Mention Chianti to some people and the last thing they think of is a great quality wine. They remember the cheap wines in college that came in the straw basket that was better as a candle holder than a wine. Or worse, that Hannibal Lecter drank Chianti with a man’s liver and fava beans. There are, however, some really great Chianti’s. For a brief synopsis of Chianti, here is the first article I ever wrote for IntoWine.
Chianti’s offer up great cherry flavors with a strong backbone of acidity. The good ones will age well in a proper wine cellar in which they develop dried cherry notes, tea and forest floor qualities while retaining that great acidity. As the temperatures cool, Chianti’s make great wines for fall. Sure, they are great matches with Italian dinners, but they also are one of the most food friendly wines available. They match well with meats, pork, chicken, pasta and anything with tomatoes. Of course, that makes them perfect for those of us with gardens or farmers markets full of fresh and delicious tomatoes.
Here is a list of ten that are worth picking up. Chianti has also been on a roll with good vintages lately. Of the most recent vintages, there are no bad ones, but 2007, 2010 and 2012 are particularly good. Many of these are Riservas which means the wines spent at least two years in barrel and another three months in bottle before being released.
Fattoria di Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia $50 – This is my favorite Chianti. It is expensive, but it is aworld class wine. In fact, it is better than most Brunellos. This is one that really does need to be aged in a wine cellar for a while to show how great it can be. With about ten years of age, this is truly a treat.
Fontodi Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna del Sorbo $70 – This is also expensive but ranks asmy second favorite Chianti. Probably more structured and tannic than the Rancia listed above, it demands cellaring to get the full offering.
Castellare Chianti Classico Riserva Il Poggiale $40 – This is a darker morebrooding wine. Think dark cherries and plums with firm tannins. Still a nice streak of acidity makes it food friendly. This drinks well on release and will age for a decade or more.
Castello di Bossi Chianti Classico Riserva Berardo $35 – Avery modern take on Chianti and an excellent one as well. Sweet dark cherry fruit and a bit more oak flavors than most, this is very easy for a California Cabernet drinker to love. Still it has a great streak of acidity to please anyone at the table. Not only will it last, a few years are needed for the oak and fruit to really integrate.
Fattoria di Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva $30 – Don’t want to wait for the Rancia or spend the money?That’s ok, this is almost as good. When young, it still needs to breath for a few hours prior to serving. It may not last quite as long, but, it might. It is just a small step down from the Rancia, especially in good years.
Fattoria di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva $28 – This is a much more traditional Chianti andmore feminine as well. It is a very pretty wine. Soft cherries with some menthol notes. Not much in the way of tannins, but don’t be fooled, these will age well for a decade or more. Great at the dinner table as well.
Fontodi Chianti Classico $25 - This is a couple of steps down from the Vignadel Sorbo but also about 1/3 the price. It is a really outstanding Chianti that drinks well young and can age nicely.
Villa Cafaggio Chianti Classico Riserva $24 – A middle of the road Chianti, not quite traditional nor modern, between pretty and bold, yet a great wine from vintage to vintage. Look for cherries and plums with some spice notes. Nice acidity. Another one that will age.
Frescobaldi Castello di Nipozzano ChiantiRufina Riserva $19 – A relatively inexpensive Chianti, this is a great value. This drinks well on release but ages beautifully for a decade at least. While not as much body as some, the fruit is darker; dark cherries and plums. A strong backbone of acidity helps with food pairings.
San Felice Chianti Classico $18 – Another relatively affordable Chianti, this is very traditional. The producermakes a higher end Chianti, but I am not sure it is much better. This has pretty cherries, and great acidity.
There you have it. A list of 10 Chianti’s at various price points that should please most wine lovers. These are perfect airings for fall dinners. Of course, on the downside, none of these makes a very attractive candle holder.