The Bacchus Report: The real Chianti

Although there are several denominated geographical wine regions in Tuscany, as far as the world is concerned, Chianti is the classic one.

The first thing one has to do is to forget about anything that comes from Chiantishire in one of those famous straw-covered flasks used for the most basic of the wines and known as the fiasco. And fiasco they certainly were, for, apart for being an excellent receptacle for a home-made lampstand, the sort of red wine they contained has done nothing to aid the reputation of this classical Italian wine region.
The demarcated Chianti area extends between the historical centres of Florence and Siena, with the vineyards located relatively high on the western slopes of the Apennine foothills. To qualify as Chianti a wine must contain between 75% and 90% of the classic Sangiovese grape variety (said to date back to Etruscan times and whose name translates as “blood of Jupiter”), with the balance made up of such lesser varieties as Trebbiano and Canaiolo, with a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon added for a good measure.
The wine comes in two styles: basic Chianti for early drinking, and riserva aged in oak and bottle for a minimum of three years prior to release, after which it normally requires further ageing in cellar to achieve its best. Since the eighties, many of the most innovative producers in the region have decided to make wines using established international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. As these practices did not conform to the wine-classification system, the Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG), these Super Tuscans, as they came to be known, could only be labelled as Vino da Tavola (VDT) a.k.a. table wine, no matter how good they might be. This category included some of the most sought-after wines in Italy, including the legendary Sassicaia, Ornellaia, Tignanello et al, all usually bearing dark and vaguely sinister labels.
Today a new denomination exists for such illustrious misfits, IGT or Indicazione Geografica Tipica, which replaces the anomaly of these glamorous VDTs. And then, of course, Tuscany is the home of the legendary Brunello di Montalcino…but that’s another story .

TOOLBOX

This corkscrew with attached brush will guarantee that your wine will never be spoiled by bits of cork flotsam. The brush wipes the neck of the bottle clean. Price: CZK 480.

Available from: Le Bouchon, Bělehradská 114, Praha 2.

Upcoming tastings

Loucký klášter, Znojmo
On October 3rd 2002, from 5pm, the Znovín winery will be hosting a wine-tasting at an opening of its wine gallery in Znojmo’s Loucký klášter.

WINE GUIDE

Chianti is composed of seven distinct sub-regions, the smallest of which is Rufina, lying just to the east of Florence, which yields some of the best examples. 24 producers of this region belong to the Consorzio of Chianti Rufina. The following names are now emerging on the Czech market:

Selvapiana 2000, Chianti Rufina DOCG, Fattoria Selvapiana
This is a top-rated producer based in a 15th-century palace once the property of the bishops of Florence. As would be expected, this is an elegant and stylish example, deep ruby in color, full of cherry on the nose with a richly textured palate finishing with intimations of sage, rosemary and thyme. Possesses excellent aging potential.

Villa di Vetrice 2001, Chianti Rufina DOCG, Fratelli Grati
This wine has an upfront bouquet of cherryade and vanilla ice cream, evolving as the bottle aerates into pine fruit and chocolate with herbaceous undertones. Good rounded structure.

Podernovo 2000, Rosso di Toscana IGT, Fattoria Cerreto Libri
This solid, organically produced sample is both soft and spicy, with a sweet attack of red fruits, ideal for a spaghetti bolognese. Do not be put off by the sediment, which in this case is a sign of good wine-making.

Colognole 1999, Chianti Rufina DOCG, Contessa Gabriella Spaletti
Has an appealing ripe-cherry aroma with a distinct savour of vanilla and berry-fruit turning into toasted almonds and tobacco.

The wines cost about CZK 400-500, and are available from vinotheque U modrého anděla,
by phone or mail order at tel: 723 153 345, www.italie-toskansko.cz.

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