Sangiovese: Carpineto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva 2010 – Pairing Rating: 9.5 out of 10.0
Southern Rhone Blend: Xavier Côte du Rhône 2009 – Pairing Rating 9.0
It was never our intent to make this blog a “recipe blog”. Typically, we try to identify excellent recipes that can be found somewhere on the Internet so you don’t have to plow through them, and we don’t have to retype them. In this case, however, the recipe is so simple and delicious, we had to type it out, as it was not to be found on the web. This is an adaptation of a recipe found in the classic cookbook by Marcella Hazan “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.”
Recipe: Chicken Thighs with Mushrooms, Tomatoes & Pancetta
¾ lb. Crimini Mushrooms, sliced 1/8” wide, lengthwise
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Garlic Cloves – peeled and lightly smashed
1/3 cup Pancetta, cut into small strips or small lardons
2 tablespoons of chopped flat leaf parsley
1 cup of canned imported Italian Tomatoes*, chopped, with their juice
8 boneless, skinless Chicken Thighs
Cook the garlic cloves in the oil over medium heat until they are a light, nut brown, then remove the cloves from the pan and discard them.
Add the Pancetta to the oil in the pan and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often.
Add the sliced mushrooms, chopped parsley and a few grindings of salt and pepper. Stir to coat the mushrooms with the olive oil/pancetta/parsley mix and cook for 3 minutes.
Add the chopped Tomatoes and their juice. Simmer steadily in an uncovered pan for about 15 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper seasoning. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and keep warm while cooking the chicken.
Sprinkle olive oil and salt/pepper on the Chicken Thighs. Grill, sauté or roast the thighs until cooked through. I prefer to grill over med-high heat for about 10-15 minutes depending on thickness.
Spoon the Tomato/Mushroom sauce over the Chicken Thighs and serve.
*Our preference is for a lighter, fresher tomato taste: take the tops off fresh tomatoes, remove some of the core, and roast the tomatoes in a 400º oven for 20 minutes. When cool, remove the skins and chop.
There are a number of Italian red wines that would pair beautifully with this dish, but we wanted this post to showcase Vino Nobile, the “noble wine” of Montepulciano. This red Tuscan wine hails from the town of Montepulciano, just east of Montelcino and southeast of Florence. On gently rolling hills, the Sangiovese grape (here known as Prugnolo Gentile) is grown in somewhat sandy, alluvial soils. These soils, and the warm climate of this area, produce Sangiovese that is less acidic than Chianti Classico and with softer tannins than Brunello di Montelcino.
The Vino Nobile chosen for this dish is the Carpineto Riserva from 2010. Decanter magazine called the 2010 Vino Nobile vintage “Classic”: just enough spring rain, just enough summer heat and a long autumn ripening season. The Carpineto captured that and was the near-perfect partner for this dish. The wine’s cherry fruit and round, juicy, slightly smoky attack knitted together the robust flavors of the grilled chicken, pancetta and mushroom. The dish’s finishing taste is a pleasant, garlic-infused olive oil. And there is just enough acidity in the Vino Nobile to clear the palate and set you up for the next bite. A terrific pairing! If you can’t find the 2010, look for the 2011 or 2012.
A bit more powerful wine for this pairing can be found in the Southern Rhone, from which we chose a 2009 Côte du Rhône from Xavier. Xavier is a high quality, negociant operation led by oenologist, Xavier Vignon. He produces excellent value blends from the Southern Rhone: Rasteau, Gigondas, and Vacqueyras, to name a few. He also consults to several noteworthy wineries in Chateauneuf du Pape. Xavier is definitely at the top of our Southern Rhone list of value-priced, crowd-friendly wines.
This 2009 Xavier Côte du Rhône is a blend of 60% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre, 10% Syrah and 10% Carignan; the Grenache serves up red berry fruit, the Mourvèdre – earthy, gamey notes, and the Syrah – hints of black pepper. This wine possessed all the attributes of the Vino Nobile, but with more power. We are reminded of the guitar amplifiers on the movie “Spinal Tap“, where the volume controls didn’t stop at 10, but went to 11!
If your wine palate favors bigger, spicier wines, turn up the volume with the Xavier Côte du Rhône. However, if your preference is for finesse rather than power, seek out the Carpineto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Both are great with this excellent Chicken dish!