At all my speaking engagements, either with sommelier students or at social wine tasting events, I find my audience has a lot of difficulty understanding Italian wines. The'creative' names on the bottles, referring to the grape, vineyard or winemaker's grandfather seem to confuse the buyer. Tuscany is only one of the many areas producing great wines in Italy, and it is one of the most 'understood' therefore its wines are the most purchased. Names such Chianti, Brunello, SuperTuscan have a great buying influence and are the historical pillars of the Italian wine scene.
This month in our wine stores, we will see a good selection of Tuscany's 'usual suspects'. The following is a selection of some worth trying.
Panzano Chianti Classico 2008 $23.95 #972695
A new world style Chianti, full of juicy berries and plums. Plums are the signature aroma of Sangiovese, what we like to call the 'primary aroma' of the grape. I always enjoy this style of Chianti with roasted meats (allo spiedo - the slow-rotating big skewer) or when I'm at a local trattoria in Panzano I always order pappardelle al ragu di cinghiale (the large flat shaped home made pasta with wild boar ragu).
Panzano in Chianti is a tiny village in the heart of Chianti Classico. I invite you to visit this hamlet and discover its narrow streets, warm people and welcoming store owners.
Villa di Vetrice Chianti Rufina 2012 $17.95 #401463
'Rufina' is a sub-zone of the large Chianti appellation territory, which is high in altitude and produces wines that have a tendency to age beautifully. Thirty minutes east of Florence, it's an easy day trip and a nice break from the Uffizi or yet another Florentine church.
Expect a medium to full body and lots of tannins in this wine. Remember my trick: if you find the tannins too strong, finish your recipes with generous fruity olive oil, extravirgin of course.
3. Enough Chianti?
Go to Maremma. Located on the western sea coast (mare=sea), you can breathe the salty sea winds and enjoy more minerality and flavour in these coastal wines.
Sassoregale Sangiovese Maremma 2012 $15.95 #251785 is a more traditional style Sangiovese that I always pair with Pecorino Toscano, the local cheese from sheep milk. The word 'pecorino' comes from 'pecora' (=sheep), There are many types of pecorino. Always ask for what locals eat: they are proud of their cheese and will always say theirs is the best.