February’s Wine of the Month: Chianti Classico
Posted on 16 February 2021
We want to highlight one particular wine from Tuscany as our Wine of the Month.
No other wines in living memory are so synonymous with Italy than the famous wines of Chianti. Whether it be following the Dolce Vita in the 1960s, or placements on stage and screen (anyone for some fava beans?), Chianti is the first port of call for many wine drinkers exploring Italy.
Although the recent past has led to difficulties in ensuring the high quality of these Italian wines, thanks to better regulation and some pioneering producers, Chianti is once again a by-word for quality wines, and the Chianti Classico subregion shines brightest of all.
WHAT IS CHIANTI?
Chianti is the name of the wine region in between the cities of Florence and Siena in Tuscany, on Italy’s central western coast. It’s a region with a long history of winemaking, with references to the “Chianti Mountains” dating back to the 13th century, with the local towns forming the League of Chianti under the jurisdiction of the rulers of Florence.
The wines themselves are dominated by the Sangiovese grape variety, producing dry and tangy red wines with lots of refreshing acidities and tannic structure. A poor image of the wines in the second half of the 20th century, thanks to poor quality mass wines in straw flasks damaged the reputation, but hard work from the quality-conscious producers of Chianti Classico has turned that corner towards quality and luxury.
WHAT IS CHIANTI CLASSICO?
Chianti Classico is a sub-region of Classico, supposedly the historic heartland of production as decreed by Medici Grand Duke Cosimo III in 1716. It’s here where the image of rolling hills, warmed by the sun and cooled by sea breezes leads to the most expressive and age-worthy Chianti wines.
Before the 19th century, not much is known about the makeup or flavor of the wines, but the blueprint for modern Chianti Classico was laid down by Baron Bettino Ricasoli in 1872, whose suggestion to form a base of Sangiovese for bouquet and vivacity transformed the region’s wines. Within 30 years Sangiovese ruled the vineyards.
By 1984 and the granting of DOCG status, the “Ricasoli Formula” was written into regulation, and with increasingly stringent yields and extraction levels in the vineyards and wineries, the quality growth in the last 30-40 years has been nothing short of spectacular.
WHAT CHIANTI CLASSICO TO BUY?
Chianti Classico DOCG “Le Corti” 2018 by Principe Corsini
The earlier drinking part of Principe Corsini’s range, this Sangiovese dominant blend has a deep ruby red colour with aromas of violet, cherry, red currant and raspberry jam with a slight undertone of spice, pepper, leather and walnut. Well balanced and fresh in the mouth, with the typical finesse and persistence on the palate of the north part of Chianti Classico.
Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva “Cortevecchia” 2016 by Principe Corsini
From one of the ancient winemaking families of Tuscany comes this stunning red with a soft garnet red colour and aromas of red berries and wood spice. The mouthfeel is intense with good depth, persistent tannins and an elegant finish of crisp berry fruit, hints of tamarind, black pepper and an undercurrent of sweet liquorice.
Chianti Classico DOCG Don Tommaso Magum “Le Corti” 2010 by Principe Corsini
Principe Corsini’s flagship of the range, the wine has a very intense ruby colour, belying its age. An elegant nose of incense, bay leaves, black pepper and sandalwood as well as a basket of black cherries and wild blackberry. The mouth is filled with fruity notes, roasted coffee and vanilla that stays in the background with the blackcurrant on the main stage. The beautifully balanced body, with soft and rich tannins, allow the fruit mixed with hot spices, cardamom and incense to be the lasting memory.
WHAT TO EAT WITH CHIANTI CLASSICO?
Chianti food pairings are a joy to try your way through. For fruitier, earlier drinking wines then look no further than the Italian classic: pizza. The rich tomato base to the sauce matches the sweetness of the tannins, and feel free to sprinkle over the pepperoni!
For older, more mature Chianti Classicos then roast lamb with rosemary works really well. The Sangiovese has a solid refreshing acidity throughout and can cope with all kinds of cuts of lamb, and the rosemary pairs well with the earthiness of those wines made on the better hillsides of the region.
It would also be remiss not to mention the brilliant Bistecca Alla Fiorentina. This is a thick-cut piece of Porterhouse, ideally from the local Chianina cattle, marinated in salt, rosemary, and sage and then flash-fried and finished in the oven. Like most Italian masterpieces, the beauty is in simplicity!