one accompanying the post is from the What James had for Dinner blog. My noodles were fettuccine size.

More about wine and food pairings:
• Wine and food pairings 8: Not quite ramen soup
• Wine and food pairings 7: Classic roast chicken
• Wine and food pairings 6: Louisiana-style shrimp boil

Slider photo: “Rome Elite Event: wine, food and nice people” by Yelp.com is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Chianti producers: We need to make our red wine more sweet

chianti producers

“These wines aren’t soft enough — let’s add sugar!”

Chianti producers are tinkering with 800 years of success to chase consumers who don’t exist

Chianti, perhaps the quintessential red wine – earthy, tart and oh so dry – is going to become more sweet. Why? Because Italy’s Chianti producers want “to sweeten its appeal to attract more women and a new generation of young consumers. …”

Is it any wonder the Wine Curmudgeon worries about the future of the wine business?

This approach is so pathetic on so many levels that I don’t even know where to begin to criticize it. Chianti is wine, not Hawaiian Punch or a rum and Coke. Why make it taste like something it isn’t?

More importantly, it works from a false premise: That women and younger consumers don’t like dry wines, don’t buy dry wines, and only want to drink sweet wines. Where do otherwise intelligent people (yes, this includes you, Bogle) get these ideas?

The world wine market is worth more than $300 billion, and almost all of that is dry wine. Why, suddenly, are those sales figures irrelevant?

Well, says the president of the group that represents Chianti makers, “When we participate in wine fairs in Brazil, America or in Asia, people often tell us Chianti is a great wine but too hard, with too much tannin.”

Ah, that’s it – anecdotes from other people who work in the wine business. Chianti producers are going to tinker with an eight-century success story because someone who sells wine told them what they heard from someone else who sells wine, who heard it from someone else who sells wine. Talk about hearing what you want to hear and disregarding the rest.

That’s an even worse reason to do something than a focus group.

The only good news in this is that the current legal residual sugar levels in Chianti are so low that the new, higher level is still less sweet than many California dry red wines. But that’s troubling, too, since the Chianti group president made the same point: ““It will still be a dry wine. The limit we have will be the same as other famous Italian wines like the Brunello and the Barolo. It won’t taste any sweeter.”

Methinks thou doth protest too much.

I wrote a guest piece for an Italian wine magazine in the blog’s early days; I was asked to offer my insight into the U.S. market and how Italian companies could continue to sell lots of wine here. Because, as the Italians never seem to remember, they sell more wine in the U.S. than any other foreign country.

I wrote: “Make Italian wines in Italy. Don’t make Italian wines that taste like they were made in France or California. What’s the point of that when people can buy French wines and California wines?”

I guess I need to find that piece and send it to the Chianti producers group.

Photo: “radda in chianti 012” by _gee_ is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

Mini-reviews 122: Albarino, Chianti, Viura, Eberle Cotes-du-Robles

Eberle Cotes-du-RoblesReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month.

Lagar de Cervera Albarino 2017 ($15, purchased, 12.5%): This Spanish white offers $12 worth of value, and it’s not especially albarino like. It’s a little soft wiithout the citrus zip, not all that savory, and not especially fresh. Very disappointing. Imported by Golden State Wine Co.

Renzo Masi Chianti Rufina 2018 ($15, sample, 13%): Very ordinary Italian red, made in a soft, fruity, less tart New World style so that it lacks all of the things that make Chianti interesting. Meh. Imported by HB Wine Merchants

Azul y Garanza Viura 2017 ($10/1-liter, purchased, 12.5%): Spanish white missing the lemony snap and crackle that viura should have. The same producer’s tempranillo is much more interesting. Having said that, the viura is more than drinkable and the price is terrific. Imported by Valkyrie Selections

Eberle Cotes-du-Robles Rouge 2017 ($34, sample, 14.1%): You get exactly what you pay for — rich, full and well-made Paso Robles red blend that has structure and restraint. But since it’s Paso, that means very ripe black fruit that keeps coming and coming.

Wine and food pairings 3: Bratwurst and sauerkraut

Wisconsin-style bratwurstThe Wine Curmudgeon pairs wine with some of his favorite recipes in this new, occasional feature. This edition: three wines with Wisconsin-style bratwurst and sauerkraut

There are bratwurst, and then there are local, butcher-shop brats prepared in the Wisconsin bratwurst style. That means brats poached in beer with onions, peppers, garlic, and spices. Yes, you can use grocery store brats, but it’s that much better with the local product. Can I recommend Lake Geneva Country Meats, a long-time pal of the blog?

Since this is a wine blog, I poach the bratwurst in wine instead of beer. Use one-half bottle of a fruity, dry white wine; almost anything but an oak-infused chardonnay will work. The other key? Add a well-drained can of sauerkraut to the poaching liquid after you take the bratwursts out and simmer. I use 69-cent grocery store kraut, which works as well as the more expensive, plastic-bag version. The sauerkraut picks up the flavors from the poaching liquid, and becomes something other than just sauerkraut. Plus, you don’t waste all the flavor in the bratwurst-infused poaching liquid.

