It's been a tough slog through winter here in the Northeast. We had 8 or 9 inches of wet, heavy snow last Monday followed by a lovely freezing rain/sleet mix on Tuesday night that transformed the entire area into an icy mess. Power outages and tree limbs down everywhere were part of the equation. The road I live on wasn't plowed when I had to leave for work on Wednesday, so there I was, white knuckling my way down a 16% grade hill in my front wheel drive with 3 inches of sleet on the road! I haven't broken out the chainsaw yet but things are improving here in the ice bowl.
It's been hard to find motivation to write about wine despite having plenty of motivation to drink it. But last week I was perusing the winberserkers.com forums and jumped in on a thread on Chianti Classico. Now it seems to me that most consumers don't really have Chianti of any kind on their radar, so it was fun chat with some like-minded wine buffs. The consensus was clear - The '09 and '10 Classicos are wonderful and there are still lots of them left on retailer's shelves. If you want to experience the best that Chianti Classico has to offer, you should seek them out. Now you'll have to throw down a bit more coin than we usually write about here, but I'm really only talking the $15-$20 range for some of them. Producer's such as Felsina, Fonterutoli, Monsanto, Castello di Bosssi, Villa Caffagio, Rocca di Montegrossi, Manucci Droandi and Rocca di Castagnoli are just a few of the great producer's whose '09s and '10s you should seek out.
The best vineyard sites, soils and microclimates make this DOCG what it is - the top dog of the Chianti Regions. Sangiovese is the grape that defines Chianti but you can now blend in non-indigenous varietals such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon up to 20%. Once you do that though, your Chianti Classico starts tasting less Italian and and a little more generic. Sangiovese is a bit delicate in a way that's similar to Pinot Noir, and it's subtleties can easily be overwhelmed by the international grapes. It's a somewhat acidic grape as well, so folks that have been brought along on the wine journey with new world style plush fruit find them a bit austere. I'm telling you though, lay down a few of the '09 and '10 Classicos and in a few years the acids will soften and you'll have marvelously complex wines to drink and ponder.
The Rocca di Castagnoli $12.99 Chianti Classico is a great intro to these wines for a very attractive price. It's produced in a more traditional manner with 90% Sangiovese and 5% each the indigenous Canaiolo and Colorino. There's no Merlot here. It's fermented in stainless steel and then aged for 15 months in small barrels and 900 liter tonneaux. Classic Chianti aromas of smoky cherry are supported with licorice and floral notes. In the mouth, there's the bolder flavors that a good Tuscan vintage has to offer with Red Cherry, licorice and violets. It finishes long and slightly tart with smoke and spice notes and prominent acids. It paired perfectly with a pizza from my hometown favorite, Nomad Pizza. Imported by Montecastelli.