2008 Castel di Pugna Ellera Chianti Colli Senesi, Conte Fumi Cambi Gado ($32)
Once upon a time, in old Tuscany, there was a graceful kind of wine known as “Chianti.” The Tuscans loved it and drank a ton of it with their marvelously simple food. Then the world discovered it. Then the world changed its taste, moving blindly towards darker, richer, more tannic, more alcoholic, less food-friendly red wines. Then the Tuscans changed Chianti. Badda-boom. And thus ended the tradition of lovely, light, drink-any-time, graceful Chianti. For the most part. As Roberto Rogness of WineExpo in Los Angeles told me a few years ago, “almost all of the Chianti today is spoofed up! Made for Parker scores. Awful. But in a few zones, like Chianti Colli Senesi, some guys still make the old-fashioned stuff.” And that’s what drove me to beautiful Chianti Colli Senesi last year, just south of historic Siena, to the estate of a duke…who’s one of Tuscany’s leading spoof-avoiders!
This particular Chianti, exclusively imported into the U.S. by me, is one of their best values. it’s a medium-light garnet in the glass, with a lovely and subtle nose: plums, dark berries, touches of vanilla and jam. You can tell that animal notes are just around the corner. On the palate, here’s Chianti like it used to be…but maybe with a touch more weight. Actually tastes like a Tuscan wine, not an international fruit fest! Chew it on your palate, breathing in air over the chew…this maximizes its body, and perfectly reveals the wine’s jumpy, juicy, delicious fruit acidity.
Keep away from heavy meat dishes, like stews. But serve like crazy with all kinds of lighter meat dishes, Tuscan or not! Why not start with a roast chicken, laced with fresh rosemary? Perfection! Lamb chops. Sausages. Pasta with cheese and butter sauces. Pasta with tomato-based sauces…particularly meat sauces! This is your early fall go-to red!