Having spent three crowded and hectic days in New York last week at VINO 2011, a conference hosted by the Italian Trade Commission, I thought it would be appropriate to offer a (really) brief tutorial in the intricacies of Chianti as well as a recommendation for a terrific example of the sangiovese grape.
Sangiovese reigns in Tuscany, where the Chianti vineyards spread like a broad fan to the east, south and west of the city of Florence. Chianti has always been a blended wine, with sangiovese taking the larger part, anywhere from 75 to 100 percent in the most recent regulations, the minority filled by various traditional grapes or even cabernet sauvignon or merlot.
For most American consumers, these wines are separated into basic, quaffable Chianti, the higher quality Chianti Classico and the more limited production Chianti Classico Riserva. There are other, smaller Chianti areas, however, including Chianti Colli Senesi, near Siena; the tiny Chianti Colline Pisane, near Pisa; the even tinier Chianti Montespertoli (only 156 acres of vines); and, northeast of Florence, Chianti Rufino, whose superior quality was attested as far back as 1716.
For Your Very Own Bottle
4734 Spottswood Ave., $18
Great Wines & Spirits
6150 Poplar Ave. in Regalia, $17
Our wine today is the Colognole Chianti Rufina 2006, whose owner is the mellifluously titled Contessa Gabriella Spalletti Coda Nunziante; with a name like that, how could the wine dare not to be good? This is classic and lovely, a compendium of dried red currants, fresh ripe black currants and plums, black tea with a hint of orange rind and dried baking spices, rounded by a high note of violets and rose petals. Moments in the glass bring up briers and brambles, soft tannins laced with graphite and a final touch of mossy earth. Think pizza, hearty pasta dishes, steak, veal chop. Think great value.
For more about wine, check out Koeppel's blog at www.biggerthanyourhead.net.