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Chianti recommendations...

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??

Thanks!!

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  1. 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.

    2 Replies
    1. re: DavidT

      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.

      1. re: DavidT

        I had too many cheap and bad Chiantis, so it was a revelation to have something decent, Ricasoli's Brolio 03 was wonderful, full of sour cherry and earth. Widely available--even at a PA State Store, for $18.

      2. 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.

        1 Reply
        1. 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.

        2. 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.

          1. 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.

            Specific recs:
            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.

            6 Replies
            1. re: maria lorraine

              Considering the extensive list that you offered, I think that I have had about 95%, and could not agree more. I do not have a problem with a single suggestion, and that says a lot. Either you know your readily US available Chiantis, or our tastes are similar.

              Hunt

              1. 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

                1. re: moto

                  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?

                  1. 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.
                    http://www.klwines.com/futures/Brunel...

                    1. 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

                  2. 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.

                  3. 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.

                    Hunt

                    [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.

                    1. 2003 (although '04 and '05 will also probably be very good) San Giusto a Rentenanno Chianti Classico

                      1. You might also seeking out a Chianti with a bit of age on it... 1998, 1999, or 2000. Young Chianti (and Brunello) tends to be tannic and tough - a few years in the bottle can soften these wines remarkably.

                        1. The standout in our blind tasting of six 2004 Chianti Classicos was the Villa Cafaggio, rich, smooth, sweet, deep and long. It was also one of the four top picks among the 100+ 2004 CCs that Decanter magazine tasted last summer. The Querciabella and San Felice also showed well as did the Brolio, though in a more astringent, austere style. Normally one of my favourites, the Isole e Olena was a wimpy disappointment; have read that they picked the grapes slightly underripe in 2004 to avoid the rain. The Pèppoli was so disagreeable that I have to wonder if we didn't have an off bottle.

                          Have since tasted the 2004 Mazzei Fonterutoli, which is another winner in the modern style.

                          While they may appeal to other palates, I can't recall a single Chianti from the torrid 2003 vintage that floated my boat. Atypical, jammy, lacking acidity, confected are the descriptors that spring to mind. YMMV, of course.

                          1. Recently had a glass of Banfi at a restaurant and loved it! Gabbiano is also very nice, I agree with others here. Mellini is one that I also have enjoyed and I can find it for around $10 here in Florida.

                            1. While not a Chianti, the Sangiovese wines of Montecucco in Tuscany are fantastic. The Montecucco DOC is southwest of Montalcino and produces delicious food-friendly wines. The wines are hard to find in the US, but woth seeking out. Best vintages for Tuscany in general have been 1997 through 2001 and 2004.

                              One of my favorite Chiantis is the 2001 Castello di Cacchiano...around $25 retail.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Husky

                                The best I ever had was "Monsanto Chianti Classico "Il Poggio" which goes for $45 and up. Having said that, check out Norton Sangiovese from Argentina a nice wine for $7.99.

                              2. I love Chianti! but then, I love Italian food, and Chianti definitely falls into that category. My all-time favorite is Tenute Marchesi Antinori, which is pretty darn pricey, and is only produced in exceptional years.

                                CQ, Chianti is really a food wine, so I rarely start a meal with that... For your italian dinner, I'd begin with a Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine) that is wonderful for sipping, or accompanying a few grissini.

                                You've already got many great suggestions for the Chianti for your dinner, so I hope you'll print them out and head over to your wine store to find one!

                                Buon Appetito!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: ChefJune

                                  Thank you all so much!! All the information has been wonderful!! I can't wait to start trying out as much as I can. I may just make this party an Itailian wine tasting dinner.

                                2. While not a Chianti, you may like Monte Antico Rosso, a Sangiovese based wine from Tuscany generally available for around $10.(Sort of a Chianti that is not made in Chianti, if you know what I mean.) We used to get this for as little as $6.99, and it was a steal at that price. It is definitely medium to full-bodied, and I have enjoyed it on its own, although I always like wine better with a good food match.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: scrappydog

                                    Monte Antico Rosso is certainly one of the best Tuscan wines that sell in the $10 range. Centine, produced by Banfi, is another solid value around the same price. These are good "week night" wines.

                                    1. re: DavidT

                                      I'll third the Monte Antico - I grab it when it's on sale as a pop and pour food wine

                                  2. Somebody suggested Norton Sangiovese in this thread...I can't find it because I'm a little blitzed right now from Norton Malbec...nobody in town seems to have the Sangiovese...found the Malbec at !!Publix!! for $7.99 and boy oh boy, it is very very NICE!!! Thank you for the rec...it really is a lovely red wine for $7.99! (And I wish the 'search' function worked here at Chowhound!!!! ... they used to highlight whatever you were looking for in yellow!) So, to whomever made the Norton recommendation: thank you!

                                    1. I've usually found most Chianti a bit too earthy for my taste, with Chianti Classico a little smoother and more 'refined'. I just had one last week that I haven't seen mentioend in this thread, so I thought I'd post and see if anyone has another opinion on it.

                                      2001 Castello di Cacchiano (around $25)

                                      I couldn't find any info on the exact varietal makeup of the wine, but the family has owned the property since the 11th century, so one would hope they'd have the hang of it by now. An online review I found used some rather two-edged terms like "sour cherry" and "slightlu bitter tannic finish", but I found the wine to be really smooth and well-balanced.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Midlife

                                        Interesting notes on Cacchino Chianti in the Gambero Rosso Guide: The owner, Giovanni Ricasoli Firidolfi is long the president of the Black Rooster consortium. The '01 Classico Riserva notes: The tannins, alcohol level and nervy acidity all combine to produce a delicious wine - 2 glass. The '02 Classico reached the national finals - 2 red glass.

                                        1. re: Midlife

                                          I agree...in fact, I did mention it in my post above!

                                        2. It has been said already, but in your price range there are tons of good Rosso di Montalcinos to try out. A few perennial good ones are:

                                          Pertimali (Sassetti)
                                          Uccelliera
                                          Ciacci Piccolomini
                                          Siro Pacenti (maybe another couple of $$, but excellent)

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: whiner

                                            I just had a bottle of the best Rosso di Montalcino I've ever tasted:

                                            2004 Marchesato degli Aleramici ($23/retail). Find it! Drink it!

                                          2. Nozelle 2001 Riserva , it is quite good

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: tk467

                                              tk,

                                              Is this the right spelling? Do you mean Nozzole? See above.

                                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                                Spelling is not my strong point , but you are correct. The 2001 Reservia is excellent . Recently tried a Barone Ricasoli wine called "Formulane" (think that is the spelling) Apparently it pays homage to the original recepie for Chinati. It was pretty good for $10