When it comes time to finding a good wine and food pairing for these colder months and the holiday festivities, we have a classic and purely Tuscan suggestion for you. It will leave your guests asking, “When are you hosting dinner again?” A filet of Cinta Senese with a glass of our Prunaio Gran Selezione Chianti Classico DOCG is a match made in…well, Tuscany!

What is the Cinta Senese?

The Cinta Senese is a pig breed native to Tuscany. Once widely distributed, today it is concentrated in the Montagnola Senese territory and six municipalities (Casole d’Elsa, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Gaiole in Chianti, Monteriggioni, Siena, and Sovicille). In fact, a mere twenty-five years ago, this breed topped the endangered species list, even though it has been present in Tuscany before the region was even called Tuscany.

It is highly likely that the ancient Romans and maybe even the Etruscans once bred this pig, but the first official documentation goes back “only” to 1338. Have you ever been to Siena? In the Town Hall in the famous Piazza del Campo where the annual Palio horse race is held, take a close look at the fresco by Ambrogio Lorenzetti called “Effects of Good Government in the Country” (Effetti del Buon Governo in Campagna). You’ll see the distinct Cinta Senese markings on a pig in the fields.

Ambrogio Lorenzetti's fresco. Photo from Wikimedia

Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s fresco. Photo from Wikimedia

The Cinta Senese is a black pig with a distinctive white band or belt (cinta, in Italian) covering its shoulders, sides, and front legs. It is a free range and semi-wild pig, with large ears that flop over its eyes when it bends its head to root around in the dirt for food, protecting its eyes from getting scratched by branches. Its long snout is perfect for scrounging up roots, acorns, and grasses, which constitute its diet together with grain pellets.

A pig can only be Cinta Senese, according to its DOP (Denominations of Protective Origins) certification awarded it in 2012, if its diet consists of only these elements, if it is raised exclusively in Tuscany, and if it is a purebred. This hearty animal adapts well to the elements and its surroundings, though it grows slower than the Large White pig from the UK that almost entirely replaced it in the 80’s and 90’s (almost leading to its aforementioned extinction).

Cinta Senese, a wild or semi-wild breed. Photo from wikimedia

Cinta Senese, a wild or semi-wild breed. Photo from wikimedia

A delicious meat

Although the Cinta Senese has made a comeback since its endangered days, it is still relatively rare—which is why eating more of its products is positive. This creates demand and supports the farmers who raise their pigs in an environmentally sustainable manner.

The Cinta Senese’s free range lifestyle makes its meat savory and very flavorful, free of toxins that are normally found in factory-bred livestock, and rich in healthy unsaturated fats like Omega 3 and Omega 6. You’ll find many delicious, traditional products of Tuscany made from this breed. And you will know it’s the real thing if it sports the circular DOP certification mark from the Consortium with the writing, “Suino Cinto Toscano DOP.” You’ll find it as lardo, salami, prosciutto crudo, capocollo, sausages, shoulder and thigh ham, and other forms of cured meats and cuts.

Cinta Senese products. Photo by Dorli Photography, CC

Cinta Senese products. Photo by Dorli Photography, CC

Wine pairing with Cinta Senese

Pork is sometimes described as a “white meat,” hinting at a milder flavor than beef or other red meats. But this can be misleading when it comes to a particularly flavorful and savory pork like the Cinta Senese. In general, a medium- to full-bodied red will pair nicely with this pork. Specifically, we recommend our Prunaio Gran Selezione Chianti Classico DOCG.

Prunaio is made with 100% sangiovese, a grape that is relatively high in acidity and tannins, dry, savory, and almost always displaying notes of cherry and tomato. The tannins make it the perfect match with a rich pork roast or cured sausages. Prunaio hits that ideal balance between earthy and fruity, with hints of truffle and graphite, ripe plum and iris. In addition, we make our Prunaio with biodynamically grown grapes; it is the perfect match for this Slow Food meat that is raised in a natural manner.

Download the tech sheet for Prunaio here

You won’t go wrong pairing the Prunaio with any number of delicious Cinta Senese products you can find in Tuscany. But we’d suggest—especially this time of year—something that you want to tuck into with a contented sigh, a dish that furthermore highlights the unique flavor of this special meat. A slow-roasted filet will bring out the best in this Cinta Senese, or perhaps a pork roast with herbs like rosemary, thyme, and sage with shallots or leeks. However you choose to prepare it, take note that your favorite pork recipe will need to have the temperature turned down and the meat roasting long and slow; this lean cut might get tough, otherwise.