Red Wines of Tuscany Part Three – Chianti

Thursday night at Fine Wines of Stockton, we completed the third in a series of four Red Wines of Tuscany tastings. This tasting was devoted to Chianti. The Sangiovese varietal continues to be the star of the show.

George began the evening with a bit about Chianti. Once again, we are in Tuscany. You can get an idea of the geographical location of the area on this map from Wikipedia. Chianti is currently subdivided into Classico and 7 additional regional designations. All are identified on the map above. Aren’t maps wonderful?

The original Chianti “recipe”, defined in the 1860s by Bettino Ricasoli, included Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Malvasia and other reds. The emphasis on Sangiovese has not changed, but the additional grape varietals and proportions have.

Separate DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) designation has been granted to both Chianti and Chianti Classico. This designation is marked by a pink label around the neck of the bottle.

The Classico region is designated as the oldest or original area of Chianti production. Classico was the first, has the most restrictive regulations and arguably the best reputation. The Classico consortium, Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico, has worked hard to separate itself from the other regional Chianti designations.

Only Chianti Classico may bear the seal of the black rooster “gallo nero” on the neck of the bottle. In addition to gallo nero, all Chianti Classico will have Classico on the label. Chianti from the other regional designations will have Chianti plus the regional designation and may not use the gallo nero seal.

Chianti Classico currently must be comprised of 80% Sangiovese and 20% other red grapes which may include Colorino, Canaiolo and international varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

New regulations and a newly designed “gallo nero” seal are due to be announced by the Classico Consortium in mid-February 2013, so stay tuned!

The Chianti Wine Consortium (Consorzio Vino Chianti) is responsible for insuring the quality of all other DOCG Chianti. Previous to the Chianti Consortium, growers formed Il Consorzio Del Chianti Putto. This consortium apparently no longer exists (Chiantis “New Look”). What a shame. The cute little cherub (“putto”) which they developed and that appeared on the bottles was a cute competitor to the “gallo nero” of the Classico group.

The provinces within the Chianti DOCG, Arezzo, Florence, Pisa, Pistoia, Prato and Siena may be identified on the bottles. Chianti must be at least 70% Sangiovese, with a maximum of 10% white gapes (Trebbiano or Malvasia) and 15% authorized red grapes that may include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.

Chianti Superiore is a Chianti designation adhering to higher quality standards and specific varietal composition. The Chianti Superiore designation will appear on the bottle, but the provincial location will not.

For those of you whose eyes have not already rolled to the back of your head, one more detail. The designation “Riserva” may be used by Chianti or Chianti Classico producers whose wine meets the additional barrel/bottle aging requirement of three years. In general it is thought these wines age in the bottle for 10 – 15 years very well.

So, last Thursday we tasted both Chianti and Chianti Classico. Four were Chianti Classico and two were Chianti. Our job was two-fold: choose our favorite two wines and try to identify the two Chiantis in the group. The two favorites will move forward to the Tuscan Taste-Off in February. Here we go…

2009 Cechhi Chianti Classico – this garnet wine showed plums, smoke and a bit of licorice on the nose. Flavors were earthy, tobacco and tart cherries. Tannins were significant and the finish was long with both tannins and flavors, mostly tobacco.

2010 Palladio Chianti2010 Palladio Chianti – this garnet colored wine is produced from grapes grown around the Montalbano district. The nose was stinky initially, but blew off to smoke and caramel scents. Flavors of mainly leather and not a lot of fruit with slightly bitter tannins provoked a lot of discussion. Some tasters thought there might be a bit of dried fruit flavor along with the tannins. This wine seemed to evolve the longer it remained in the glass. This is a non-Classico Chianti and was the group’s second favorite wine. The group thought this was a non-Classico – yes!

2009 Volpaia Chianti Classico – 2009 Volpaia Chianti Classicogarnet color with a fruity nose. Complex flavors of smoke, tobacco, leather and spice with bright fruit and significant tannins had a very long finish and good acidity. Significant tannins and complex tart fruit flavors made this the favorite wine of the night. It is 100% Sangiovese and aged 18 months in oak.

2009 Rubiolo Chianti Classico – the color was ruby/garnet with sweet fruit on the nose. Fruit flavors of raspberries, tobacco and leather combined with a moderate amount of tannins and good acid. The finish was very long. This wine had the leather flavors characteristic of Sangiovese and a very light mouth-feel. It would be a good match with pasta or veal. This was my favorite wine. The blend is 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot. The group thought this was a non-Classico – oops!

2010 San Fabiano Chianti – this ruby/garnet colored wine had a closed nose and very tight flavors with fruit and leather. Tannins were significant as was the acid in this wine. It seemed there might be flavors waiting to come out in this wine – kind of interesting. Also, check the back of the bottle for the “putto” designation and cherub!

2008 Le Corti Chianti Classico – ruby/garnet color with vegetal scents and sweet fruit. Flavors were complex with leather and dark fruit. Tannins were significant and grippy. The finish was long. The blend of grapes in this wine is 95% Sangiovese and 5% Canaiolo.

Once again an interesting group of wines. Over the three Tuscan wine tastings, I have come to really enjoy Sangiovese. We chose one Classico and one non-Classico as our favorite Chiantis.

So, to review. In two weeks our two favorites from each of the three Red Wines of Tuscany wine tastings will be re-tasted. We will choose our favorites among the six Tuscan wines. According to my tally we will be tasting:

from the Rosso di Montalcino tasting:
2009 Tenute Silvio Nardi
2010 Il Poggione

from the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano tasting:
2008 Frattorio del Cerro
2008 Tenuta Valdipiatta

from the Chianti tasting:
2009 Volpaia Chianti Classico
2010 Palladio Chianti

I can feel the tension mounting, stay tuned.


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