Chianti fakes me out. . . again!

The circumstances where I enjoy Chianti are tough for me to predict. I think that when it shines for me, it is very balanced with deep and complex fruit, floral, some leather and even tar maybe, with the acid in check. Determining how to make it shine seems to be my issue. Two recent examples. A few months back, I had a 2014 Castello La Leccia Chianti Classico that by itself was not enjoyable at all, maybe close to undrinkable, with little (and tart) fruit and lots of acid. However, when paired the next day with pesto and pasta, the fruit became fuller and interesting, and the acid became tamed. Very enjoyable. This week I have been drinking a 2016 Rocco delle Macie Chianti Classico Riserva. I have actually very much enjoyed my glasses of this wine first by itself and then finished with a variety of random meals. Tonight, as I near the bottom of the bottle, I had a glass which was absolutely delightful by itself, BUT when finished with a tomato sauce and cheese tortellini lost all it special and complex taste profile and became quite ordinaire. Unexpected! As I sipped this wine by itself, I was thinking that this is a wonderful wine, I should get several more bottles, and I speculated that it will probably get even better with some years on it. As I tasted it with the tomato sauced pasta, my confidence in being able to understand Chianti was shaken a bit. Maybe I got a bit out over my skis. ?!

I can’t understand why people hate Sangiovese (and especially Chianti) for their acidity, since for me it’s their greatest asset.

Furthermore, Chianti Classico is a food wine - probably the greatest at it. It’s not really meant to be sipped by itself, unless you’re an acid-head like me. Its ability to withstand such a wide variety of dishes is almost peerless within the realm of red wines. Can go without problems from light vegetarian dishes to hearty stews and thick steaks. A real jack-of-all-trades in a table.

I believe 2014 was a horrible vintage that in many cases produced thin and tart wines, so there is that.

Oh yes, missed out the vintage completely. That would explain the lack of fruit, definitely.

But still: I’ve never had a Chianti with too much acidity! :smiley: (Perhaps some 2014s with too little fruit to back up all the acidity, though…)

I am with Otto. Sangiovese ist the most food friendly wine. I buy tons of it. I prefer Felsina, San Giusto and Monsanto. Normale and Riserva. The Rosso from Il Poggione is the QPR winner. And Rosso from Boscarelli as well.

I think the problem with Chianti is that there is so much really horrible Chianti out there. Not just mediocre or whatever, but truly awful. Good ones can be really nice, but go into many, many “comfort” Italian restaurants whether in Rome or in the US, buy a Chianti sort of randomly (because there is nothing good on the wine list) and the wines can be just terrible.

None of the comments (which correctly point out that chianti is generally a great food wine) address his second point which was that the 2016 was great on its own but failed with the tortellini. I’m inclined to blame the cheese rather than the tomato sauce but that’s just a guess without having tasted either one.


I am with you that Chianti from obscure sources can be horrible. But the number of well made Chianti is quite big these days.

Well, if I remember correctly, Rocca delle Macie’s Chianti Classico Riserva is a rather modernist Chianti with some Merlot and Cab in the blend and aged in French oak barriques. It’s not a surprise it would fare nicely on its own.

I personally haven’t tasted the Rocca delle Macie’s CCR myself, but based on the few examples of the wines I’ve tasted from the winery, I haven’t been particularly impressed.

And I’m with Jürgen that there is tons of fine Chianti made these days.

I agree. The vast majority of Chianti available in the U.S. is NOT from obscure sources, and is quite consistent in quality (i.e. most of it is technically “high quality”). My guess is that Howard probably just doesn’t particularly enjoy typical/average Chianti…High quality doesn’t mean it’s delicious. Most of the time I also don’t especially enjoy Chianti even from many admittedly high-quality producers. I tend to gravitate toward the top producers, and usually prefer the Riservas to the normal Chianti. I love the acidity of Sangiovese, but I do not care for the herbaceous “grapey” character I find in many normal Chiantis, even from many high quality producers. I understand that many people view this as a positive feature of Chianti, and also agree that with food (especially tomato sauce) it can work.

However, I much prefer the savory and spicy character of the more structured versions of the wine (CCRs, Brunello, etc.), with leather, dark cherry, soy, tar and spice (rosemary, thyme, baking spice, forest/pine, cedar), combined sour cherry/dark cherry fruit and juicy, saliva-inducing acidity.

I agree on the cheese thing. I don’t normally picture Chianti as a cheese tortellini wine. I picture it as a white beans, rabbit, liver pate, ragu, or steak wine though for sure.

I’ve always preferred pairing better Chianti’s with grilled meat.

Gee, I read this after popping a 2009 Il Poggione that really sucked so I can empathize. It went much better with food, but by itself was a bitter little pill and fairly charmless. Many sangio-based wines (especially the ones using a lot of wood) seem to have a small window of drinkability to be enjoyable. Love them when they are on, but supremely disappointed when they are not.

I agree. One BIG caveat, and maybe it’s just me…but I find that Chianti (and many red wines, for that matter), are absolutely horrible with many cured meats (salumi, prosciutto, etc.). Very similar to taking a sip of red wine after certain seafoods (crab, shrimp, etc.), a red wine which tasted perfectly delicious BEFORE the food, is suddenly transformed into a bitter, metallic-tasting mess. This is always surprising to me (even after experiencing it fairly consistently), as, in my mind, Chianti in particular should work fine. (Perhaps I make that connection solely due to my association of both the wine and cured meats with Italy, and Tuscany in particular.) In any event, I usually stick with Lambrusco or white wine when eating cured meats…

Of course, what matters most for everyone, John, is what their individual taste(s) tells them. But I think your point of view would be “fighting words” to many in the Chianti region and Tuscany. Tagliere is everywhere and the wines of the region are served right next to it. Not saying you are wrong and I plan to pay closer attention when I pair the last glass of my open bottle of Chianti with pepperoni pizza tonight.

I think one’s palate becomes conditioned to things in their diet.

I eat meat very rarely, and drink a fair amount of red wine with fish. Delicious. Never makes the fish seem metallic to me.

I would have an aged Chianti with taglietelle and porcini mushrooms - as I did last fall when I was there.

If you don’t want acidity…why bother? That said, there’s a wide variety of Chianti styles from modern to traditional.

In general, Italian Reds have a reputation for acidity IMHO. I usually try to avoid them…but there are riper rounder options. Italy exports a LOT of wine to the US (#1 for imports by value in 2019) so they pay attention to what sells.


Maybe it was that particular wine. Try some different Chiantis with the tortellini. There are so many good 15s and 16s. Volpaia CCR is great.
After visiting Chianti and then Ribera del Duero, I have to say Tempranillo was made for cured meat, but we had Chianti or Brunello with almost every meal
we ate in Tuscany and it always worked.

Maybe skip the tourist mobs and celebrity butcher. But the pairing works pretty darn well IMHO.


John, I think it really depends on the style of wine. Fruitier red wines work very well with cured meats and cheeses, while more tannic, and especially alcoholic or oaky wines don’t work well at all, IMO. Like you I often drink whites with this combo, but wines like top Cru Beaujolais, lighter Dolcetto, Lambrusco, and even a fruity, good Chianti (2014 Savignola Paolina, for example) work very well.