Which wines to pair with chestnuts.

Which wines to pair with chestnuts.

Oct 17, 2022


Ilaria Rosa | Bottle of Italy

In ancient times, wine and chestnuts were a very common nourishment among farmers, this is because the chestnut is an easily available fruit with a significant energy power. Chestnuts are found inside a hedgehog of the wild chestnut, there are three for each hedgehog where the two lateral ones have a hemispherical shape, while the central one is flattened. In the hedgehog of the cultivated plant, on the other hand, there is only a larger fruit, also called brown.

The chestnut has very ancient origins, appeared on earth even in the Cenozoic, covering immense forests regions, the entire Mediterranean basin, the Atlantic coasts of southern Europe and northern Africa, the Alps, Asia Minor up to the Sea Caspian. These immense woods generated a fantastic fruit present in the diet of man since prehistoric times, its properties were already well known and praised in historical times. The greek Xenophon defined the chestnut "the bread tree" and the chestnut was called the "bread of the poor" so much so that it was for centuries the main ingredient of peasant families. In Europe before the discovery of America they were not yet known potatoes and corn (the latter raw material of polenta), chestnuts were the food that saved most of the population from hunger in the dark times of famine.

On our soil it grew in abundance, in Italy there are still 800,000 hectares covered by chestnut groves equal to 15% of the entire wooded area, the fruit was easily preserved once dried and was very nutritious. The chestnut flour polentabeing an inexpensive but tasty food, it has fed entire countries anticipating the production of maize by millennia. A single dish that gave a great sense of satiety but which unfortunately had a short duration; as a beautiful saying from central Italy says, "polenta soon pulls and soon loosens", but at the time, feeling full was not a trivial matter.

The ancient Romans loved this plant very much both for its fruits and its wood, which they exploited for multiple uses including a practice learned from the Etruscans who saw its use as a support for the vineyards. The Romans exported it everywhere and also planted in the Mediterranean basin, in Sardinia for example where the chestnut is not native, but also in places with an apparently less suitable climate such as the regions of Europe north of the Alps.
In Italy there was a period of great expansion thanks to Matilde di Canossa a powerful feudal lord who, given the great importance of this extraordinary food indispensable for the nourishment of rural populations, multiplied its diffusion. The Benedictine monks came to his aid and together they even devised a precise arrangement of the trees called "sixth Matildic", an ideal arrangement to improve growth and fruiting.

But after the Second World War the great chestnut woods were partly abandoned, especially in the mountainous areas where the lifestyle has improved and many have abandoned the countryside. The epidemic attack of two parasites also contributed to the decay of the plant: ink sickness and cortical cancer, two diseases that infest and weaken the chestnut until it kills it. Subsequently, grafts were made with a Japanese variety called Castanea Crenata, a magnificent tree resistant to parasites.

In the last twenty years, however, there has been a resurgence of interest in this magnificent tree and its fruit. The chestnut is one of the European trees that live the longest, the presence of millennial specimens has been recorded in several regions of Italy, but also in France and England. The oldest ever lives in Sicily, in Sant’Alfio on the eastern side of Etna, it is considered the oldest living being in Europe with an estimated age of 3000-4000 years. The total circumference of the trunk at the base is 22 meters, the height of the highest branch is about 25 m, while the circumference of the mammoth and amazing canopy is over 50 meters. The huge tree is called the Chestnut of the Hundred Horses, as an ancient legend tells that a queen, in the Middle Ages, during a storm sought refuge under its foliage with the hundred horsemen of her escort and their respective mounts.

Therefore, among the excellent products that the autumn season offers us we find this delicious fruit that the forest gives us; among the most popular and certainly popular ways to consume it there is certainly roasting on the grill, in the classic and special perforated pan. The roasted chestnuts, hot, fragrant, delicious, are a treat for the palate; in the month of October we often find them in festivals and squares and we enjoy them while walking quietly through the streets of the town.

The perfect match for this delicious delicacy cooked on charcoal, given its typical smoky flavor, are young red wines, preferably slightly sparkling, which help degrease the mouth.
We suggest you try the combination with one of these excellent labels:

On the other hand, chestnuts can be cooked boiled in salted water and eaten at the moment, or crushed and reduced to pulp to be used for the preparation of gnocchi. Boiled or roasted, they can be used without distinction as a filling for meatloafs and roasts with pork or poultry. The combination in these cases must be with more wines full-bodied, important labels to support the equally important structure of the dishes. The combination we recommend is with wines such as Chianti Peppoli Antinori or the Barbaresco Ricossa, and why not maybe daring more with the Syrah Mullineux & Lion or the Salento Primitivo Dodecapolis from the cellar Luca Attanasio's vineyards.

Chestnuts are also excellent used in the preparation of various desserts, both with the whole cooked fruit and with flour, and also suitable for those intolerant to gluten. Going from the classic chestnut cake to Mont Blanc to pudding mousse, we can take advantage of this fruit rich in nutrients and energy between now and the end of winter. It can also give life to delicious pancakes or candied chestnuts; in these preparations the sweet component makes pairing with sweet wines obvious. Even these, however, must be rather structured and have about the same sugar dose, so we focus on sweet wines such as Pantelleria Ben Ryè Donnafugata or the Sagrantino di Montefalco Passito Arnoldo Caprai or the Muscat of Pantelleria Solidea.

Leave a comment