The red wines of Chianti, a smaller region within Tuscany, are Italy’s most recognizable wines as well as some of my favorites.
They are made principally from Tuscany’s most noble red grape called sangiovese (saun-jee-o-vay-zay). The name literally means the blood of Jove, or Jupiter who is the king of the Roman gods and the Greek equivalent of Zeus.
The locals refer to the grape as prugnolo gentile and traditionally considered it so noble that it need not be blended with any other grapes. However, over the years the sangiovese grape has been blended with various native Italian grapes like Canaiolo and Trebbiano, and recently French varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
I absolutely enjoy big name Tuscan Wines, the most prestigious being Brunello di Montalcino. This wine is made from a particular clone of sangiovese known as GROSSO in the city of Montalcino.
While Brunellos can certainly stop you dead in your tracks they can also bear outrageous price tags. Therefore I have only had the chance to sample them when a well-to-do customer would offer me a taste or leave a partially full bottle behind. And on occasion my generous manager would break out a bottle from his own private collection.
Now on the opposite end of the spectrum you have cheap Chiantis. These wines are nothing to get excited about as they are typically thin and coarse and about as uneventful as your Grandma’s bridge game.
When one is in the market for a tasty Tuscan that wont break the bank, they should consider a noble wine from Montalcino’s neighbor to the east known as Montepulciano (maun-ti-pool-chee-ah-no). Their most famous wine called Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (VDNM), or the noble wine of Montepulciano, has been recognized as quality since the eighteenth century.