February is for the lovers. It’s for cuddling up next to a fireplace with a nice glass of wine in hand, and what better a wine than Chianti?
Chianti is a subregion in Italy’s large Tuscany region. Centered around Florence, Tuscany is known for a rich tradition of both food and wine. While walking the streets of Florence you’ll find pizzeria after pizzeria, all of them serving red wine like water. Care to take a guess as to what type of wine they are serving? Chianti and other major wines of the region of Tuscany, which are based on Sangiovese. Prugnolo and Brunello di Montalciano are both popular clones of Sangiovese grapes used all over the region, and this easy drinking red wine is normally paired with foods containing a tomato based sauce like pastas, pizzas and Italian sandwiches. The classic pairing rule of “goes with where” applies here perfectly because the food and wine developed together in Tuscany are inseparable. Planning on making your famous lasagna for a date night? Don’t forget the Chianti!
A buying guide for Chianti is fairly necessary because Chianti is a big region in Italy separated into many subregions, each with different restrictions. The two main regions I will focus on are Chianti and Chianti Classico. Essentially, Chianti was expanded to include estates that were making quality wines outside of the region. Chianti Classico is the original, smaller region and is inside of the bigger Chianti region. The wine in the Chianti Classico region is usually higher quality as they have the best growing sites, and winemakers tend to take more care of their Chianti Classicos if they make both Chianti and Chianti Classico. You may see some bottles marked Riserva. Riserva is a legal term in Italy and means reserve which is different than “Reserve” in the United States, which may be affixed to anything. In Chianti Classico, Riservas have to be aged for 2 years in oak and 3 months in the bottle before they are released, and most producers will age their wines much longer than required. This extended aging process results in a more elegant and complex wine and producers will only use their top grapes, which makes Chianti Classico Riserva the top of the crop in the region.
Chianti has a rich history of long standing wineries. Names like Antinori and Banfi have been synonymous with the region for years. Some of these wineries have been making wine for centuries and are great bastions of both wine and history. My top picks from the Chianti regions are Marchese Antinori’s Chianti Classico Riserva, which is an elegant and powerful red with black cherry, plums, toasted oak and earthy spices on the finish. For those looking for a great, easy to find bargain Chianti, try Gabbiano Chianti. With bright red fruit flavors and a touch of oak it’s a great every day pasta and pizza wine. So, this February whether you are making lasagna from scratch or just ordering a pizza for a Netflix binge on a snowy day, don’t forget the Chianti!
Top image via whotalking.com