Shana Speaks Wine

Wine Journalist, Copywriter, and Marketing Consultant

Drinking out loud. 

Filtering by Tag: Chianti

So You Think You Know Chianti?

Pop quiz: what do you think of when you think of Chianti?

This question was posed to a random group of wine enthusiasts and answers ranged from "Meh" to "why drink that wine when there are so many other great Italian options out there?"

More famous for its straw wrapping rather than the quality of the wine, Chianti was seen as an inferior wine choice to many of Italy's other famous varietals. Chianti winemakers have worked feverishly over the past few decades to rectify their reputation and present wines that are worthy of recognition. Through stricter regulations, more advanced vineyard management techniques as well as a passion to keep traditions alive, Chianti wines are trying to be seen as serious contenders on a wine list.

While Sangiovese is still the primary grape in Chianti, blends of native and international varietals lend unique characteristics to the wines.  By allowing other grapes into the wine, unlike a Brunello, the winemaker is empowered to find a balance in technique, terroir and varietals.

At the Consorzio VIno Chianti Seminar, held in April in New York City, we tasted through a series of 2010 Riservas.  I have to admit, I was skeptical about what I would find in the glass. I favor Barolos, Barbarescos and other Piedmont treasures and am somewhat biased in my Italian wine choices. So, how did Chianti measure up?

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Wine number one, a blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Trebbiano immediately showcased notes of violets and dark berries.  A peppery spice also became apparent, along with the savory notes of tomato. On the palate, essences of white flower came through as well, most likely attributed to the trebbiano.  

The international varietals used in wine number two -  Sangiovese, Merlot and Syrah -brought to mind brighter fruits such as raspberry and overall there was a sharp contrast to the indigineous blend of wine number one.  Herbaceous tones of rosemary came forth but again there was a distinctly floral essence to the wine. Overall, there was a freshness that seemed to be lacking in the first as well as a softness and roundness that was absent in the first.

Through the murmers heard throughout the audience, the third wine illicited the most positive response out of all the wines tasted. Again, it was comprised of native varietals - Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Colorino. Sweeter baking spices, such as cinnamon and cumin jumped out immediately and the berries again were of the deeper blackberry profile. On the palate, cherry was the star player, with a bit of vanilla softness. The tannins were very noticeable and the finish resonated long after the wine left the mouth. 

The fourth wine, with Colorino and Merlot supporting the Sangiovese, was aged for 24 months in Slovenian oak.  This was one of the most floral Chiantis tasted but there was a slighlty persistent sour note, hard to identify, that permeated the wine.  Soft tannnins gave this wine structure and a soft mouthfeel.

Wine number five, the only one in the lineup to solely use Sangiovese, showed obvious traits of having gone through malolactic fermentation. Bright berries, soft tannins, sweet vanilla all rolled together into a plush mouthfeel that was balanced by the high acidity common to Italian wines.  

The last wine, with a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon in the mix, showcased a whole baking rack of herbaceous spices.  Deep berries and ruby fruits were largely present on the palate along with balanced, structured tannins.  

 

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 Overall, I was positively surprised by many of these wines. There was a complexity to several of these that belied their infamous reputation, as well as an obvious thoughtfulness to vinification of the grapes. Many of these can stand proud on any wine list and I'm hoping more winemakers will follow suit.

Del Posto - A Taste of Some Things New

Pssst.  I have a tip for you. There's a little known event that takes place in New York City every other Saturday. It's not advertised and you'd be hard pressed to find any information on it.  It feels like a secret society, but it's open to all, and very welcoming at that.  DId I mention it's at one of the most renowned restaurants in the city? It's called 5 for $5, it's at Del Posto and it's one of the best ways to spend an hour or so of your weekend. 

To elaborate, for $5 you get to taste 5 different wines, each time a different theme based on the somm's whim - dealer's choice.  For my initiation, we went through new additions to Del Posto's wine offerings.  A newbie tasting Del Posto's newest acquisitions - how fitting. 

Tasting menu, photo by Shana Speaks Wine

Tasting menu, photo by Shana Speaks Wine

 

We started with the Baron Dauvergne Cuvee Privilege Brut, Bouzy, Montagne de Reims, Champagne, NV. From one of the warmest Grand Crus in Champagne, this sparkling greeter is comprised of 80% pinot noir and 20% chardonnay. Aged in 100% stainless steel, its bubbles burst with tart green apple and slight hints of dairy, giving the body a sense of richness.

