Cost: Average price $11
Where buy now: Zipp’s Liquors
It’s Christmas Eve and I’m sitting in a coffee shop at a not-to-be-named Casino and hotel. It’s a mildly strange vibe, and yet at the same time, completely non descript. As I type, the barista is trying to vacuum Pergo flooring; the scraping sounds are like finger nails on a chalk board. They do serve Starbucks coffee, so at least I’m not in church basement brew hell. This is not, however, Christmas at home. It’s the first Christmas Day away from my immediate family, and I don’t take well to change. Alas, I’m doing my wifely duties by spending time with the in-laws. My sole caveat was that I needed my pasta with sauce, meatballs and bracciole on Christmas. Since I married into the right in-laws, there was no opposition.
Every year of my existance, I’ve spent Christmas with my family. We’re a tight knit clan, and hold our traditions sacred. Typically, family arrives a few days early to prepare the big vat of red sauce (aka “gravy” to the Paisanos), and prepare the meatballs. Now when I say “meatballs”, I mean the big guys. Italian meatballs are not made to be a one-bite morsel. We also make bracciole (in Ital-American dialect “brahj-shole”). These are long, thin cuts of round or flank steak slathered with chopped garlic, breadcrumbs, parsley and grated Parmigiano or Romano cheese, then delicately rolled up and tied with string. Like the meatballs, these fatty little packages of meaty bliss are browned, and then plopped right into the sacred gravy where they take their sweet ass time cooking (not hours, days) until they nearly fall apart.
I had a duty to find the best wine pairing possible to accompany this feast. I’ve had Chianti, Super Tuscans, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Sfrusat and the occasional Barolo or Brunello. Then I started thinking, people eat red sauce all the time. What can be a go-to red that won’t break the bank, yet will pleasingly compliment and balance the flavors?
I found this wine at Zipp’s: Ducceto Chianti. Unlike most Chiantis, it’s 100% Sangiovese and is fermented in stainless steel tanks. Since it doesn’t lie with any oak, you get a rare red wine that has a bright acidity and freshness to it. Not heavy on your pallet, but with earthy tannins. It’s medium body still evokes flavors of red berries with hint of spice and mild-tobacco. The light tannic structure doesn’t leave a flabby wine, instead it finishes with a soft, plump feel.
If you or someone you know likes red wine but complains of headaches, try this wine. Often times it’s the tannins that create the headaches, not sulfates as once believed.
The wine is phenomenal, but how did it pair with my traditional Christmas dinner? All I can say is that no one spoke (other than the occasional “Mmm”, “Oooh” and “Wow”). It was music to my ears.