Good cheap Chianti, no basket
A few months ago, in a Chianti fiasco, I wrote about the familiar old wicker-wrapped Chianti bottles that many of us remember as pizza wine from back in the day, easily convertible to a funky candlestick in the family room or Italian-American eatery.
As I noted then, the fiasco bottle may not be entirely gone from the marketplace, but its lure has faded with the times. Nowadays upper-end Chianti Classico Riserva can sell for $20 and up, while the modernized "Super Tuscans" approach or even pass $100 and up, and earn the kind of hushed, reverent respect once reserved for fine old Burgundies.
But here's the good news: Although the wicker bottle basket may be disappearing, the kind of happy, sunny and delicious Chianti that used to be in those old bottles, crisp and made to go with pizza or pasta or rare red meat, is still easy to find. Better still, you can still get it for a very reasonable, inflation-adjusted $10, and sometimes even less.
Today we look at two amiable and traditionally styled Chiantis that cost around $10 locally, perhaps a bit less in some competitive wine markets.
Ruffino 2007 Chianti, a base-line Chianti made by a large, old-line producer, is a label that I remember fondly from back in college days when it was one of the most reliable names in the wicker-basket wine.
"365" 2007 Di Flora Chianti is a "benchmark" Chianti, too. Its label is the farthest thing from old Tuscan tradition: It bears the familiar "365" logo of generic products packaged for Whole Foods Markets in the U.S. But its style is right on point for this ancient and deservedly popular Tuscan red table wine.
You'll find my tasting notes below.
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Today's Tasting Reports
"365" 2007 Di Flora Chianti ($8.99)
Clear dark purple with a garnet edge. Good, benchmark Chianti aromas, black cherries and dried fruit and just a wisp of spice. Chianti on the palate, too, black fruit built on a sturdy backbone of mouth-watering acidity and soft tannins, a combination made to work with red meat or that stereotypical match, pasta with tomato sauce. Bottled by V.S., Rufina, Italy, for Di Fara, sold by Whole Foods markets under their "365" store-brand value label. U.S. importer: Luneau USA Inc., Westport, Conn. (Oct. 30, 2010)
FOOD MATCH: Sure, it would work with red-sauced pasta or a pizza. But don't turn it down with red meat; it was fine with locally produced grass-fed lamb burgers.
VALUE: Don't knock the generic store label. You won't find better dollar-for-value Chianti anywhere I know of.
Ruffino 2007 Chianti ($10.99)
Dark purple with a ruby edge and reddish-orange glints against the light. Good black-cherry aroma with hints of dried fruit. Juicy black fruit on the palate, shaped by mouth-watering acidity, with just a hint of soft tannins on the tongue in the finish. Simple, a bit rustic, but balanced and an excellent food wine, just as basic Chianti should be. U.S. importer: Ruffino Import Co., Rutherford, Calif. (Aug. 14, 2010)
FOOD MATCH: Although this would go well with red meat or sharp cheese, too, I went the pasta route this time with spaghetti alla puttanesca made with fresh San Marzano tomatoes from our garden.
VALUE: My local $11 price is fair, but shop around, as Wine-Searcher.com shows it widely available under $10 and occasionally under $7.
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Ruffino Chianti is widely available and affordable around the world. Compare prices and find vendors on Wine-Searcher.com."
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