Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Tuscan Wine Masters Academy, Chianti Classico

The next DOCG we learned about at The Tuscan Wine Masters Academy was the appellation of Chianti Classico. The Chianti Classico region is the oldest and first delimited wine production zone in Italy. Back in 1716 the Medici Grand Duke Cosimo III issued an edict about its boundaries and these have remained virtually unchanged since. Chianti Classico covers about 100 square miles between Florence and Siena. Approximately 40 million bottles of Chianti Classico are produced every year and the U.S. represents 36% of all sales, the most in the world!

The heart and soul of Chianti Classico is the Sangiovese grape and the production regulations for Chianti Classico are very stringent. By DOCG law the wines must contain at least 80% Sangiovese, producers are allowed to blend up to 20% of of indigenous grapes like Canaiolo, Colorino, and outside grapes grown in the region such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Due to recent changes in the laws producers can now use 100% Sangiovese. Hard to believe but up until 2006 the wines could be blended with local white grapes like Trebbiano or Malvasia. Thank goodness that's no longer allowed, it's all red now. Chianti Classico must contain at least 12% alcohol and can not be released until after October 1st of the year following the harvest, 24 months for a Riserva. Some recent top vintages are 2007, 2006 and 2004 so look for these on the shelves at your local wine shop.

The Wines:

Chianti wines are probably the Italian wine that consumers in the U.S. are most familiar with. From the bottle in the wicker basket found on the table at many Italian restaurants all the way up to Chianti Classico Riserva's the pricing and selection can be anywhere from $6 up to $60+ a bottle. To be sure you're getting good quality look for the DOCG label on the neck of the bottle, this will ensure you're getting the good stuff. We tasted 10 different Chianti's during the tasting portion of the class, here's my pick along with a couple Chianti Classico's that I enjoy on a regular basis.

Querceto di Castellina

Chianti Classico L'Aura 2007
90% Sangiovese, 10% Ciliegiolo and Merlot
Alcohol 14%, 14 months in Oak.

The Querceto starts with a bit of vanilla on the nose, the oak is present but not overpowering. With this wine being a 2007 it's very young and should come into balance nicely. Nice palate of spice and red fruit. Nice acidity and a fresh and crisp finish. Nice wine. Look to spend $21 to $23 a bottle.

2006 Fattoria di Felsina

Chianti Classico Felsina Berardenga 2006
100% Sangiovese, 12 months in Oak

The Felsina is a regular favorite of ours to go back to every vintage. In addition to the regular Chianti Classico bottling we also drink the Riserva and Felsina's special single vineyard bottling the Rancia. Expect an explosive nose of flowers and fruit. This smells like Italy to me, vanilla, cherries, and leather. Good balance and goes great with any Italian food from a meat and cheese plate to heavy red sauces. You can find all the Felsina wines locally at Binny's or Wine Discount Center.

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