Chianti Wines

Written by Blaire Chandler-Wilcox
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Chianti is made from the much under-rated, relatively unknown Sangiovese grape. Despite the fact that this Italian grape does very well in warm climates and is considered quite capable to produce great wines in such environments, Sangiovese grapes have been largely ignored by the majority of "new world" winemakers, even as they've been quick to grasp the potential of other European grapes like Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. Only a few plantings to date have occurred in California, Argentina and Australia.

Experts believe that this reluctance stems from Chianti's overall image problem. Due to over-production and exportation of what can only kindly be referred to as "jug wine" in the '70s, Chianti wine suffered a tremendous blow to its reputation. This is extremely unfortunate, since many excellent Chiantis are now being produced.

The Sangiovese Grape: Jupiter's Blood

Sangiovese grapes, in addition to being the main component in Chianti, are also found in other classic Northern Italian wines, two of which are Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montelpulciano. They can also be found, in limited supply, in some wines from Argentina, Australia and California. To date, the best experiments outside of Italy are happening in Australia, though California efforts appear to be continually improving.

In general, Chiantis are light colored, with flavors and aromas which are both fruity and earthy. Specifically, fine examples will have overtones of mushrooms, black currants, and spices. Chiantis pair excellently and naturally, with most light- and medium-bodied Italian meals, as well as casual red-meat entrees, such as hamburgers and barbecue. They are a delightful summertime red, perfect for vegetarian bean-based dishes, and savory, firm cheeses.

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