David 28 January 2016
They say you should start as you mean to continue, so let’s get cracking on 2016 with 2 delicious and affordable reds.
The red wine
Chianti hails from the region of the same name, nestled in the Tuscan hills between Florence and Sienna.
The original Chianti blend was created in the mid-to-late 1800s by Baron Bettino Ricasoli, who eventually became the 2nd Prime Minister of Italy. His blend was 70% Sangiovese (red), 15% Canaiolo (red) and 15% Malvasi Bianca (white).
These days Chianti is a large area but, true to form, the Italian appellation system is confusing. There is standard Chianti, DOC Chianti and DOCG (top tier appellation) Chianti. The overlapping areas all have differing blend requirements, but it’s safe to assume Sangiovese when you think of Chianti.
Sangiovese, Italy’s most planted grape variety, tends to be slow and late ripening and has bright acidity with moderate to high tannin. It also tends to be light in colour and weight, which is why it’s often blended with other varieties. Typical descriptors for Chianti include cherry, raspberry, violets and herbs.
One of the 8 subzones of Chianti DOCG allowed to appear on the label is Chianti Colli Senesi (DOCG), located south of the Classico area in the hills of Sienna. It’s the largest subzone and within its boundaries are the famous areas of Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
Within Chianti Colli Senesi and half an hour south of Sienna you’ll find the impressive Castello di Farnetella. This estate has an incredible history, but came to prominence when purchased in 1981 by the Poggiali family, who also run the famed Tuscan estate Fattoria di Fèlsina.
Fèlsina wines are simply beautiful, the estate having been awarded the highly coveted Gamberro Rosso ‘Tre Bicchieri’ every year since first publication in 1988. Not only that, in 2009 Fèlsina was named Gamberro Rosso Winery of the Year. Not surprisingly it was the Fèlsina connection that initially caught my attention, particularly as the two fellows who oversee production there, Franco Bernabei and Giuseppe Mazzocolin, bring the same attention to detail to Castello di Farnetella.
Farnetella is a 432 ha estate, 56 of which are planted with vines. There are several varieties here but it’s mostly Sangiovese, and due to the more southerly location in Colli Senesi, it’s a
softer style of Chianti than the neighbouring Classico region.
This wine is produced from hand-picked, low yielding fruit which is allowed extended maceration (juice in contact with the skins). It’s a blend of 92% Sangiovese and 8% Merlot and is barrel aged for up to 12 months.
Now with a few years bottle age, the time has come to enjoy this deliciousChianti. In the glass it's crimson with a rusty edge. Be sure to let it open up before you tuck in. I found even letting it breath for 5 minutes made a world of difference.
You’ll initially find savoury notes of mushroom and fresh hay, but these quickly give way to juicy raspberries, chinoto and liquorice, as well as spicy pepper and cranberry. While the wine displays hallmark Chianti characters (mid-weight with firm acidity) I found it generous by the region’s standards.
Banish any thoughts of astringent juice in wicker clad bottles - this should be Chianti’s new benchmark. Flavoursome - imbibe with any type of food!
You will find it on the list for $85 a bottle at The Bridge Room (SMH Good Food & Wine Guide Restaurant of the Year for 2016).
I can offer it for $29 a bottle. Click here to order.
2. Château Pesquié Terrasses Rouge 2013
Let’s move to another region known worldwide for it’s easy drinking and affordable reds – France’s
southern Rhône. It’s warmer here than in Chianti, and the wines are a little more juicy and generous.
The familiar tipple here is Côtes du Rhône, an informal, mid-weight red that’s usually fruity, fragrant and easy to drink. But if you know where to look you can find appellations that offer something a little more serious and interesting than your standard CDR.
Once such appellation is Ventoux, a place where the last of the alpine country meets the warmth of Provence. Ventoux is nestled against the foothills of the Vaucluse Mountains, just east of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This unspoilt area takes its name from nearby Mt Ventoux, an imposing 6,500 ft peak that in recent decades has become a mythical climb in the Tour de France. The appellation is large, with about 6,000 ha of vines producing 60% red, 36% rosé, and 4% white. The main red varieties are the usual southern Rhône suspects; Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Mourvèdre and Carignan.
Ventoux reds are a little more supercharged than your standard Côtes du Rhône - tending to be darker and more generous. Wine Folly; “Bold wines that really show their terroir - reds with lots of pepper, spice and dark fruit. Native garrigue and lavender are major influences.” With a higher altitude than most of the southern Rhône and the cooling effect of the mountains, these wines tend to show more natural acidity and structure.
Despite vines having been cultivated here for centuries, the wines have remained obscure to the rest of the world. But recently Ventoux has been discovered by astute drinkers who've been enjoying wines from good producers at incredible value for money.
Located near the foot of Mt Ventoux lies one of the stars of the appellation, the beautiful Château Pesquié. This 3rd generation estate is a recent discovery for me, but I’m not the only one who likes it.
“Easily one of my favourite estates from the up-and-coming Ventoux region, Château Pesquié is run by the talented brothers, Alexandre and Frederic Chaudiere. The wines sell for a song, yet always deliver high-quality, loads of character and impeccably made profiles.” Jeb Dunnuck, Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate.
I like the minimal use of chemicals in the vineyard, combined with judicious use of both traditional techniques and state-of-the-art technology in the winery.
The estate makes several wines; white, rosé and red, but I reckon you can’t go past the
Terrasses Rouge for value. The name comes from the terraces, carved many generations ago, out of the steep hillsides to enable planting. The wine is a blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah (a higher percentage of Syrah than most CDR). There are also traces of Carignan, Cinsault and Mourvèdre.
The wine is a dark plummy red. The nose shows off a typically French savoury barnyard funk. The palate offers plenty of up-front, sweet, juicy plums, vanilla and peppery spice. Finished with velvety soft tannins, this is a generous but elegant wine.
“The 2013 Ventoux Terrasses offers gorgeous garrigue, white pepper, underbrush and sweet berry fruit to go with a forward, seamless, elegant style on the palate. Year in and year out this cuvée is incredible value and a no brainer that readers need to buy.” 91 points - Jeb Dunnuck, The Wine Advocate #216, Jan 2015.
This is an astounding score for a wine of this price!
“Juicy, sleek and very friendly.” Jancis Robinson 16/20. Also a great mark from her.
I love it when old world meets new.It’s a favourite at China Doll where you’ll find it for a very reasonable $45 a bottle.
I can offer it for $27 a bottle. Click here for new vintage.