Sebastiano Capponi (r) of Villa Calcinaia and his friend Andrei Tartovski, two of the participants in a "Sangiovese Showdown" tasting of Chianti Classico wines and their counterparts from Montalcino in the refectory of the 16th century convent owned by the Chianti Classico consortium. Even with great concentration, it wasn't easy to pick which was which.
RADDA-IN-CHIANTI--It's wine festival weekend here in the heart of Tuscany's vineyards, in the 16,000-acre zone delimited as Chianti Classico. Sangiovese grapes, mostly, and plenty of hearty food to accompany the wine. The official website, Radda nel Bicchiere, lists dozens of events, including a tasting between the rival regions of Chianti Classico and neighboring Montalcino, which produces the famous Brunello. In case you thought it might be easy to distinguish between the two wines (Classico is "fresh," Brunello is "elegant"), you'd be wrong. Winemakers regularly failed to identify their own wines, but it was no big deal; there are over 65 recognized clones of sangiovese planted in Tuscany, each with slightly different characteristics.
There was also the final round of a friendly culinary rivalry between the four biggest towns in Chianti Classico (Radda, Greve, Gaiole and Castinetta), all of which have the right to add "-in-Chianti" to their names. Food for 160 guests who paid 28 euros (about $44) for six dishes (three courses from each of the two teams) and an unlimited amount of Chianti Classico.
Two pastas (a delicate cannelloni stuffed with garden greens, a meaty noodle kind of like a penne); two meats (a sweet duck with orange sauce, a quartet of roasted pork bits --liver, heart, rib, & "don't ask"); two desserts (cream puffs, flan). The teams are not professional chefs but housewives: grandmas and mammas and the occasional male helper.
There are events like this all over the Chianti Classico area to create a sense of camaraderie and solidarity among the growers rather than nurse traditional rivalries.
Everybody knows everybody and understands that the point of the exercise isn't so much "winning" as hanging out together with their families, dogs, and strollers, along with a delegation of American wine bloggers invited here by the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico, to whom we offer a heartfelt grazie mille! And to the local participants, who shared the highlights of their profession with us, we raise our glasses and say "Salute!"