WINE O’CLOCK: There’s more to this one than a fat, fancy bottle
BACK in the Seventies, no trendy home was without a Chianti bottle. Some people even drank the wine, but the key thing was the rotund bottle, known as a fiasco (flask), in which candles could be burned, the accumulated wax giving them an even chubbier shape.
Ruffino Chianti was the best known label bottled in this way, leading many people (me, for one) to believe it was the only Chianti.
In fact there are many Chiantis, most of which come in normal bottles, and all from the Tuscany region of Italy.
Chianti was once a blend of several grapes, including some white grapes, which gave it an inconsistent quality and flavour. Since 1996 grapes in the blend have been restricted to Sangiovese (at least 75%), Canaiolo (no more than 10%) and up to 20% of any other approved red grape variety such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Syrah.
The versions of this wine you are most likely to encounter in a store or on a restaurant list are Chianti and Chianti Classico. Chianti Classico is aged a little longer and has a slightly higher alcohol level, but there’s not much difference really.
Chianti Superiore is a DOCG wine (Italy’s equivalent of Appelation d’Origine Controlee) produced in a restricted number of provinces. Superiore wines have stricter rules of production than other Chiantis.
In all versions of Chianti, you can expect a rustic wine that smells and tastes of cherries. Good with cold meats, cheese, or game.
Tesco has an excellent Chianti Reserva 2012, selling for €9 online and in some of its stores and Dunne’s Chianti Classico DOCG Campomaggio is good value at around a tenner.
More money will get you bigger wines with more complex flavours. Try Barone Ricasoli Brolio 2012 (hints of liquorice and aniseed), Fontodi 2011 Classico (more plum than cherry) and Frescobaldi Nipozzano 2011 (smooth, dark, like a good espresso). At independent retailers, from €20 to €28.