A Wine Lover's Weekly Guide To $10 Wines - An Inexpensive Chianti

I remember Chianti decades ago. It came in straw-covered bottles and was often as not consumed in Italian restaurants sporting red and white checkered tablecloths. Perhaps as a forerunner to greener times, empty bottles were converted into lamps or simply stoppered with a candle. Back in those days Italian law stipulated that Chianti contain a minimum percentage of white Tuscan grapes. Nobody except the vintners knew and nobody cared that Chianti was perhaps the prime method of getting rid of those white grapes of dubious quality. The wine was red, in fact for many people it was the red wine parallel to the Portuguese rose Mateus and the German white Liebfraumilch. Times have changed and Chianti now boasts Italy's top wine designation, DOCG, which in spite of the word Garantita, is no guarantee of quality. Admittedly, I did feel some excitement at opening the pink ribbon that only DOCG red wines may carry.
This particular wine is 85% Sangiovese and 15% a combination of a local red grape Canaiolo and the international red grape Merlot. The producer Straccali has been in business since 1925 and the grapes are hand picked. What more could someone want? But is it possible to get a fine wine from a well-known and hardly inexpensive wine region for $10 (less if you shop around in the United States)?

OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.

Wine Reviewed Straccali Chianti DOCG 2007 12.5 % alcohol about $10

Let's start with the marketing materials. Tasting Note: Medium ruby red color; aromas and flavors of cherry and strawberry, with dried herb note; dry, medium bodied with well-balanced acidity and tannins on finish. Serving Suggestion: Try with pasta with game sauce, risotto, roasted veal, or bistecca fiorentina. And now for my review.

At the first sip the wine was mouth filling but a bit short. This was no $25 Chianti - did I really think that it would be one? The first pairing was with a shepherd's pie. The wine was fruity and showed notes of tobacco. Initially the wine was short. Then I added a green jalapeno pepper mix. The Chianti intensified but did lose some fruit.

The second pairing included a barbecued chicken leg with the paprika dusted skin on, potato patties, and a tomato salsa. The wine really cut the grease. It was pleasant with nice round tannins and tasted of tobacco and black cherries. It was better with the greasy barbecue than with the acidic salsa. I also ate had a few sweet and sour barbecued chicken wings. The wine traded some of its fruit for more tobacco.

The final meal included barbecued spare ribs. The Chianti was nicely acidic and chewy tasting of chocolate and dark fruits. I tasted some oak. It cut the grease of the accompanying potatoes roasted in chicken fat.

In the presence of the first cheese, a marbled Cheddar, the wine was fruity with a note of tobacco. When faced with a Mozzerella, I tasted the oak and black cherries.

Final verdict. I would buy this wine again, especially if I could get it at a bargain price. But it doesn't deserve Italy's finest wine classification. By the way, Tuscany is home to many wines at five to ten times the price that hold the lowly IGT classification. We won't be reviewing them here. And until the economy really rebounds, we won't be reviewing them at all.

Over the years Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten computer and Internet books, but really prefers drinking fine German wine, along with friends and the right foods. He teaches sundry computer classes at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his global wine website http://www.theworldwidewine.com with a weekly column reviewing $10 wines and new sections writing about
(theory) and tasting (practice) organic and kosher wines.