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Killer Chianti for Christmas

Tasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Dana Malley, Chris Coronel, Kelley O’Neill, Jason Wentworth, Jay Reed

Chianti is probably the most well known and well loved Italian wine in the U.S. Its ubiquitous presence on the tables of Italian-American restaurants throughout post-World War II America insured that many diners’ first taste of Italian wine would be Chianti. For many, it remained the only Italian wine they could name. Dave Pohl, this article’s editor, recalls that even his Sicilian grandfather referred to his homemade wine as “my Chianti.”

True Chianti is made in the vineyards between Florence and Siena in the Italian region of Tuscany. Its production can be traced back to the thirteenth century, but production was not regulated until 1967. Currently, Chianti must be produced from at least 75% Sangiovese grapes, 80% if it hails from the Chianti Classico district. 10 percent of the juice may be from Canaiolo, a traditional blending grape for Chianti. Up to 15% of the grapes used can be “foreign” grapes such as Cabernet or Merlot.
Many top quality Chiantis now sport price tags of $30-$40 or even higher. The question for many wine drinkers is whether quality can be found at lower prices. To this end, the staff at Northside Wine & Spirits recently blind tasted 23 Chiantis priced less than $15 per bottle.

The wines were generally very tasty, with the tangy, cherry tinged fruit of Sangiovese nicely displayed. The tasting’s top wine was the 2006 Donna Laura Chianti Classico “Bramosia.” Northside was able to obtain a very small amount of this small production wine. Though reasonably priced at $14.99 per bottle, it’s limited to one bottle per customer. Crafted from 85% Sangiovese and 15% Merlot, a portion of this wine was aged in new French oak barrels. It is packed with cherry-like fruit tinged by a hint of violet. This delicious wine can be enjoyed with roast meats or flavorful pastas.

The runner-up was the more traditionally styled 2008 Poggio Romita Chianti “Il Fiorino,” costing $12.99 per bottle. Blended from 90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo, it was aged in concrete vats and bottled in the spring following the harvest. It exhibits very pure Sangiovese fruit with hints of mocha and menthol adding some complexity. It is a wine that could be drunk throughout most meals. Both these wines would be a superb choice for this year’s Christmas dinner!

If you would like the full tasting list along with the rankings, please email us your name, phone number, city, and zip code to

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