Tuscany meets 2003
Let's merge two frequently discussed topics into one quick intro today as we take a look at a Tuscan red (this month's Wine Tasting 101 topic), with particular focus on another recurring issue, the impact of the fiery summer of 2003 on the wines of Europe.
From farther south, though, from the Southern Rhone into Italy, where producers know from experience how to deal with heat, the effects of '03 are more subtle. Big wines get bigger. Tannic wines get more tannic. I've tasted a few, including a recently reported '03 Dolcetto, that very much rang my chimes. Today's Chianti (from Colli Senesi, one of seven designated Chianti sub-regions) is ripe and mouth-filling, with plenty of acidity, and that's the formula for a winner, even though an unusual excess of tannic astringency is less than typical. Like most of the '03s, it's offbeat ... but not far enough off the beaten path to make me crabby about it.
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Simone Santini 2003 Tenuta Le Calcinaie Chianti Colli Senesi ($15)
This is a very dark garnet wine, almost opaque, not exactly hazy but conveying the impression that it's unfiltered. Black fruit aromas, plums and cherries, add an attractive hint of cedar. Big, mouth-filling fruit flavors follow the nose, nicely balanced with tart, Tuscan-style acidity along with chalky tannins unusual in a Chianti, surely a legacy of the searing summer of 2003. It's not unappealing, but the tart astringency goes better with food than for sipping alone. U.S. importer: Vintner Select, Cincinnati (and other regional importers); a Marc di Grazia selection. (Oct. 8, 2005)
FOOD MATCH: Even more than the stereotypical tomato-sauced pasta, grilled red meat is the traditional match with Chianti. We went with both for a fine Tuscan dinner: Rare flatiron steaks and a bowl of spaghetti with a garlicky broccoli and fresh-tomato sauce.
VALUE: Mid-teens seems a fair price for quality Chianti in today's market.
WHEN TO DRINK: Not an investment ager, but a few years in a good cellar might give the perceptible tannins time to resolve into something more subtle.
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Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2005