A few months back in the midst of wedding mania I attended a trade show that had a consumer tasting of Chianti Classico from participating Chianti Classico producers. It was a great opportunity to taste MANY different producers of wines from the Chianti Classico region. I met up with Kyle and Cyn, my old roommate and his girlfriend. Chianti is Kyle’s favorite wine and he saw this as an opportunity to taste a lot of his wines and for me to have a better idea of what else is out there besides my favorites as traditionally do not spend to much or cellar focus on Chianti. I can say this. My favorites are still my favorites, all but one of the 4 star wineries below I liked the most before the event and still do. Though the best winery overall was the new winery: Felsina. They had 4 wines to taste and weird enough the rep for the winery left after the trade part of the show but left about 12 or so bottles open, and full of their wines they had to offer. I poured each one for us and a few other bystanders as we progressed down the list impressed us and thought this was by far the best all around winery for the night. The wines will be listed below. All where very classically made with fresh aromas, flavors and that classic acidity to clean up the palate on the finish. The surprise of the night was from a producer that is not yet available in the US as their production is so small – Il Borghetto. They make Pinot Noir and Pinot Noir blended wines in the Chianti Classico region. I have to say they were by far the most unique wines at the whole show. Out of character from the typical Sangiovese based wines, they were still remarkable in flavor, structure and aroma. Like an Italian cousin of the Cote de Beaune! The best wine overall to me was still the Cestello di Ama. Not flashy, not over the top, but perfectly balanced and a classic wine.
Italian Wine Speak
(Applies to ALL of Italy except Piedmont for IGT wine)
DOCG - Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita - Strict Italian regulation guaranteeing the grape and region where the wine is from =i.e. Brunello, Barolo, Barbaresco
IGT - Indicazione Geografica Tipica - An Italian federal designation to allow for foreign grape varieties to be added to the wine. It is used most famously in Tuscany with the addition of French varietals like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to Sangiovese, creating the Super Tuscans. It is recognized in every Italian region except Piedmont.
Popular Regional Distinctions
Background: Chianti is a region, but a very broad general region where the cheapest wines are meant for immediate consumption (Think those squat shaped bottles with straw wrapping). Chianti Classico is a defined smaller region within Chianti focused on high quality Chianti - look for the Black Rooster on the pink DOCG tax label on the neck. Chianti Classico Reserva is the best wine from the producers located in the Chianti Classico region...though I would use "best" loosely as it’s not always the case! Man other producers also make single vineyard wines that are supposed to be a single expression of one exceptional vineyard that outshines the master blend of all of the vineyards that make up a Chianti Classico bottling.
Chianti DOCG - $5-15 in price, Drink immediately or within a year or two from vintage.
Chianti Classico DOCG - $10-30 - can age from 5-12 years, but would consume most within 10 years
Chianti Classico Reserva DOCG - $25-75 - some may age 15-20 years given the right vintage and extra oak treatment.
IGT - Any wine made in the Chianti region made from a large percentage combination of foreign grapes and Sangiovese (i.e. by foreign I mean Merlot, Cab, Syrah, etc.)
Tom’s Chianti Classico Recommended
Castello di Ama ****
Castello di Fonterutoli ***
Slightly more modern classics ($15-40)