It’s been a while since I’ve offered a Chianti but I've recently found one by a top winemaker, with a few years age on it, that's delicious and at the right price. Also, while it has no bearing on the wine inside, I like the label.
Chianti is one of the most recognisable names in wine, perfect for when something not too esoteric is required on the table. But while it’s well-known, what exactly is Chianti? For many it’s a bottle, clad in a straw basket (a fiasco - no, that’s what it’s called) often of uncertain quality, at the local pizza joint. But Chianti has come a long way in the past couple of decades, with huge improvements in quality, as well as phasing out the straw packaging. Things are looking better all round.
Located between Florence and Sienna in the stunning Tuscan countryside, Chianti, like many European wine terms is both the name of the region and wine. Tuscany is home to some of the world’s best wines - Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and the Super Tuscans.
Winemaker Franco Bernabei.
Chianti has been referred to as far back as the 13th century, but it was not until 1716 that the region was officially recognised with the identification of three specific villages (Castellina, Radda and Gaiole). This original area, which became known as Chianti Classico, remained more-or-less unchanged until 1932, when it was expanded, then expanded again in 1967, to cover a large area of central Tuscany.
Nowdays there are 7 sub-zones within the Chianti DOCG (the highest classification in the Italian hierarchy):
1. Chianti Colli Fiorentini
2. Chianti Rufina
3. Chianti Montalbano
4. Chianti Colli Senesi
5. Chianti Colline Pisane
6. Chianti Colli Aretini
7. Chianti Montespertoli
Chianti Classico is a separate DOCG to Chianti and, being Italy, there are several other delineations thrown into the geographical mix to further complicate matters.
In the mid-to-late 1800s, Baron Bettino Ricasoli (winemaker and 2nd prime minister of Italy) created the original varietal formula for Chianti. He pegged it at 70% Sangiovese (red), 15% Canaiolo (red) and 15% Malvasi Bianca (white). There have been subsequent changes, but since 1996 it’s been legal to use 80-100% Sangiovese, up to 20% Canaiolo and up to 20% of 49 other approved red varieties, including Cab Sauv, Merlot and Syrah. Despite this complexity, it’s safe to think of Chianti as essentiallySangiovese.
Sangiovese is Italy’s most planted variety and tends to be slow and late ripening in the vineyard. Its general characteristics are bright acidity and moderate to high tannin. It also tends to be lighter in colour and weight, which is why it’s often blended with other varieties. Chianti is usually a mid-weight wine and typical descriptors include: cherry, raspberry, violets and herbs.
Fiorini Chianti Superiore 2014
Winemaker Franco Bernabei has served as consultant to many of the most prestigious estates in Italy, including Folonari, Fontodi, Sartori, Guicciardini Strozzi and a real favourite of mine Felsina. With a family history in winemaking, and degrees in viticulture and enology, Franco’s interest lies in traditional Italian wines and local grape varieties, most notably Sangiovese.
Over the years Franco has collected a swag of awards including an 'Oscar del Vino' (Wine Oscar) in 2000, presented by the Associazione Italiana Sommelier. On two occasions his wines have also placed in Wine Spectator’s ‘Top 100 Wines of the World’. Suffice to say, he knows his stuff.
Chianti SuperioreDOCG was introduced in 1996 and while grapes for Superiore must come from within the 7 sub-zones of the Chianti DOCG, its distinguishing features are a more stringent set of production and ageing requirements, rather than a geographical designation. Most notably, Superiore must be aged for at least nine months before being released, as opposed to standard Chianti which only requires 3 months. Superiore is essentially as a step up from standard Chianti.
The Fiorini is a blend of 90% Sangiovese with a dash of Canaiolo, Ciliegolo and Cabernet to round out the blend. The fruit was sourced from villages within the Chianti DOCG and was aged in a combination of new and old barriques (225L) and tonneaux (900L) for a minimum of nine months.
Bright ruby red - it’s delicious drinking, with simple, yet classic ripe red cherry and violet aromas. On the palate, juicy cherry and cranberry notes mingle with licorice, cloves and pepper. Subtle astringency and spice tempers the lush fruit with powdery fine tannins on the finish. Fresh, mid-weight and with great balance of fruit and savouriness, it’s not only easy and affordable drinking, it’s a great partner for just about anything at the table - salumi, chicken liver on crostini, spaghetti bolognese, rare steak, veal ragu, Pecorino and roquette, roast vegetable, hazelnut and goats’ cheese salad…
I can offer it for $23 a bottle. Click here to order new vintage