Around the $15-$25 range, retail.
I'm looking for something that is medium-full bodied. A wine that can be good on it's own, but transitions well into a meal. I don't know much about Chianti, but I have read that white wine is added to it to "soften" the wine. The only Chianti I have ever tried is Chianti Classico in a local Italian restaurant-wasn't impressed, so I am hoping all of you can enlighten me!!
I have a friend that I am planning a dinner party around and her husband recently mentioned that they were planning a trip to Italy so she was suddenly intrigued by Chianti (don't know if any she knew of any other Italian wines). And, besides traditional Italian cuisine, what food pairings would go well with Chianti??
While white grapes were part of the original formula for chianti and were used for many years, the use of white grapes in chianti over the past 5-10 years has diminished greatly. I would be surprised if producers of chianti use any white grapes these days.
Widely-distrubted names of quality chiantis worth looking for (among others) for are Antinori, Nippazano, Ricasoli, Fonterutoli and Banfi. They all make quality wines in the $15-$25 range.
Most grilled & roasted meats go well with chiantis.
You are quite right that the use of white wine grapes (Trebbiano and Malvasia) has diminished. It USED to be mandatory for Chianti Classico to contain between 15-30% of white wine grapes, when the allowable red varieties were Sangiovese and Caniaolo. In the 1980s, the official formula was changed to permit the addition of "experimental varieties" (think Cabernet Sauvignon), and to permit producers to reduce the amount of white grapes required. Current regulations permit from zero to 15% white varieties to be used in the production of a Chianti Classico.
A number of producers still use these white varieties.
one of my sincerest recommendations would be to explore the virtues of Brunello while you're at it. Both Chianti and Brunello are largely from sangiovese varieties of grapes. Often those drinkers who are, as you stated "not so impressed" with Chianti find that Brunello is much more impressive overall. In general it runs higher than your budget range, but if you can work it in give it a try.
Another red Italian varietal that you may really like, and falls in your price range is Valpolicella Classico Superiore... a delicious wine that has much softer edges and probably more fruit layers than the chianti that didn't impress you.
re: Chicago Mike
Brunello is WAY more expensive than a good chianti. It is hard to find a good brunello for less than $35, while you can find many quality chianti classico riservas for under $25.
Rosso di Montalcino is wine worth trying. It is the baby-brother of brunello, as it is bottled several years earlier. You can find good Rosso di Montalcinos in the $15-$25 range.
However, since chiantis are so much more widely available. I would suggest starting with them.
Chianti Classico isn't an individual wine but rather a consortium of 300 or so Chianti producers. You can check out their website at www.chianticlassico.com. The consortium, marked by the black rooster logo, aims at enforcing a high standard on Chianti production. So, while you may not have been impressed with one ``Chianti Classico,'' there are others that might appeal.
Chianti is rarely blended with white wine (Malvasia or Trebbiano) these days, since the blending laws changed fifteen or so years ago. The blends are usually about 80-90% Sangiovese, the remainder is usually Cabernet, Syrah, Canaiolo, Colorino or Merlot. As of the 2006 vintage, winemakers can no longer use white wine in blending Chianti.
Chianti Classico is the best known region of Chianti but there are some other “sub-regions”: Chianti (just one word), Colli Senesi, Chianti Colli Fiorentini, Chianti Rufina and others. All these regions make Chianti with the base grape of Sangiovese or one of its subtypes.
Other wine types in Tuscany that use the Sangiovese grape (or subtypes) are Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (please note this is not Montepulciano d'Abruzzo), Rosso di Montalcino (one of my personal favorites) and Brunello (too $$$ here but glorious with proper aging). From western Tuscany is Morellino di Scansano, almost always a great buy. Morellino means “little cherry” and the wine comes from the area around the city Scansano in the Maremma.
