Friday Tastings: Chianti Reconsidered

The Italian region of Chianti is both ancient (it dates back to 700 A.D.) and resurgent (its straw-covered jug days are firmly in the past). Proof positive: a couple of high-shouldered beauties to pair with your next plate of bresaola.

Three cheers for the Three Glasses Award winner Brolio

Castello Brolio Chianti Classico 2007.

The Ricasoli family owns the oldest winery in Italy (not to mention a medieval castle worthy of Scooby Doo), and their Chianti is a thing of beauty. A blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, redolent of ripe cherries, fall spices and a touch of funk, it makes a worthy stand-in for its more prestigious Tuscan relatives, Barolo and Barberesco. But don’t just take our word for it—Italian wine guide Gambero Rosso agreed, awarding it Tre Bicchieri (three glasses), their highest rating. At $68 a bottle, la bella Brolio manages to be both pricey and a great value.

I Fabbri Riserva 2006

Sisters Susanna and Maddalena Grassi select the grapes for this all-Sangiovese Chianti from one of the highest vineyards in the region, on the slopes of the famous hill of Lamole. The sisters farm organically, which means that (unlike most wineries) they use no additional yeast to spur along the fermentation process. Their 2006 Riserva (a designation bestowed on wines aged for a minimum of two years, three months) makes for a meaty and complex glass that we’d love to introduce to a dish of sautéed mushrooms. It’s about half the price of the Brolio, and is truly a terroir-driven wine—you can taste that famous hillside in every sip, and that’s high praise. Outside of major wine capitols, you may have to hunt for these bottles, but bring either one to your next dinner party, and you’ll be the toast of the hosts.

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