A tip o’ the WC’s fedora to Nick Vorpagel at Lake Geneva, the third generation of the family business and a fine wine guy, too. Who else would hold a cava and Wisconsin-style bratwurst tasting? Hence, cava works with this dish, so enjoy the blog’s legendary $7 Cristalino. Click here to download or print a PDF of the recipe.

But consider these wines, too:

Falesco Vitiano Bianco 2017 ($12, purchased, 12%): This Italian white is one of the blog’s all-time favorites, and pairs with sausage as if it was made for it. Imported by The Winebow Group.

Foncalieu Le Versant Rose 2017 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): One more $10 French pink that does everything rose is supposed to do. Plus, it doesn’t cost as much as  bottle of white Burgundy. The Foncalieu is crisp, has a hint of red fruit, and ends with a pleasing, almost stony finish. Imported by United Wine & Spirits

Castello di Gabbiano Chianti 2015 ($8, purchased, 13%): This Italian red is usually one of the best of the cheap Chiantis, though I noticed some bottle variation this vintage. Otherwise, competent as always — lots of tart cherry, earthiness, and soft tannins. Imported by TWE Imports

More about wine and food pairings:
Wine and food pairings 2: Roast chicken salad with Chinese noodles
Wine and food pairings 1: Chicken, okra and sausage gumbo
One chicken, five dinners, five wines

Wine of the week: Coltibuono Chianti Cetamura 2015

Coltibuono ChiantiThe Coltibuono Chianti is one more Italian red that combines quality and value for $10

One of the most surprising things about cheap wine in the second decade of the 21st century is how much quality Chianti exists for $10 or less. Maybe it’s because Chianti is passé among the wine geeks, given the popularity of pricey Super Tuscans. Maybe there’s so much of it that supply keeps prices down. And maybe it’s because so many Chianti producers are happy to make great $10 wine.

Regardless, the Coltibuono Chianti ($10, purchased, 13%) is one more terrific value. This Italian red wine, made with the sangiovese grape from the Chianti region of Tuscany, is more old fashioned than some of the others. That means it’s a little more rustic and earthy. Which, of course, isn’t a problem, but part of Chianti’s terroir. So no, it’s not like this.

Look for Chianti’s traditional tart, slightly cherry taste, a clean finish, and those wonderful red fruit aromas that make me think of sausage and garlic. There’s even a little baking spice somewhere in the mix.

Bring on the red sauce, especially as winter hangs around in much of the country.

Imported by Coltibuono USA

Mini-reviews 92: 2016 closeout edition

2016 closeout editionReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month. This month, the 2016 closeout edition.

Kenwood Jack London Zinfandel 2014 ($25, sample, 14.5%): OK California zinfandel that isn’t what it once was, when it ranked with Ridge for quality. But it fits the parameters for what zinfandel is supposed to taste like today. Lots of sweet black fruit, though a bit of spice and earth on the back.

Castello di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2013 ($25, sample, 13.5%): Not very interesting Italian red wine without much fruit but with a lot – and I mean a lot – of acidity. It was so out of whack I wondered it was flawed in some way.

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville 2007 ($45, sample, 15.5%): No, not a typo, but a California red that I got as a sample when the blog started and has been sitting the wine fridge since then. It’s made to taste exactly the way it tastes to wow the Winestream Media. In other words, rich, elegant, not quite sweet grape juice with some oak. If you like that style, you’ll love this wine.

Bodegas Salentein Killka Malbec 2014 ($13, sample, 14%): Competent premiumized Argentine red wine, with less fruit than most. But in the end, it’s still sweetish and not very interesting – another in a long line of malbecs made to taste a certain way and do that one thing very well.

Wine of the week: Trambusti Benedetto Chianti 2015

Trambusti BenedettoThe Trambusti Benedetto Chianti is a $5 wine that puts $20 wines to shame

The idea that all wine should taste alike, that the International style is the goal that all wine should aspire to, makes the Wine Curmudgeon crazy. Imagine if we did that for bread – everything would be light, fluffy, and sweet, and the world would be stuck with Wonder Bread.

So why do we do it for wine? Call it misguided if you’re being generous; greed comes to mind if you’re not. In either case, the Trambusti Benedetto ($5, purchased, 12.5%) is a testament to letting wine be wine.

This is cheap Chianti (the red wine from Italy’s Chianti region that is made with sangiovese) the way it should be. It’s not sort of soft, the way some enjoyable cheap Chianti can be, but fresh, sharp, on point, and with lots of tart cherry fruit and that certain Chianti earthy and herbal combination. In this, it’s different from the 2014, which I liked well enough; that there is a welcome vintage difference in a $5 wine speaks to the idea that the producer long ago left Wonder Bread behind.

Compare it to the $18 so-called Sicilian red in this post, and you’ll be stunned at high much more interesting the Benedetto is. Highly recommended, and just the thing to keep on hand for take out pizza. It probably won’t make the 2017 $10 Hall of Fame, but I will think long and hard about it. Also, this is an Aldi wine, and if Aldi and its archrival Lidl focus on quality like this, they’ll change the U.S. grocery store wine world forever.