British Columbia

Chianti Classico wines are complex, flavourful and soft says wine columnist

The word 'Chianti' may conjure images of a bulb-shaped wine bottle partially wrapped in straw or you may think of Chianti as the ultimate cheap and cheerful drink to pair with with spaghetti or pizza.

On the Coast wine columnist Barb Philip says Chianti is Tuscany's most famous wine

On the Coast wine columnist Barb Philip says Chianti wines are Tuscany's most famous variety and the ultimate food wine. (AP Photo/Gretchen Heefner)
On the Coast wine columnist Barb Philip (CBC)

The word 'Chianti' may conjure up images of a bulb-shaped wine bottle partially wrapped in straw or you may think of Chianti as the ultimate cheap and cheerful drink to pair with with spaghetti or pizza.

"I think if you talk about the 70s and 80s, Chianti was one of the first mass market wines to be widely available," said On the Coast wine columnist Barb Philip. "It was quenching and simple...so that kind of reputation is well deserved."

Philip says one of the defining characteristics of Chianti at every level is that its base is sangiovese grapes.

"Sangiovese does tend to be medium and light-bodied and always has a really juicy tang to it. There's an orangey, kind of citrus tang to it which makes it in my opinion, the ultimate food wine." 

A wine harvest worker snips off grapes at the Castello Banfi vineyard in Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy (Fabrizio Giovannozzi/AP)

However, Philip says people often forget that there are other really great Chianti wines, particularly the specially designated Chianti Classico, which comes from the rolling hills of central Tuscany.

"You are getting lower yields, more flavour, more complexity and it's a little bit softer," said Philip. "The acidity is still there but it's built around so many other things, like gorgeous ripe tannins, sour cherry fruit and often there's a little bit of oak."

Philip says if you see a black rooster prominently displayed on Chianti bottles in B.C. liquor stores, it guarantees the wine is endorsed by the Chianti Classico Consorzio, which promotes, controls and approves the wine.

Philip's Chianti Classico recommendations

  • Piccini Chianti 'Fiasco'. 2012 $15.50
  • Rocca delle Macìe Chianti Classico 2011.  $17.50
  • Mazzei Chianti Classico Riserva 'Ser Lapo' 2011. $31.50
  • San Felice Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 'Il Grigio'. 2010.$43.50

To hear the full interview with wine columnist Barb Philip , listen to the audio labelled Chianti wines

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