Winefriend by David Way

Writing about the wines of Piemonte, Italy and France

Old style Chianti

Old style Chianti probably conjures up wicker baskets (in Italian – fiasco, which seems a little harsh) and thin, sharp wines.   In truth much of the cheap, commercial wines of previous decades was pretty awful.  Today’s wines are vastly better – quality wine making, vibrant if still sharp fruit, well judged use of oak-ageing in the premium wines.  If anything, the temptation recently has been to make international style wines with the Chianti Classico rules allowing up to 20% of grapes other than Sangiovese. That’s fine if the other grapes are Cannaiolo, Colorino or Ciliegiolo, the local varieties but not if they are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Syrah.  The latter are such powerful characters that less than 10% will change the character of the wine completely.  Most growers have now understood this and retreated to a more traditional stance – Sangiovese plus local varieties, and if you must, a small percentage of French grape varieties for colour and upfront fruit. 

IMG_4284 A few growers have had nothing to do with these changing fads.  They can’t be called complete traditionalists because if they were they should still be adding some white grapes to their blends as happened in the past.  But they have stuck to Sangiovese plus locals.  Equally importantly they are looking for a style that does not focus on primary fruit flavours.  This Chianti Rufina, from a north easterly part of Chianti, East of Florence, is genuinely different – it’s perfumed.  There is some cherry fruit there, and some dried fruit flavours, but there is also something which has elements of both mushrooms and, well, Turkish delight …  The blend here is 90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo nero.  This style takes time and this bottle was five years old and had many years ahead of it. But it’s a wine to celebrate because it couldn’t really have come from anywhere but the northerly hills of Chianti.  Available in the UK from both the Wine Society and Berry’s, between £8.50 and £10.50 a bottle.  Grati/Galiga e Vetrice also produced some premium wines and some great Vin Santo, but they don’t appear to be available here.  A good excuse for another trip to Chianti …

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