Sunday, January 24, 2010

Saturday, January 16, 2010

All about Chianti


I found a great article on Chianti on Slate. Here is the second paragraph. (I have upgraded my journalistic standards, so I don't just swipe whole articles anymore.)

The constant wrangling over Chianti has been part of a broader debate in Tuscany concerning the role of sangiovese, the region's signature grape. sangiovese, which means "blood of Jove" and is indigenous to Tuscany, was traditionally regarded as too coarse and tannic to stand on its own and was believed to perform well only when blended with other grapes. Beginning in the mid-1800s, the accepted formula for Chianti was to mix sangiovese with a hefty percentage of canaiolo and two white wine grapes, trebbiano and malvasia. This recipe was enshrined in 1967, when the Italian authorities ruled that Chianti had to be an amalgam of these four varieties and that the white grapes had to account for 10 percent to 30 percent of the final blend. But there actually wasn't much synergy between the white grapes and sangiovese, and this unhappy marriage, coupled with excessive crop yields, inferior vines, and poor winemaking, produced a lot of rotgut.

My big thing with Chianti is that you don't know what you are getting. A good Chianti is wonderful, but the bad Chianti's out-number the good ones. As with most wines, the expensive ones are necessarily the good ones. The nice thing about Chianti is their unpretentious ness. They are friendly and accessible.

The other aspect of Chianti is that it is a blend of red wine with white wine at 10-30%. This is something traditional in Italian wine that Italian-American wine makers do. My brother gave me some white-red blend like this over Christmas, and it was pretty good. Soon I was mixing my 2008 Pinot Grigio with Australian Syrah, and pleased with the result. It certainly helps the Syrah.

The other thing about Chianti is the straw covered bottles, that are cute for a while then tacky. They are called fiascos. The nicer Chiantis don't have them. I encounter fiascos all the time. (According to the OED, the two definitions of fiasco are not related.)

I think of the problematically-named Dago Red as a blend of red and white grapes. That is the recipe that they give out at California Wine Grapes, my local grape source.