Chianti is (usually) big and bold. Really dry ones are beasts of a wine, which are full of tannins that are in your face. They can be a bit of a bully, overpowering whatever food you are pairing it with if not paired correctly. They can also be like Clifford, the big, red dog when pairing with the right foods; big, lovable, and red. Made with mostly Sangiovese grapes, Chianti can stand up to highly acidic tomato based sauces and rich, gamey meats. Often, Chianti has aromas of tobacco, smoke, dark red fruits, and balsamic vinegar. So why then, am I pairing this beast with grilled chicken and butternut squash soup? Neither one of these foods are rich in acidity or big and gamey.
One of the wine sites that I follow, vinepair.com, just came out with a wine pairing article for pairing wine and fall squash dishes. Squash is one of my favorite foods. Spaghetti, Acorn, Kabocha, Butternut, Delicata, Pumpkin, you name it, I love it. When I saw this article, I knew that I had to try at least one of the pairings. Roasted Butternut Squash soup would go well with some of the leftover chicken that I had in the fridge, so the choice was simple. But I was skeptical…Chianti with roasted butternut squash soup? I would have never put the two together. According to the article, Vinepair said, “Chianti has earth flavors to match the soup and enough acidity to cut the cream.” I guess these guys are experts. Let’s give it a try!
Let’s start with the wine. To be honest, I could have done better with the wine choice. I was last minute shopping for a bottle of Chianti (out of all the wines I had at home, there was no Chianti to be found!), so I bought the first bottle of wine in my price point that had an appealing label. This Chianti was clearly a young one, as there was a lot of fruit and very little tannin. The tobacco and smoke that I was waiting for did not come, as those flavors come with the aging process. I should have bought a Chianti Riserva to ensure a pepperier flavor, but I wasn’t thinking. There was a cherry and raspberry flavor, which I more associate with a heavier Pinot Noir than a Chianti. Not going to lie, I was somewhat underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong! The wine was good! The body was just not what I was expecting at all.
The meal, however, was not underwhelming. I found the butternut squash soup recipe from Skinnytaste, a blogger whose recipes I use at least once a week. Her recipes never disappoint, just like this one. There was coconut milk in the soup which enriched the sweetness of the squash. I added rosemary to add a bit of savoriness, though I imagine sage would have worked just as well. Alongside of the soup, I pan seared a chicken breast. Nothing fancy, just some salt, pepper, and rosemary to tie the soup and the chicken together. However, the chicken was perfectly cooked, if I do say so myself. It was juicy and flavorful with a nice sear.
Together, the pairing was meh. The flavors of the food and the wine did not blend together as good pairings should. They were very much separate. I got the taste of the chicken with soup (which blended very nicely together!), and then I got the flavor of the wine after, but they did not jive. I even tried dipping the wine in the soup and then sipping the wine, but it made no difference. Think of the pairing as acquaintances. They may have met once or twice before, they are cordial with one another, but they really don’t hang out with the same circle of friends. 2 grapes.
*Edited the following evening. The pairing was originally 3 grapes. After having the wine again the next night, I had to pour down the sink because it just wasn’t good. I am therefore downgrading the pairing to two-grapes. That is the reflection of the wine, which I should have spent more time in choosing. The meal was lovely (thank you, Skinnytaste!). The wine did nothing for it.
Wine: Alteo Chianti (Whole Foods) $15