Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dining and Wining where the Royals Eat: Dario Cecchini’s Solo Cicca Restaurant in Panzano – the Butcher of Chianti Classico

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Dario Cecchini

Following the 2011 European Wine Bloggers Conference in Brescia, I spent three days in a beautiful and exciting location – in the Chianti Classico zone in Tuscany, at the invitation of the Chianti Classico Consortium. We visited several wineries and tasted perhaps as many as 70 different wines from Chianti Classico producers, both big and small.

While in Tuscany, I dined and wined (1) with the Chianti Classico Wine Consortium at the Santa Maria Al Prato Convent in Radda in Chianti, at (2) Badia a Coltibuono, at (3) Castello di Brolio, where Bettino Ricasoli came up with the original Chianti Classico blend, at (4) Castello di Ama, where we saw an amazing Contemporary Art Collection, at (5) Vignemaggio, where Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa was borne, at (6) Dario Cecchini’s Solo Cicca Restaurant in Panzano and (7) at Caparasa, with Chianti Classico niche wine producer Paolo Cianferoni.

This posting focuses on the dinner at Dario Cecchini’s Solo Cicca Restaurant in Panzano. Also dining at the restaurant that night was the Queen of Holland, who chatted with some of our group who shared a table on the ground floor with her four bodyguards.

Picture: The Queen's table after she left

This is the third in a series of postings. I have already posted

Blogging, Wining and Dining at the European Wine Bloggers Conference (#EWBC) October 2011 in Brescia, Italy – A Tour D’ Horizont and

Wining, Dining and Blogging in Chianti Classico (#EWBC), Tuscany, Italy

Sienna, Florence and Chianti Classico

The Chianti Classico region covers an area of approximate 100 square miles between the city of Florence to the north and the city of Siena to the south. Historically, the Chianti Classico zone is where the production of Chianti started.

Picture: Radda in Chianti

In 1716, Cosimo III de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, issued an edict legislating that the three villages of the Lega del Chianti as well as the village of Greve and a 2 mile hillside north of Greve as the only officially recognized producers of Chianti. This delineation existed until the 1930s when the Italian government expanded the zone. Subsequent expansions throughout the twentieth century would eventually bring the Chianti zone to cover almost all of Tuscany. The original zone of the edict of Cosimo III de' Medici would eventually be considered the heart of the Chianti Classico region.

The Chianti Classico zone is a truly unending source of culture, scenery, architecture, gastronomy and wines. Here lie the lines of defense of the two Republics, Siena and Florence, which have scowled at each other through its woods and vineyards for centuries. Interspersed with the countryside are castles: some are still occupied by the noble families whose ancestors built them in the feudal middle ages; others - ruined, perhaps in battle centuries ago, and abandoned - still dominate their hilltops with proud arrogance. There are numerous hill towns and hamlets, villas and farmhouses, guarded by sentinel cypresses, by people who may make their living tending the vineyards, or have already made more than a living and have retired to beautiful old houses.

Sangiovese - the Soul of Chianti

Sangiovese is the signature grape of Chianti. It is the soul of Chianti wine. The Sangiovese grape, like the Pino Noir, is not an easy grape variety, but has the potential of producing world class wines.

Since 2006, the use of white grape varieties such as Malvasia and Trebbiano has been prohibited in Chianti Classico. The share of Sangiovese can range from 80% to up to 100%, with the remainder either other native red grapes, like Canaiolo and Colorino, or international varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Wines that do not comply with these rules – of which we tasted a number during the trip - cannot be sold as Chianti Classico.

Dinner and Chianti Classico at Dario Cecchini’s Solo Cicca in Panzano

The evening at the butcher-poet Dario Cecchini’s famous Solo Cicca restaurant in Panzano, the small village between Radda in Chianti and Greve in Chianti, was quite an event.

Picture: Greve in Chianti - where we had an apero before moving on to Dario Cecchini’s Solo Cicca in Panzano

First, some of us walked into Dario’s butcher shop, Antica Macceleria, directly across from the Solo Cicca restaurant. Apparently, Dario was expecting us: A variety of appetizers were there to sample, with his jug Chianti wine. Suddenly, Dario appeared in the butcher shop and shouted out: “To beef or not to beef, that is the question!”

Pictures: Impressions from the impromtu party; Christian G.E. Schiller with Onne Wan

The music was turned up and people began to dance. This was an impromptu party like no other, as this video of a fellow blogger clearly documents.

We then moved over to the restaurant for the “Whole Steer” menu, which consisted of ten different items for 30 Euros per person:

Muzzle and Broth
Spicy meat ragu on toast
Batter fried meats and vegetables
Rosemary up your bum
Fresh, raw garden vegetables
Garbanzo and white beans
Beef roasts
Boiled beef and vegetable salad
Braised meats

Homemade focaccia and Tuscan bread
Water with and without bubbles
Coffee, olive oil cake
Grappa and Italian Military spirits

Pictures: Some Courses of the “Whole Steer” Menu

Over the course of the evening, Dario made several appearances at the restaurant for a toast, to sing songs and to talk to us about his philosophy as a butcher.

Pictures: Impressions from the Dinner and Dario Cecchini with Silvia Fiorentini from the Chianti Classico Consortium

Not only the food was a feast, but the wines as well; the Chianti Classico Consortium people had brought along a huge selection of Chianti Classico wines, from all 4 corners of the Chianti Classico zone.

schiller-wine: Related Postings

The Wines of the 2010 Giro d'Italia

Italy's Top Wines - 2011 Gambero Rosso's Vini d'Italia Wine Guide

Meeting Winemaker and Owner Massimo “Max” di Lenardo from Friuli, Italy and Tasting His di Lenardo Vineyards Wines

In the Glass: 3 Easy Drinking Wines from the Soave Region in Italy

The Wines of casa 236 in Italy – Peter Schiller

In the Glass: 2010 Pinot Grigio, Venezia Giulia IGT, Attems, Italy

Kobrand’s Impressive Tour d'Italia 2011 in Washington DC, USA

The 2010 European Wine Bloggers Conference (EWBC) in Vienna

Blogging, Wining and Dining at the European Wine Bloggers Conference (#EWBC) October 2011 in Brescia, Italy – A Tour D’ Horizont

Wining and Blogging in the Soave Region, Italy

Christian G.E. Schiller’s Views on Soave – a Video Interview

Wining, Dining and Blogging in Chianti Classico (#EWBC), Tuscany, Italy

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