October 2005                              


Wines of the month - Paul DeRose

Tuscan Son

Rolling hills capped with Renaissance villas, and rows of tall cypresses framing olive trees and vineyards, all under a brilliant orange sun, makes Tuscany seem like a picturesque Neverland. This makes it all the harder to be objective about the wines of the province, which one might assume are as perfect as its scenic views and 16th century glory days. Actually, this was not the case only a generation ago, but Tuscany’s wines have improved in leaps and bounds in recent years.

Even though many different red and white wines are made in Tuscany, Chianti is the most famous and most widely available. It is not only the name of the wine, but also that of the region. Chianti is one of the oldest established wine regions with its boundaries first being defined about 300 years ago. Its signature wine is a medium-bodied red with stewed cherry fruit and a rustic yet laid back style that is fitting of its beautifully pastoral origin.

The main grape in Chianti is Sangiovese, a red grape, of course, but about ten percent white wine is blended into the mix, giving Chianti an easy drinking quality that enables it to go well with many different foods. The best of these wines come from the Chianti Classico sub-area, located between Florence and Siena in the heart of the much larger Chianti region. Those labeled Riserva tend to be more full-bodied and ageworthy, whereas, those coming in the well-known straw-rapped fiasco tend to be the lightest with the least distinction. The latter has all but disappeared with the recent ascent in quality of the region’s wines, which has taken place over the last twenty years. This has been a surprising event in such a traditional region where change tends to come slowly. Maybe not much else has changed in Tuscany over the decades, to the delight of tourist and locals alike, but I’m happy to say that Tuscan wines are in the midst of a second Renaissance.

Listed below are some of my favorite producers of Chianti Classico (all these producers also make an excellent Riserva for about twice the price). I have also included a few Sangiovese-based Tuscan wines that don’t fall in the Chianti Classico region, but deserve mention. Feel free to direct any questions or comments to me at deroseline@comcast.net.

• Brolio Chianti Classico ($20) *
• Poliziano Vino Nobile di Montepulciano ($25)
• Felsina Chianti Classico ($24)
• Fontodi Chianti Classico ($24)
• Isole et Olena Chianti Classico ($20)
• Banfi Chianti Classico ($11) *
• Banfi Centine ($10) *
• Gabbiano Chianti Classico ($10) *

* indicates available in Montgomery County