This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Friday, Sep. 21, 2012 and can be found at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/tswa20120921.php.
More wine rules of real estate
Many people who like to drink wine evolve into wine hobbyists or, if you will, wine geeks. When we start to enjoy studying the stuff as much as we enjoy tasting it ... well, almost ... one of the first things we learn about categorizing wine is that it follows a rule familiar in the world of real estate: One of the most important things to know about a wine is "location, location, location."
The land in which the grapes for wine are grown is important for more than a few reasons. Geology, terrain and microclimate all influence the character of the finished grape. A vineyard's setting within a traditional wine area may be tied to the varieties of grapes grown there, and both tradition and law govern how they are to be cultivated, picked, fermented, aged and bottled, and when they may be sold.
All these variables influence the wine's terroir, the characteristic nature that literally translates as "land" or "soil" but that actually incorporates all of the above. In many wine regions, especially in Europe where wine cultivation goes back a very long way, terroir can be important to both pride and commerce.
Naturally, if a specific region or appellation becomes famous for its terroir, everybody wants to get in on the act. New vineyards pile up on the edges of the original wine region, make similar wine, and soon its property owners start pestering the authorities to get in. Before long, the original concept is diluted, and the brand loses its value. How does this relate to real estate? Ask me about the time, way back, when I checked out an ad for a Los Angeles-area apartment that claimed to be in Santa Monica but actually found the property in Venice, at the time a significantly less "desirable" 'hood.
In Tuscany's iconic Chianti wine region, they've been at it for at least 1,700 years, at least since 1398, time of the oldest existing written reference to Chianti as a wine. (It may be older still, as today's featured wine, Castello di Gabbiano, claims its heritage back to 1124.) In 1716, almost 400 years ago, the Medici rulers of Florence defined the first broad Chianti wine region. In 1932, the Italian government expanded Chianti into a much larger zone between Florence and Siena; and additional villages have been added on periodically since. Santa Monica, meet Venice. Or maybe even Inglewood.
As it stands today, the original Chianti region comprises only about 6 percent of the land in modern Chianti. Even the Chianti Classico zone, so called because it is purportedly the original land making wine in the "classic" tradition, is about six times larger than the original soil. That being said, however, when you buy a Chianti Classico you'll likely pay a few bucks more than you do for a basic Chianti, and you'll get a wine grown and produced under more specific regulations (starting with a base of at least 80 percent Sangiovese) and a wine that theoretically should show some refinement and elegance.
For a thorough summary of the Chianti Classico regulations, check this page from the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico.
For this week's tasting I've reported on two wines, the current releases of Castello di Gabbiano Chianti and Chianti Classico. Owned by the large Australian-American wine corporation Beringer Blass, Gabbiano is widely distributed internationally; its medieval knight label is familiar in wine shops and restaurants. Both are fine examples of Chianti at their relatively affordable price point, around $10 or less for the Chianti, $15 or less for the Classico. You'll find my tasting notes below.
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Today's Tasting Report
Gabbiano 2008 Chianti Classico ($14.99)
Dark garnet with scarlet glints against the light. Fresh blackberry and dark cherry aromas. Ripe and tart, black fruit, cleansing acidity and soft tannins, within food-friendly wine limits at 13.5% alcohol. Fine if not overly complex, it's a good-value representation of, well, "classic" Chianti. U.S. importer: TWE Imports, Napa, Calif. (Sept. 15, 2012)
FOOD MATCH: We served it with a stereotypically ethnic dinner, spaghetti with meat sauce, a.k.a. "gravy" in Italian-American heritage cookery. It serves just as well with simple but fancier fare, red meat or roast chicken.
WHEN TO DRINK: Fine for drinking now, and it will certainly hold up and perhaps evolve a bit over five years or so in the cellar. Look to Chianti Classico Riserva, though, for longer-term cellaring.
VALUE: While the middle-teens price I paid locally is certainly fair for a whine of this quality, it may pay to shop around, as Wine-Searcher.com lists an average retail $13 for this wine from U.S. vendors, with scattered shops offering it for $10 or less.
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Gabbiano 2010 Chianti ($9.99)
Very dark garnet, almost black at the core, bright crimson glints at the edge. Perfumed red fruit, tart cherries on the nose and palate at an approachable 13% alcohol. Good acidity and approachable tannins join cherry and plum flavors in an old-style, food-friendly Chianti. U.S. importer: TWE Imports, Napa, Calif. (Aug. 20, 2012)
FOOD MATCH: Red meat, poultry, and those lovable tomato-sauced Italian pastas are its natural partners, but I've found simple Chianti goes surprisingly well with the bright basil flavor of pesto. We enjoyed it with an outside-the-box esto of asparagus, walnuts and Parmigiano Reggiano over linguine.
WHEN TO DRINK: Basic Chianti is meant for early enjoyment, but you don't have to worry about it going around the bend for a few years yet. If you "lose" a bottle, it should be good through 2014 at least, assuming cool storage conditions. But it's best to look for the new vintage and enjoy it fresh.
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