30 Second Wine Advisor: Benchmark Chianti
Today's Sponsor
 Wine Grape Varietal Table
Just in time for holiday gifting, let's take another look at one of my favorite wine-education accessories: Steve and Deborah De Long's Wine Grape Varietal Table.
www.delongwine.com

In This Issue
 Benchmark Chianti One good way to learn wine is by tasting wines that clearly exemplify their region, grape variety or style.
 Piazzano 2004 Chianti ($9.99)
Simple, modestly priced and enjoyable and eminently food-friendly, it could be used to illustrate the dictionary definition of "everyday Chianti."
 Wine Grape Varietal Table
Just in time for holiday gifting, let's take another look at one of my favorite wine-education accessories: Steve and Deborah De Long's Wine Grape Varietal Table.
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On the road again
I'll be traveling again next week, combining family and wine business in a trip to the Orlando area and then NYC, where I'll moderate a Tuscan Wine Seminar with the Italian Trade Commission on Thursday. Because of my travels, the 30 Second Wine Advisor Wednesday and Friday editions and Thursday FoodLetter will take the week off. While I'm away, our online food and wine forums will still be going strong. I hope you'll stop by!
Benchmark Chianti

One good way to learn wine is by tasting wines that clearly exemplify their region, grape variety or style ... wines that could be used to illustrate their definition in an unabridged wine dictionary.

This notion of "benchmark wines" becomes increasingly important in an era when so many producers, for better or worse, chase the market by making wines in an increasingly "international" style, fruit-forward and soft and easy. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but for those of us who admire a wine that proudly expresses its own heritage and sense of place (what the French call gout de terroir or "taste of the soil"), it's useful to take passing notice of the wines that show their regional character, and those that don't.

Our monthly Wine Focus and Wine of the Month programs in our online forums (which will feature Champagne and sparkling wines for December) engage in an ongoing pursuit of "benchmark" wines that can serve as standards for wine education, and I'm always eager to have nominations from readers, so please don't hesitate to get in touch and let me know any time you run into any wine that seems a particularly accurate representative of its region or grape.

This week, though, I'm in a Tuscan mood, with my Tuscan Seminar presentation with the Italian Trade Commission in NYC coming up on Thursday, so a modest but representative bottle of Tuscany's trademark wine, Chianti, seemed just the thing for today's report. With more than seven centuries of history behind it, Chianti may be the most classically Italian wine; and in modern times it has fully shed its old wicker-wrapped image as cheap "spaghetti wine." Even the simple Chianti, without any fancy "Classico" or "Riserva" tacked on, remains one of my favorite wines when I'm in the mood for something warm, comfortable and food-friendly.

Today's featured wine, Piazzano 2004 Chianti, is a fine example. I doubt that it would receive, or expect, a 90-plus rating from the usual suspects, but it hits the center of my target as a fresh, crisply acidic and characteristic Chianti.


Piazzano Piazzano 2004 Chianti ($9.99)

Clear dark ruby in color, with the characteristic reddish-orange glints of a Sangiovese-based wine. Ripe cherries and spice aromas are right on target for Chianti, as are its tart red-fruit flavor and appropriately sharp acidity, shaped by an earthy hint of tannic astringency. Not at all complex, but an enjoyable drink, especially at the dinner table. U.S. importer: Michael Skurnik Wines, Syosset, N.Y., and other regional importers; from Marc de Grazia. (Nov. 30, 2006)

FOOD MATCH: If it's a cliche with pizza or red-sauced Italian dishes, that's because it works so well. It fared just as well with a simple dinner fashioned from leftovers: Shredded chicken sauteed with green peppers, onions, celery and garlic.

VALUE: At $10 a bottle it's a fine buy, not all that much more expensive than I used to pay for those wicker bottles in pizzerias years ago.

WHEN TO DRINK: Basic Chianti isn't really meant for long-term cellaring, but it will certainly hold up for a few years on the wine rack.

PRONUNCIATION:
Chianti = "Kee-AHN-tee"

WEB LINK:
Here's a link to the importer's fact sheet on this wine. You can link back from this page to a more extended article with photos about the winery.
http://www.skurnikwines.com/wines.cgi?
rm=view_detail&wine_id=7003

FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Look up vendors and check prices for Piazzano Chianti on Wine-Searcher.com:
http://www.wine-searcher.com/
find/Piazzano%2bChianti/-/-/USD/A?referring_site=WLP


TALK ABOUT WINE ONLINE:
To read and comment on today's column in our non-commercial WineLovers Discussion Group, click:
http://www.wineloverspage.com/forum/village/viewtopic.php?t=4931

Today's article is cross-posted in our Netscape WineLovers Community, where we also welcome comments and questions.
http://community.netscape.com/winelovers?nav=messages&tsn=1&tid=4960

To contact me by E-mail, write wine@wineloverspage.com. I'll respond personally to the extent that time and volume permit.

PRINT OUT TODAY'S ARTICLE
Here's a simply formatted copy of today's Wine Advisor, designed to be printed out for your scrapbook or file or downloaded to your PDA or other wireless device.
http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor1/print061201.html


Wine Grape Varietal Table
Steve and Deborah De Long's Wine Grape Varietal Table mimics the familiar periodic table of the elements to categorize a world of wine grape varieties.
Wine Grape Varietal Table

Just in time for holiday gifting, let's take another look at one of my favorite wine-education accessories: Steve and Deborah De Long's Wine Grape Varietal Table. This quality fine-art poster - accompanied with a densely-packed, informative pocket-size book - displays nearly 200 wine-grape varieties, sorted by color, body and acidity, in a tongue-in-cheek format modeled after the classic periodic table of the elements.

Whether you're looking for a grape as common as Pinot Noir or as obscure as Hondarrabi Zuri, you'll find it on the Varietal Table. Each entry is loaded with concise information about the grape, its identifying characteristics, the wines it's used in, and where it's from.

The boxed set is $35 for the deluxe edition with the 88-page index book, $25 for the chart alone. If you buy one (or more) using this link, we'll earn a small commission to help pay the rent at WineLoversPage.com:
http://www.delongwine.com/wgvt.php?PARTNER=WLP


Administrivia

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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.

Friday, Dec. 1, 2006
Copyright 2006 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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