Tasted September 12th, 2010

What a Fiasco!

The original plan was to taste Supertuscans today but at some point, we modified the schedule to taste Chianti instead. Of course, just for fun, we'll throw in a Supertuscan anyway. Let's see how it compares...

We taste four Chiantis this afternoon, ranging from a blend of all Italian varietals to a pure Sangiovese wine, a mix of traditional and international varieties, plus a riserva from Rúfina. As a comparison, the final wine in our line up is a Supertuscan. Let`s see if the group prefers the traditional style of Chianti or the more familiar new-world flare.

The wine samples are listed below in order of tasting:

2007 IL Corno, Chianti Colli Fiorentini
2007 Antinori, Pèppoli Chianti Classico
2007 Le Filigare, Chianti Classico
2001 Frescobaldi, Montesodi, Castello di Nipozzano, Rúfina Riserva
2007 Poggiarello, Montebruno, Supertuscan

Chianti is a wine region that is forever changing - for the better most would say. The main grape used in its production is Sangiovese which, like Pinot Noir, can be a little difficult to ripen should conditions not be ideal. The grape is rather intolerant and is therefore blended with multiple other varietals to add a degree of complexity to the wine. You might say that Chianti has come under a great deal of international pressure to perform. In fact, not long ago, the mere mention of the name made people cringe at the thought of a thin lifeless table wine. Additionally, the squat, straw-covered bottles only added to the fiasco - literally, and with the onset of a new international style, that being a more full-bodied and fruit forward trend, Chianti was approaching imminent extinction.

One of the more significant modifications in the region was to update both the vineyards and cellars to reflect modern winemaking techniques common throughout the rest of the world. The growth of vine canopies on olive trees or other framework is all but non-existent these days and cellars are now immaculate; the result, better wines. Relatively new to the region as well, is the addition of international grape varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Shiraz to list a few. Blended with the Sangiovese, the wine have a more familiar body and taste to new-world drinkers. On the whole, Chianti is a wine which has been redefined and revitalized. The wines are perfect for pairing with rich pasta dishes and a variety of light finger foods.

But change in this region has gone far beyond minor modifications and modern thinking. Change here has also led to a revolutionary discovery. In the late 1960s, the world was about to witness the birth of a new wine; one which would send shivers up the spines of the Italian government and leave the rest of the wine-world awestruck. International varieties were not permitted in Chianti and traditionally, Sangiovese has always been the majority grape in the blend. But Bordeaux and later, California and Australia were creating full-bodied wines that were quickly changing the preferences of wine enthusiasts everywhere. A small but devoted group of winemakers in Tuscany had secretly been blending their Sangiovese with the international varieties. The mysterious wines were full-bodied, lush, and complex on the palate, full of new aromas and fascinating flavours but at the same time, they were also contradictory to what Italian laws allowed. Coined the ΄Supertuscan΄, Italy`s new rogue wine took the world by storm, ploughing through political restrictions and barriers to challenge the very best of Bordeaux, Napa, and Barossa. Today, these wines are widely available starting at around $30 with no apparent upper limit.

Our group tasted and ranked the wines in order of personal preference, the results are show below:

1st - 2001 Frescobaldi, Rúfina Riserva
2nd- 2007 Antinori Peppoli
3rd - 2007 Le Filigare
4th - 2007 IL Corno

While not listed in the overall ranking, the Montebruno Supertuscan was the clear favourite today but also in a sense, an unfair comparison. Therefore, for the sake of commonality, we shall only list the Chiantis in order of personal preference. The Frescobaldi, at almost tens years old, finished well in front of the other three selections which was somewhat expected with this group: looking back through our previous tasting sessions, history has shown us that as a whole, the members of North of 9 prefer well aged wines. Chianti can be tart in its youth and arguably is better served with food than on its own. The Rúfina however, had lost most of the tartness so typical of the Sangiovese grape and instead was quite smooth and fragrant compared to the others. Several members commented on the scent of violets. Second in the ranking was the Pèppoli by Antinori. This wine is of a very modern and international style which makes it very approachable in its early years. Compared to the Il Corno, a traditional blend, the Pèppoli had greater roundness on the palate and a more pronounced fruit core - quite nice indeed, but also a wine to enjoy with rich foods. In third today, finishing just behind the Pèppoli, was the Le Filigare, a purely Sangiovese wine. When conditions are just right, the Sangiovese grape can produce some wonderful wines without the addition of other grape varieties and this wine was a perfect example.

A very interesting tasting session indeed. The group seems to prefer bigger wines and a more international style over traditional blends and an old-world taste. At the end of the day however, it would appear as though we are all heading to the wine shop to buy a few Supertuscans! I'll add a couple to the Virtual Cellar shortly... Enjoy

Thank-you for joining us today. Next month, we explore the fascinating wines of Spain`s great Rioja region. See you then...