Chianti: The Way I Like It

Chianti DOCG-From Tuscany, the World’s Italian Wine

The Chianti Lands

There are many great grape varieties in Italy but it if I was forced to choose one, it would be Sangiovese. Wines made from the Sangiovese grape, I have said many times, are the perfect wines to go with food. These wines have bright fruit, a hint of violets, and good acidity.  The best wine made from the Sangiovese grape is Chianti.

When I received the invitation from the Consorzio Vino Chianti inviting me to a seminar, lunch, and tasting of Chianti, I accepted.  What made the seminar of particular interest to me was the speaker, Daniele Cernilli of Gambero Rosso, the very influential Italian wine publication.  Decanter magazine picked him as one of the top 50 most influential men in the wine business.  I have known Daniele for a number of years and have great respect for his knowledge of Italian wine.

Daniele Cernilli

When I arrived I was told that the Chianti Castelgreve 2008 did not make it because of the volcano in Iceland, but the other 11 wines had arrived safely.

Daniele began by saying that expensive, over-oaked wines were falling out of favor in Italy. Italian winemakers were going back to simpler, drinkable wines that reflect the terroir and go with food.  Chianti is leading the way.

I could not have been more pleased!

Daniele said that a part of the law for the making of Chianti had been changed this year.

Chianti must be at least 70% Sangiovese but the law has limited the amount of international grapes such as Merlot to 10 %. Traditional Tuscan grapes like Canaiolo can also be used up to 30 %.The winemaker still have a lot of leeway. It was a good change in my opinion.

Daniele kept making the point that the wines we tasted were simple wines. I enjoy simple wines and all the wines were under $20, some of them as low as $10. They were all great values for the money.

The wines were from the Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colli Senesi, Colli Rufina, Colli Pisane, Montalbano and Montespertoli. Chianti can be produced throughout the Chianti area, including areas not listed above. Chianti superiore can be produced in the whole Chianti area and represents the highest expression of the wine. Chianti is the largest DOCG in Italy. The Consortium, which was established in 1927, also oversees the Colli Etrucia Central DOC and the Vino Santo del Chianti DOC wines.

Getting Ready to Taste the Wines

The Wines

 Chianti 2008 San Fabiano – The wine is 85% Sangiovese and 15% of other grapes. It is from the area around Arezzo and Daniele said that Sangiovese ripens very well there. It has aromas and flavors of cherries, some tannin and good acidity. I really liked this wine. Daniele also said that 2007 was good overall in Tuscany, however 2008 was better in Chianti.

Chianti San Lorenzo 2008 Melini – It is 85% Sangiovese and 15% Canaiolo.

Chianti 2008 Piccini — it is 95% Sangiovese and 5% Ciliegiolo and Daniele believed there might by some Merlot.  The color was deeper, less acidity, fresh fruit with a hint of cherry.

Chianti 2008 Ruffino –  At least 75% Sangiovese and the rest from traditional grapes such as Canaiolo and Colorino. Daniele described it as a workman-like Chianti. I liked the fresh fruit aromas and flavors, good acidity and the touch of tannin. Adolfo Folonari from the winery was at the tasting and said the wine sells for $9.99.

Charles Scicolone and Adolfo Folonari at the Tasting

Chianti Villa Chigi 2008 Poggio Bonelli – 95% Sangiovese and %5 of grapes allowed by law. Cherry aromas and flavors with an earthly quality, cherry in the finish and aftertaste.

Chianti 2008 Guicciardini – 90% Sangiovese and 10% of grapes allowed by law. Good fruit and acidity and more tannic — a very well balanced wine.

Chianti Rufina 2008 I Veroni – Rufina is the smallest of the Chianti zones and the wines from here can age very well. There were aromas and flavors of red fruit, a hint of cherry. Well balanced and a very nice drinking wine.

Chianti Forteguerra 2007 Guerrini – 90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo. Daniele referred to this wine as a country, rustic wine. It had aromas and flavors of cherry and good acidity.

Chianti Colli Fiorentini 2007- Fattorie Giannozzi– 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot. It is a very easy drinking fruity wine.

Chianti Colli Senesi 2006 – La Cignozza-85% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo and 5% Mammolo. Daniele said that this wine had some wood aging. He felt this was a big, wine, more body than most of the others. It had cherry aromas and flavors and hints of tobacco. There was tannin and it was a little more complex than some of the others.

Chianti Rufina Nipozzano Riserva 2007- Frescobaldi -This was Daniele’s favorite wine, and the most expensive at $20. Daniele said that it did not have the body of the La Cignozzi but it was a more complex and elegant wine. It had good fruit and tannin and it was a wine that could age. It had aromas of wild cherry and a hint of hazelnut. There was a touch of sweetness that may have been caused by the oak.

The Bottles

I was very glad to see the use of native grapes in most of the wine and less use of international grapes. These were simple wines as Daniele pointed but they are the type of wines which I enjoy the most. One does not have to spend a lot of money to drink well.

I also hope that he is right and that the Italians are moving away from the big over oaked wines and from using international grapes. Chianti is leading the way and I hope the rest follow.



Filed under Chianti, Italian Wine, Uncategorized

10 responses to “Chianti: The Way I Like It

  1. It’s a good life that you’ve chosen my friend! Thanks for the good advice in this post.

  2. tomciocco

    Hey Charles-

    “Always a pleasure”

    I just found your blog – Complimenti! – This is red meat for me…

    So to the Chianti…It’s great to hear that the Tutela has dramtically reduced the “international” varieties permitted in Chianti. If it were up to me the the number would be reduced to zero, with some sort of “carrot” to encourage producers to plant moribund but often great traditional Chiantigiano varieties like Pugnitello.

    One other thing – do you know offhand if there was any work done in refining and demarcating Chianti Classico subzones? The notion that wines from Castelnuovo Berardenga and Gaiole for example are at some level “the same” is just plain reductive (no pun intended). Differences in winds, elevations, soils, and a potential north/south excursion of over 30 miles clearly illustrates this…Even just a distinction of galestro vs. alberese soils would be helpful…

    I linked you up in my blogroll – link me back, would you?

    Let’s keep in touch

    Tom Ciocco

    • charlesscicolone

      Ciao Tom- in the past they would speak about the differences between the sub zones and as you point out there are major differences but that is not done any more. After all if one adds international grapes to the blend. puts it in barriques and then uses modern machines and chemistry to make the wine ,how can anyone tell the difference.I was on the NYTimes tasting panel a month ago for Chianti Classico Riserva and the wines for the most had that oaky toasty flavor and we took them to task for it. I wll make the link. Yes let’s keep in touch
      E’sempre un piacere

  3. I’m sorry to hear that we’re still battling over-oaked Chianti as late as 2006-2008 (the lion’s share of the vintages you tasted, I assume?)

    I think the key word here is “Riserva”. When I was buying, I can’t tell you how many Chianti “normale”s I far preferred over the same house’s Riserva/single vineyard, etc. bottlings – almost always in fact, and this was usually because of too much (new) oak and/or overconcentration/too much Cabernet and Merlot .
    I’m glad you let them have it!

    Thanks for the linky


  4. This surely makes great sense to me

  5. Hey just wanted to give you a quick heads up.
    The words in your article seem to be running off the screen in Opera.
    I’m not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with web browser compatibility but I figured I’d post to let you know.
    The design look great though! Hope you get the problem solved soon.

  6. Pingback: Pick Up a Piccini Chianti? | My Blog

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