Fontodi Chianti Classico 2008 (375 ml)

Fontodi Chianti Classico 2008

Fontodi Chianti Classico 2008

At work, our team Italian wine expert is my colleague Stephen. Whereas I’m more the French and American wines geek, he knows his Italian wines — especially the Brunello. Today we are talking about another Sangiovese-based Italian classic. Chianti Classico means it is made in the ‘classic’ or original historic region of production. Located within central Tuscany, the region of Chianti is larger now, with several other sub-regions including Chianti Rufina and Chianti Colli Senesi. And only the Classico region can have the famous black rooster symbol on the neck of the bottle (see second photo), indicating the producer is part of the Chianti Classico consortium. This consortium focuses on improving the quality and integrity of the wines. Originally known for the straw-basket bottles called fiascos (a few producers still bottle it in those), Chianti DOCG is Italy’s most exported red wine. It is a region with many centuries-old vineyards. They are typically aged in oak – botte or the French barriques. This wine is aged in the French oak for 12 months, and their grapes are all organically grown. Chianti is primarily Sangiovese, but up to 20% can be other varietals, usually local ones like Caniaolo and Colorino. In the earliest forms of Chianti, there were even white grapes like Malvasia Bianca and Trebbiano allowed. Sangiovese wines give you a good amount of acidity and tannin, so the blending of other varietals makes it a bit less astringent. While this is 100% Sangiovese, it is sufficiently mellowed at this age.

The Chianti Classico Black Rooster logo

The Chianti Classico Black Rooster logo

On to the Fontodi story… So Steve had promised me a nice bottle of wine if I completed all my goals for the month, and I did. Well, about a month later, or was it two, I finally did get that gift. And what a great one it was. So, while I like to tease him for how long it took to get to me, I am really thrilled he gave it to me. I shared it with another one of our colleagues that very night. 2008 was a great vintage in the region, and Fontodi is one fantastic Chianti. After all, this is a wine and vintage that James Suckling gave 93 points, and got 90 points from Parker’s Wine Spectator. They are one of the current stars of the region.

On the nose, there’s intense black cherry, cocoa, plum and vanilla notes. On the palate it has deep, complex berry notes, spicy toast aromas from the oak, black pepper and a tobacco element as well. It was a tasty, tasty wine and between the two of us, did not last long.  Salute!

Teruzi & Puthod Terre di Tufi Toscana IGT 2010

Teruzzi & Puthod Terre di Tufi 2010

Teruzzi & Puthod Terre di Tufi 2010

Here’s a rare treat, well at least so far on this blog… tonight I’m reviewing a white wine. What’s not so rare, is it’s an Italian wine… you know me, after all.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy white wine, despite being preferential to reds. As I consider myself a wine student in a lifelong class, I try and enjoy almost everything I drink and find what’s good about them in each and every case, and learn something new along the way. Not to mention, refresh myself on what I’ve already learned to cement it in this brain.  When I grabbed this one off the rack, due to the dark bottle, I didn’t immediately realize it was a white (something I could have picked up on had I simply looked at the back where it was clearly stated “Toscana Bianco!”) In my defense I was quickly browsing our selection for a nice glass to enjoy while doing some planting. I saw it was Italian, and that was the mood I was in. I’m in the mood for Italian wines pretty often though, especially from Tuscany.  As I opened it of course it dawned on me. It’s a very pleasant wine, and until now I had never had a white Super Tuscan.

From my education, I’m thinking there’s definitely Vernaccia in here, a classic white of this region, with its own DOCG, Vernaccia di San Gimignano.  This is the very same famed town from which I’ve had many quality reds and I believe is where the Strozzi family has been making their reds, for the royal family that includes relatives of the Mona Lisa herself, and who were the first employer of Macchiavelli. But you won’t find any Sangiovese here. Also in the area is a DOC for wines made from Vermentino, Colli di Luni. This region is just west of the Chianti Classico region.  As it is one of the very oldest winemaking sites in Italy, and Vernaccia di San Gimignano was designated the first DOC in 1966, you know you’re going to get quality in every glass. While this winemaker does make a 100% Vernaccia, this is a special house blend with some Malvasia, Chardonnay, and of course, Vermentino. At about $17, it’s a good deal, especially since the last few vintages have gotten near 90 points from Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast. It seems to be selling well, and selling out, with many retailers.

It is a deep straw color with a hint towards gold, and on the nose you have subtle vanilla oak which is from being aged and fermented in fine French barriques, as well as crisp mineral and exotic fruit aromas of pineapple. That I suspect is the Chardonnay speaking. On the palate, apple, citrus, spice, and some toast and cream flavors appear with a nice minerality to balance that all out. It lingers nicely, and acidity and body are firm and full but still feels light. Alcohol is a pleasant 13 percent. A perfect match to the Italian sausage I am preparing. I imagine with seafood and prosciutto it would pair beautifully as well. Italy never seems to let me down, and this is no exception. Thanks again, Italy! Keep them coming.

Caparzo Rosso Di Montalcino 2009

Caparzo Rosso di Montalcino 2009

Caparzo Rosso di Montalcino 2009

Right now, most sports fans are watching Italy vs. Spain in the Euro Cup. From a wine perspective, I love both Italian and Spanish wines, but I think I may just be obsessed with good Italian wines at the moment.  I’ve been impressed and satisfied with even the simplest table wines, and then I also have my favorites, Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, Nero D’Avola, Barbera D’Asti, and that’s just a few of my favorite reds. I almost forgot Primitivo – perhaps the original Zin –  and Super Tuscans… I’ve been reading a great book about Thomas Jefferson (called T.J. around this circle) and his love for wine. It explores his passion for wine; and his relationship with acquiring, growing, and keeping wine throughout his life are chronicled through letters. It is chock-full of fascinating correspondence, and memorable tales from Paris to Monticello fill the pages of conversation and history.

I decided to try a new Italian red with dinner recently. This one is a Rosso di Montalcino from 2009. In the same area of Tuscany as it’s famous big brother, Brunello di Montalcino (the longest barrel-aged red in Italy at 5 years), Rosso di Montalcino is a new regional DOC made to cover younger, fresher, and less aged wines of this style.  Thus it is also 100% Sangiovese. This new DOC is also often applied to Brunello that did not make the grade, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. On the contrary, this Caparzo poured deep-ruby, and had a strong nose of wild black and red-berry fruit. The palate displayed firm structure and tannins, and powerful black fruit and wild berry flavors prevailed as well here. It delivers on all levels, and shows the potential of its longer-aged relatives. There was some oak notes from 2 years in barrel and a bit of earthiness, which is one thing I love in particular about Italian wines.

In fact tonight I am going out to a nice new Italian restaurant in the neighborhood to enjoy some delicious native cuisine  and wine — after the game, of course. Can I really vote for a country based on their food and wine as my bias?