Grape Expectations: Chianti

Well, it’s finally happened. After several years of writing these columns, I have run out of grape varieties. That is, unless you would like to read about hideously obscure, probably not very nice, grapes grown in the back of beyond which you will never find in the UK anyway. So, what to do? Move on to regions, of course. Regionality and the concept of ‘terroir’ is as vital to how a wine tastes as the grape variety it is made from.

Chianti is a rather large region in Central Tuscany. Its wines (which interestingly were once white!) are based on the Sangiovese grape variety, typically showing medium body with red cherry and earthy flavours. If you want the good stuff you should look for Chianti Classico – the original part of the region. These wines are easily identified by the Gallo Nero, or black rooster, which can be seen on the neck of the bottle.

Chianti has come a long way since the days when it was served by every neighbourhood Italian restaurant as a barely palatable, astringent wine found in rather kitsch baskets. Its claim to fame is no longer the dubious accolade of being Hannibal Lecter’s favourite wine. Pick up a bottle next time you’re cooking something Italian and you’ll see what I mean.

Recommendation: Chianti Classico DOCG Primocolle, Villa Cerna – A truly delicious Chianti Classico with lifted floral notes and a rich, intense cherry fruit character. Beautifully integrated oak makes for a smooth texture. 

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