Our last newsletter focused on the bold new Tuscan red wines. This week, take a closer look at the roots of the Super-Tuscan revolution in Italian wines and gain a new appreciation for Chianti.
According to Carlino’s Restaurant patrons, Chianti Classico remains a perennial favorite; given this affable wine’s long history of pairing beautifully with food, it’s no wonder.
The Original Tuscan Red Wine: Chianti Classico
When you think of Tuscan red wines, you might think first of the marvelous Super-Tuscan wines that have taken the wine-loving world by storm for the past decade and a half. The Super-Tuscans couldn’t have evolved into some of the world’s most popular cabernet sauvignon-based wines without their forerunner, Chianti Classico.
Made from Sangiovese grapes, Chianti Classico is Italy’s most famous wine and has been raised to an art form in Tuscany.
The agency that oversees Italian wines, the DOC, sets standards on the percentages of certain grapes that a genuine Chianti may contain. The DOC also delineates where Chianti can be made; a Chianti must come from one of seven provinces in Tuscany. Chianti Classico comes only from the Chianti province within the Toscano region.
The soul of a Chianti or Chianti Classico doesn’t come from a ratio, though; it’s the product of centuries of experimentation. The dark, intense Italian Sangiovese grapes form the wine’s backbone, but the DOC permits a great deal of flexibility with the other grapes used in a Chianti. That’s why these lively wines vary so much, and it’s part of their enduring charm.
Chianti’s bold, bright flavor is such a natural accompaniment to Italian food that the straw-wrapped bottles are still an iconic image next to a plate of spaghetti with marinara sauce. What sets Chianti apart is its blend of red Sangiovese and white Malvasia Blanca grapes more commonly used for white wines. This combination gives Chianti a buoyant fruitiness and lightness that complements everything from pasta to pizza.
Compared to their Super-Tuscan descendants, Chianti and Chianti Classico have an easygoing nature. They’re uncomplicated and cheerful like a convivial dinner with family, while their Super-Tuscan counterparts are more like an elegant dinner party with friends.
Whether it’s an assertive Super-Tuscan with its Cabernet Sauvignon lineage or a fun, fruity Chianti that embraces its Italian roots, the red wines of Tuscany deserve their esteemed place on the table. Carlino’s staff can recommend choice wine pairings for anything on the menu.
Sincerely, Carlo, Wali and all your friends at Carlino’sTweet read more
The Carlino’s Restaurant wine poll (please see results below) has revealed that our customers most prefer Cabernet Sauvignon and Chianti Classico. They’re in good company; Italian vintners have spent millennia perfecting Italian Cabernet Sauvignon and Chianti wines. But nowhere else will you find such a unique set of climatic and geological conditions combine to form perfection more pronounced than in Tuscany.
Although grapes grow well throughout the country, Tuscan wines have a well-deserved reputation for quality. The fine marble that comes from Tuscany gives a hint about what makes the wines from there so special. The limestone-rich soils, famous for the marble produced from this region, is also the key to imparting the grapes with the robust mellow flavor that rival the other great wines of the world.
The Tuscan Reds: Super-Tuscan Wines
If there was an Italian wine that resembled the incredible creative power and artisanal mastery of Michelangelo it would be the Super-Tuscans. While some Italian wines use only Sangiovese, many also integrate Cabernet Sauvignon which bestows Bordeaux wines with their characteristic full-bodied flavor. Here in the warm Mediterranean climate, Cabernet Sauvignon grapes lends a different spiciness to the character of wines typically grown in French fields. The Super-Tuscans combine Italian Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon to create a new elite class of Italian wines.
Super-Tuscan wines evolved almost by accident. Chianti winemakers served these blends on their own tables, but never sold them until recently. The organization that oversees Italian winemaking, the DOC, didn’t know what to make of these wines that didn’t quite fit the guidelines for Chianti, but were so clearly related. Rather than fight their way through the DOC’s regulations, growers began producing their delectable Tuscan red wines and selling them without DOC categorization.
Wine lovers around the world quickly embraced these wines even without the DOC’s stamp of approval. The maverick winemakers’ instincts were correct; everyone loves these Cabernet Sauvignon-based Tuscan reds.
The oldest of the Super-Tuscans, Tenuta san Guido’s Sassicaia relies exclusively on Cabernet Sauvignon for its bold and complex taste. Wine-makers are notoriously secretive about their art, but it’s highly rumored that Sassicaia’s Tuscan fields were first planted with vines taken from Château Lafite-Rothschild. Recently, many wine enthusiasts have come to realize that Sassicaia has been eclipsed by Ornellaia, a rival from a neighboring vineyard. Although Super-Tuscan wines share similar characteristics from the same micro-region, blending and aging does make the difference. If you get the chance, try them both.
These are richly tannic and full-bodied wines with enough acidity to pair beautifully with tomato-based Italian sauces and flavorful game.
Carlo, Wali and all your friends at Carlino’s
(Note: This is the first of a two part series on Tuscan Red Wines. Next we focus on The Original Tuscan Red Wine: Chianti Classico)
According to Carlino’s Restaurant’s latest poll, 1/3 of our customers prefer Cabernet Sauvignon, 1/4 Chianti Classico, followed by Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Brunello.Tweet read more