We next tried the Pietracupa Greco di Tufo, Campania, Italy, 2012. This southern Italian site is a bit more inland, rather than coastal, so the warm climate is tempered by cooler weather at night. It spent a little time on the lees (sediment comprised of dead yeast, grape skins and other matter that forms during the fermentation process), resulting in a rather full-bodied white and like most Italian wines, it's rife with acid.  Citrus fruits dominated the profile but there was a lot of volcanic ash and minerality as well. 

We next journeyed further south to Sicily, with a Palari Rosso del Soprano, 2010. A blend of indigineous Sicilian grapes, this was my first introduction to non-Mt. Etna Sicilian wines.  Instead of a high-elevation site, this wine was grown close to the coast.  The warm climate and cooling ocean breezes gave the nose strong aromas of overripe fruit along with black pepper, rosemary and cumin.  Drinking it, though, was a differet story; peppery and vegetal, it was rather lean and light-bodied.  Not totally in my wheelhouse but I see how it lives on a well-rounded wine list. 

Moving into Tuscany, we next tried Ricasoli Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico Riserva 2007. Traditional to Tuscany, it was Sangiovese-dominant, with some Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon in the mix.  Breaking from code, though, was the manner in which it was aged. Small French oak barriques were used instead of large oak barrels.  The result? Chocolate n' spice and everything nice, especially in relation to the ripe plum and blackberry fruits.  Again, it was rather high in acid with good tannins for balance.  Not a textbook Chianti by any means but it's fun to see results when a winemaker goes rogue.

Finally, it was dessert (wine) time.  The Antinori Castello della Sala Muffato, Umbria, 2007, was an unusual blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Grachetto, Riesling and Traminer.  Even more interesting? It was produced by one of the oldest and most renowned Chianti producers; the somm went so far as to dub him "The Godfather" of Chianti wines. There are several ways a wine can become dessert wine; this one was affected by Botrytis, one of the only "nice" fungal diseases out there (yes, fungus can be nice) There was a sweet nuttiness on the nose of almonds and hazelnuts as well as candied apricot and overripe peaches. Sipping on it, I was reminded of baklava, with the nuts coated in a honeyed, syrupy sweetness.

well, four out of five ain't bad. Photo by Shana Speaks Wine

well, four out of five ain't bad. Photo by Shana Speaks Wine

 

Did I say 5 wines? Did I forget to mention that the somm kicks ass and opened up a 6th wine for us to try?  Trying to contrast the unusual Chianti we tasted earlier, he opened a more classic style Chianti, a Felsina, Rancia, Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany, 2008. Tart and tight berry fruits were a marked difference from the ripe plumminess on the other.  This was definitely leaner and spicier and I could envision it being served with a cioppino or other heavy seafood dish. 

  

The bonus wine.  Photo by Shana Speaks Wine

The bonus wine.  Photo by Shana Speaks Wine

 I probably should mention there is a secret handshake you'll have to learn...

Tre Bicchieri - A Visual Report

Picture this. A college party in some frat house basement.  Hot and chaotic, everyone is jostling to get their turn at the keg, clutching the plastic cup of brewskie protectively to their chests as they muscle through the crowd.  Small knots of friends yell at the top of their voices in order to be heard over the roar of others.  Now, replace the basement with a large, white-walled hall, the t-shirts and baseball caps with suits and ties and the plastic cups with wine glasses and you have a pretty good idea of the madhouse that was the Tre Bicchieri tasting. 

Tre Bicchieri translates to three glasses and is the highest rating given to a wine given by Gambero Rosso, an Italian food and wine magazine, publishing group, and sponsor of this event.  Many of the wines represented were beautiful, but damn, that was a shitshow to get a taste.  

In lieu of a written roundup of the best in show (I would have been trampled if I stopped to write anything down), I've pulled together a gallery of my favorites. 

 

 

Bubbles

Bubbles

Chianti

Chianti

 

Amarone

Amarone

Corvina clones, cab sauv and syrah blend

Corvina clones, cab sauv and syrah blend

More Amarone

More Amarone

Love this bottle shape

Love this bottle shape

Back in Piedmont territory

Back in Piedmont territory

The newest Barolo release from a good Piedmont producer

The newest Barolo release from a good Piedmont producer

Franciacorta, one of Italy's great sparkling wines

Franciacorta, one of Italy's great sparkling wines

More Barolo

More Barolo

This was a massive plum bomb - in the best way

This was a massive plum bomb - in the best way

 

More Piedmontese offerings - Barbera dAsti

More Piedmontese offerings - Barbera dAsti

And another Barbera for good measure

And another Barbera for good measure