Querciabella 2003 – $18, love this wine, see if you can find the 2003
Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva, a steal at $18
Nozzole, Chianti Classico Riserva, about $22
Ruffino Chianti Riserva $22 or Riserva Ducale Oro $35, avoid the "Il Ducale"
Castello Banfi, "Collepino" 2005, $10, or their Riserva
Isole e Olena, regular or the Cepparello ($$), great benchmark winery
Il Poggione, Rosso di Montalcino 2003, about $22 (had one of the greatest wine experiences of my life at this winery), also their Brunello, but that’s too expensive
Siro Pacenti, Rosso di Montalcino -- incredible, about $25
Argiano – anything they make, terrific winery, the Rosso is about $38
Nozzole, Chianti Classico Riserva, “La Forra” – stylish, lovely fruit, about $40
Dievole Chianti Classico, about $18, the Riserva Novecento is $40
Coltibuono, Chianti “Cetamura”, $12
Banfi or Banti (two different wineries), Morellino di Scansano, $12 – $18, the Val delle Rose Riserva is about $22 and worth it – usually the Morellinos are great buys.
Stay away from the 2002 vintage.
Work with a local wine store and someone you like there, or use the online search and pickup functions at the Beverages & More website to see if the wine is available at a store near you.
re: maria lorraine
Thank you for the detailed list. Maybe a little higher in price, but have you tried the Paneretta Torre a Destra? Your comment on Il Poggione made me very curious, do they have a tasting room, winery tour, or connected trattoria? The best rustic style meal we had in Tuscany was in the trattoria at Fonterutoli. cheers
I don't believe Il Poggione has any of the above, but please write to them. Easy-to-find website. Il Poggione is in a tiny, tiny town (pop. 180 when I was last there) and is rather difficult to get to -- very, very high up in the Montalcino hills, but the view is terrific. I remember my tasting at Fonterutoli, but will have to dig out my notes to make suggestions. Glad to know you have enjoyed that exquisite little corner of the earth. I haven't tasted the Paneretta wine -- was it enjoyable?
re: maria lorraine
Darn it! I've never had a Rosso di Montalcino that was very good. I don't see the connection to Brunello, which is unbelievably good if you let it breathe. I recently purchased a 2004 Valdicava Rosso based on the exaggerated reviews of their 2001 Brunello. It was tight and never opened up. Perhaps, I should have left it open for a day or put it in the blender, but I was excited to try it.
re: maria lorraine
Thanks for the directions. Last year I tried two '97s in fairly close proximity, the Paneretta Torre a Destra (a single vineyard Classico Riserva) and the Fonterutoli Riserva. Thoroughly enjoyed both, had to keep reminding myself to sip and savor instead of gulp. Different enough to show how diverse Classico Riservas really are--as you know Fonterutoli is in the Castellina environs, Paneretta has a restored castle in the Val d'Elsa 'hood.
The Fonterutoli was more voluptuous and sweet, and I suspect more savvy oenophiles than I might say it favors the international style--I think they put in 10 pct. cabernet. The Panaretta is 90-10 sangiovese/canaiolo, with a concession to the modern style in using some new oak, but old school in subtlety compared to the Fonterutoli. The 2001 Gambero Rosso gave it one glass (its counterpart, 3), and I either have a dumbkopf palate/nose, or cellaring muted the defects it noted ("notes of wet dog") into the earthiness I associate with old school Chiantis. I have a '99 still cellared but missed getting the '01s that the Wine Spec. apparently loved when they were around. cheers
re: maria lorraine
I wouldn't write off the 2002 vintage completely; while it was a challenging year, many great producers in Chianti and Brunello declassified their riservas and top bottlings and sold them simply as Chianti or Rosso di Montalcino. I've found many delicious examples from top tier producers. IMO, many of the 2003's are a bit "overstated" and not to my palate, though I am certainly looking forward to the 2004's and 2005's.
I have had great fortune with the Gabbiano Chiantis - a lineup of five, IIRC. Most are in your price range. That said, Chiantis show much better with food, than on their own. Now, I do sip a few glasses, as I work the stove, but it really shines when paired with an acetic sauce (tomato comes to mind first), and with hard, pungent IT cheeses. It is not "bad" on its own, just a bit "out-of-sorts," if you will.
Of the various wines from around the world, that I can think of, those of IT seem to cry out for food, more than any other. This is not a bad thing, just something that I have noted. I've had more than one distributor of IT wines, when given their place at food/wine tastings, have complained about not being closer to IT-styled food. I agree with them.
[EDIT] Sorry that I almost missed one of your questions:
Think anise, and tartness, when finding food pairings outside of IT. Something with acid and a hint of anise would pair well.