What is a good way to describe and taste Chianti?

Chianti wine tastes as rich and varied as the landscape itself, the sun-drenched slopes and gentle rolling hills allowing the Sangiovese grape to flourish to its full potential. Various sub-regions with their differing soils, climates and elevations all help express the grape’s character in their own special way, creating various levels of power, ripeness and finesse. What is a good way to describe and taste Chianti?

The grape: Sangiovese

Sangiovese is a grape that creates fruity, juicy wines with strong cherry notes and high acidity. But of course it is never that simple; there are many quality levels ranging from inexpensive to premium, all adding a different voice and personality to this unique wine.

One of the best places to appreciate and experience the various wine flavours and expressions is the vineyard itself. Chianti as a region is picture-postcard perfect; the breathtaking landscape offers a stunning environment to enjoy a wine in its natural terrain. The vineyard gives the opportunity to taste the variety of wines, learning about what makes each producer’s wine special.

Rather than just opening a basic Chianti, or deciding to taste the one you’ve had resting in your cellar, you can experience anything from an inexpensive wine to a beautifully aged Gran Selezione.

The taste and the smell

When tasting a wine, the conditions come into consideration. Has it just been opened or has it had chance to breathe, are you having it with food or without.  I recently opened a Gran Selezione 2011 and decided to start the tasting when it was fresh out of the bottle.  At first sip the primary fruit aromas were struggling to deliver. The secondary notes of oak were coming through but in a somewhat flat manner.

I decided to wait half an hour, allowing the wine chance to breathe brought out the true potential of the bottle.  The mouth gripping tannins suddenly softened, and the balanced acidity completed perfectly the ripe cherry and raspberry. The tertiary aromas flourished both on the nose and the palate. Black pepper with delicious notes of bitter espresso and sweet spice as well as dried prune and fig, with hints of fresh herb.  Giving the wine chance to rest and breathe allowed the complexity of this wine time to develop and express itself.

A wine for food: the perfect food pairing

And then I sat down to eat, and this is when Chianti really comes into its own.  This is a wine, with its sharp acidity and gripping tannins, that is made for food.  Hearty, earthy meals filled with meat and tomato bring out the flavours of the wine. Chianti’s high acidity stands up to the natural acidity of tomatoes. The coarse tannins soften the meat and bring out its succulent flavours.

Just as perfect as pairing is the classic ‘Tagliere’, a wooden board piled high with mouth watering Italian cheese, salami and prosciutto. The salty meat and  creamy cheese drizzled with sweet dried fruit conserve or honey all bring to the forefront the rich and  fruit flavours, whilst also softening and balancing the wine.

And so the conclusion is, the best way to taste Chianti is in Italy!  The vineyards offer a beautiful setting and the food complements the wine perfectly.  All the flavours of the wine suddenly make sense as they resonate around you.  Balsamic, oregano, coffee, pepper, fresh cherry; all flavours integral to Italian life, and all to be found in a beautifully balanced and well rounded glass of Chianti.