Chianti Cool

There are many great grape varieties in Italy but it if I was forced to choose a favorite, it would be Sangiovese. Wines made from the Sangiovese grape are the perfect wines to go with food. The have bright fruit flavors, a hint of violets, and good acidity.  The best wine made from the Sangiovese grape is Chianti from Tuscany.IMG_5253

“It’s time for wine—Chianti wine,” was the theme of the Consorzio Vino Chianti tasting held on April 28 in New York City for the trade and media. It has become an annual tradition and this year 46 different wineries were present. I could not wait to go.

The daylong event began with a guided tasting and presentation of the Chianti Riserva 2010, which I attended. Six wines were tasted blind.

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Giovanni Busi, President of the Consorzio Vino Chianti

Giovanni Busi, president of the Consorzio Vino Chianti and owner of Villa Travignoli, introduced the three panelists for the guided tasting: Joe Campanale, Beverage Director and owner of  dell’Anima, L’Artusi, Anfora and L’Apicio restaurants; moderator Anthony Giglio, wine authority, journalist and author of the Wine Guides for Food & Wine Magazine, and Costas Mouzouras, wine director of Gotham Wines & Liquor, a retail store. The discussion during the seminar covered various topics such as: Chianti: Tradition and Innovation, Chianti: Identity of Terroir, and  Chianti “Cool.” This was explained by Mr. Gilgio as an innovative process the Consortium has undertaken in the last few years. The idea is that Chianti is a very versatile wine and can appeal to younger and newer generations of wine drinkers, not only the traditional ones.

The panel also discussed the grapes that are used to make Chianti and how the wine is aged. 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% as well as Trebbiano and Malvasia, which are white grapes.

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Sangiovese

Chianti may be released on March 1st of the year following the harvest. The sub-regions of Montalbano, Arentini, Pisane and Senesi may also be released on March 1st after the harvest. The sub-regions of Montespertoli may be released on June 1st. The sub-region of Fiorentini and Rufina may be released on September 1st of the year following the harvest. Chianti Superiore may be released on September 1st of the year following the harvest.

For the Riserva the wine must be aged a minimum of two years from January 1st following the harvest.

For Chianti Fiorentini and Rufina the Riserva has to spend at lest 6 months in wood. For the Chianti Senesi Riserva the wine must spend at least 8 months in wood and 4 months in bottle.IMG_5412

The panel also discussed the Chianti Consortium and the production zones for Chianti. The Consorzio Vino Chianti was established in 1927 by a group of wine producers in the provinces of Pistoia, Siena, Arezzo and Florence. Later the Consorzio expanded to cover the whole production area covered by the DOCG. Now the Chianti production area is located in the provinces of Arezzo, Florence, Pisa, Pistoia, Prato and Siena. Chianti wines are designated as: Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colli Senesi, Colline Pisane, MontalbanoRufina, and the last, added in 1997, Montespertoli.  In addition is the return of the Chianti “Superiore” which can come from anywhere in the Chianti wine area with the exception of the Chianti Classico zone between Florence and Siena. Superiore cannot have a name of an area on the label. There is also the Colli dell’ Etruria Centrale. The DOC permits in the Chianti DOCG area the production of wines of a different quality from Chianti, which include reds, whites, roses, novello and Vin Santo.IMG_5411

The Wines

The tasting was blind in that we were not given the names of the producers. All other information about the wine was given to us. I believe the purpose of the tasting was to show the versatility of styles that Chianti can produce, from traditional to international.

Vino Sorelli made from 80% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo and 10% Trebbiano. Fermentation with maceration on the skins for about ten days in temperature controlled tanks. The wine spends at least 6 months in large barrels and two months is barriques. This is a nice fruity wine with hints of red berries and violets. It is very traditional Chianti.

Chianti Montespertoli “Il Quarto” Tenuta di Morzano made from 80% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot and 5% Syrah. The grapes come from a 2-hectare vineyard, the soil is clay and schist and the vines are at 300 meters. Harvest takes place in September. Traditional 20 days maceration on the skins and subsequent fermentation in glass lined cement tanks. The wine is aged in third passage French barriques. This was the most international in style.

Chianti Rufina “Bellini” Cantine Fratelli Bellini made from 90% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo and 5% Colorino. The vines are cordon spur trained and the harvest is in September. There is a classic vinification with 15 days maceration of the skins at controlled temperatures. The wine spends 24 months in oak barrels of 20 to 40 hl and 6 months in bottle before release. This was my favorite wine of the tasting, typical classic Chianti from one of my favorite zones.

Castello di Oliveto made from 90% Sangiovese, 5% Colorino and 5% Merlot. The winery is in the heart of the Florentine hills. Maceration is in steel vats for about 15 days with frequent pumping over and aeration to foster ceding of the color at a controlled temperature. This wine is leaning toward the more international style.

Chianti Montalbano Tenuta Cantagallo made from 100% Sangiovese. Alcoholic and malolactic fermentation take place in stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged in 60% French barriques and 40% new tonneaux for 12 months in bottle before release. This was very international in style with more then a hint of vanilla 

Colli Florentini “Vigna La Quercia” Castelvecchio made from 90% Sangiovese,and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes come from a single vineyard with a southeast exposure. The wine spends 12 months in barriques and 12 months in bottle before release. This wine was somewhere in between the traditional and the international.

From this blind tasting it seems that there is a style of Chianti for everyone.

4 Comments

Filed under Chianti

4 responses to “Chianti Cool

  1. Tom Maresca

    Charles: You are being admirably tactful, but I think the major market problem confronting the non-Classico Chiantis (always with the exception of the distinctive wines from Rufina) is exactly that there is a style for everyone, which is a polite way of saying that the various non-Classico Chiantis lack a coherent identity. In far too many of them the native grapes are overlaid with either/both new oak or French grapes, so that what Italians would call their Tuscanita is totally obscured. For my palate, the best of these wines — and they can be very good indeed — are the most traditional ones, using only native grapes, including some of the white varieties. These are the great, food-friendly Chiantis that we grew up with: I wish there were more of them.

    Best, Tom

  2. Looks like you had your work cut out for you. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it!

  3. Reblogged this on Sassi Italy Tours and commented:
    Ever wonder exactly what the designation Chianti actually refers to?

    Here’s a great write up.

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