My oh my, has there been change and drang in Chianti Classico—a geographic area between Firenze and Siena that has the highest name recognition of all Chiantis. There are eight Chianti zones all together…but seven of ’em often get ignored in favor of Chianti Classico. When the Chianti formula was created in the nineteenth century, all across Chianti the wines were generally light, easy, and elegant. Then came the big changes, starting in the 1970s—and all Chiantis got purpler, richer, higher in alcohol…especially Chianti Classico! I have been on the import hunt for Chianti that has the old aesthetic about it—and I found some, which I will import soon. But not from Chianti Classico, which is making the fattest Chiantis of all today, at the highest prices. So it was with surprise and delight that I reacted to this Chianti Classico; it ain’t light, but it’s a big wine with a surprising degree of elegance. Medium garnet in the glass, with just a hint of brown at the edge. Thrilling nose, with really seductive jam leading the way. Frankly, it doesn’t smell much like Chianti, or even like Sangiovese (the grape)…but in a blind tasting I’d be drawn to this warm, beautiful bouquet. Its anomalous nature may have a lot do with the vintage—very warm weather, which always makes me fear over-ripeness. And this nose is ripe—but not overripe. Then comes the palate: as expected, rich and hot. But there are lovely layers of flavors tucked in there, a ton of very sweet fruit—partnered with only minimal tannin and a surprising degree of balance. In a blind tasting, you seriously may pick this out as a young Amarone, though it’s a touch better behaved. Ah well. Big is beautiful, on this day. But just wait until you see the elegance I have lined up for import from Chianti Colli Senesi!
This is not a wine for traditional Tuscan dishes, like ribollita, bean soups, or panzanella. Too heavy! But it will work great with the grilled-meat side of the Tuscan equation—especially if the meats have been marinated, and cooked past medium-rare!