Chianti is a region of central Tuscany situated between Florence and Siena, surrounded by wooded hills and lush vineyards and olive groves, it is also home to one of the most popular or well known wines in Italy. Chianti is any wine produced in the region of Chianti, historically it was bottled in a squat bottle enclosed in a straw basket, called a fiasco or a flask. For wine to be designated Chianti it must be produced using at least 80% sangiovese grapes. Wines labeled Chianti Classico come from the biggest sub area of Chianti and include the villages of: Castellina, Radda and Gaiole. There are literally 100’s of wine producers in this area and it is a major industry denoted by signs every where indicating Agriturismo. Badia a Coltibuono, Castello di Meleto, Castello di Brolio and Castello di Ama are simply awesome wines and great vineyards that I enjoy cycling to, visiting and sampling their yearly vintage.
Gaiole is the neatest little village. Every year it is host to the the now international event called, “L’Eroica”.
If you’ve ever wondered what authentic Italian food or Tuscan dishes taste like, just know that it’s almost always complimented nicely with a nice bottle of Chianti. Here’s why. Italy and especially Tuscany is known for it’s food, hearty down to earth food. One of my favorite dishes is, the Pappardelle al Ragù di Chingiale which is a delicious wide ribbon pasta served over with wild boar meat sauce, hmm good. The best I’ve had without a doubt is at Trattoria Papei’s, a restaurant frequented by mostly locals which is located behind the Campo in Siena.
One of my fondest memories of dining at Papei’s one evening in late September was the time I wanted to show my appreciation to my friends and yearly hosts in Siena by treating the entire family to a dinner at one of Siena’s best known ristorante. As my wife and I and Helen, Orlando, Virginnia and Silvio(Papei) entered or arrived at the outdoor seating area we noticed that it was as usual, completely full. Then suddenly as if almost out of a movie, 3-4 servers quickly brought out and set up another table, complete with tablecloth, water and of course, 3 bottles of Chianti Classico strategically placed on the table. “This way”, the owner of the establishment directed us to our place. Within what seemed minutes we were ordering many different items from the menu: bruschetta, zuppa Ribollita di pane, prosciutto e salami and for the Primi; pappardelle al chinghiale, ravioli ai fungi burro e salvia, pici of all sorts and bistecca Fiorentina! All of us freely sharing all of our different choices, it was simply awesome. There’s something about the smell and taste of slow cooked ingredients with the right amount of spices, vegetables and meat in it’s flavorful mix. You always know when you’re going to have a special meal in Tuscany(and that’s quite often) and that evening we knew that we would be having a very special meal. The vino rosso and the company you’re with makes the whole meal come alive and makes it not simply a nice dish and a culinary experience but rather another opportunity to be thankful for all things good.
When our meal ended rather splendidly with some grappa, tiramisù and espresso and as I handed the waiter my credit card, to my surprise he simply stated: “it’s all set , it’s paid.” And then it hit me, our host family and the restaurant shared the same last name. Papei’s; a restaurant, a name, family and a culture worth remembering. Thank you again.