Originally from the Chianti region of Italy, these wines were first made in ball-shaped squat bottles and wrapped with a “fiasco“. The fiasco is a tight straw basket that gives styling and protection to the bottle (and sometimes a handle or string to carry). You can still find Chianti wines in these bottle styles today, but most makers have switched to standard shapes. Chianti wines are very popular in their home country of Italy, in Europe, and in North America. In the US many restaurants, especially Italian restaurants and restaurant chains, carry Chianti house wines. In certain cases it’s the only wine you’ll find on the menu. Like most wines Chianti’s can come in affordable versions, or more premium categories labeled as Classico, Riserva or Superiore.
- Basic Chianti: 11.5 percent alcohol
- Classico Chianti: at least 12 percent alcohol
- A Riserva Chianti has a minimum of 12.5 percent of alcohol and have aged 24 months at the winery
- Superiore Chianti requires additional criteria on aging, and sub-regions within the region that meet the label’s needs
Our story with Chianti’s
Layla and I remember many restaurants where we discovered Chianti wines and the food we ate at these times. For that reason the flavor of a Chianti wine reminds us of Italian dishes. But a Chianti wine can be enjoyed with many other types of foods. Since we have Italian friends who are good cooks we continue to learn about Italian food, but the wines served with Italian dishes are often not Chiantis – people bring what they like when they come with a bottle of wine. Italian friends sometimes choose something else than Chianti.
How to drink a Chianti wine
Red wines can be enjoyed typically in the range of 55 to 75 Fahrenheit degrees, with a good temperature being around 65 Fahrenheit degrees. One way to store wines at this temperature is to keep a room in your basement, where the temperature is slightly cooler year round, and also tends to incur less variations of hot and cold. For wines with a cork it’s best to store horizontally so that the cork does not dry and can, over time, lightly interact with the wine. If you consume a bottle soon after purchasing it there will be little impact. But if you plan on keeping the wine it will make a difference over the years.
In this tasting we used an affordable Chianti Classico Riserva aged 4 years, from Kirkland Signature, Costco’s wine brand. We poured 2 glassed side by side. The left glass is poured straight out of the bottle, not decanted. The glass to the right is decanted with a Vinturi wine aerator, which mixes air with the wine within a few seconds and accelerates naturally the wine decanting and aeration process. We found that decanting this Chianti wine gave it a slight edge over a straight pour. If you get a chance to decant your Chianti it is a good idea. You can also as we did in this experiment, which is run your own experiment by comparing two glasses of the same wine, one decanted and one not.
Chianti wine characteristics and suggestions
Classico Chianti wines are great values for the quality of wine you can get. You can find the higher-end bottles like Riserva also at good values. These wines are typically easy to drink, young-tasting, with relatively lower tannin flavors. This makes a wine that is a bit acidic in taste, but not in a bad way. Wine makers of Chianti have managed to tune the taste of these wines to make them appealing for most palates. As we build this list here is a first wine suggestion.
- 2012 Chianti Classico Riserva, Kirkland Signature by Costco
What to eat with Chianti wines
- Asparagus Risotto: a variation of an Italian classic, this risotto is ideal when asparagus are in season. You’ll blend your wine with a dish from Italy full of flavor.
- Brussels Sprouts with chorizo and cilantro: meats and vegetables make a good combination with red wines. This dish pairs Italian wine with South American food.
Find more recipes at Laylita’s Recipes.