Decanting Chianti from the Tuscany/Toscana vineyards
Chianti's vineyards are nestled in Tuscany/Toscana between the great Renaissance cities of Siena and Florence.
The landscape is an unchanged medieval tapestry of woodlands, olive groves and cypress trees guarded by aristocratic villas. Vineyards owned by the same family since before the Americas were discovered are not uncommon.
Italy matches France as the world's largest producer of wine with nearly five billion litres annually. Boasting over 1,000 different wine-grape varieties, the most important being Sangiovese because its Chianti is Italy's most exported wine.
Traditionally understated, it's frugal in fruit and with a lively acidity over a blueberry and sour cherry fruit character with a tomato and herbal edge. A modern twist favours a blend with the local Canaiolo or Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to add colour and substance to the status.
Classico refers to the heartland of the original vineyards on the best hillside sites. While Chianti alone refers to the flatter valley floor where lighter and fruitier styles of wine are produced.
Riserva means extra aging in barrel and implies better quality. Superiore qualifies a more concentrated style from lower yields and higher alcohol.
A black cockerel on the bottle's neck notes membership of Chianti's Consorzio, a voluntary group of dedicated winemakers committed to quality. Chianti needs decanting and food to coax its character and is withdrawn and shy when sipped solo.
Here are the best from a blind tasting of 24.
1) Chianti Riserva 2010, Corte alle Mura 13pc
Lovely depth of ripe cherry fleshy flavours balanced by mellow tannins and refreshing acidity. Serve with slivers of pan-fried liver with onions in tagliatelle.
€8.49 at Lidl nationwide.
2) Chianti Riserva 2011, Collezione Oro, Piccini 13.5pc
Woody aromas and a restrained palate with red fruit, well-balanced tannins and a juicy finish. Go wild with a mushroom risotto.
€15.99 at Tesco nationwide.
3) Chianti Superiore 2013, Banfi 13pc
Ripeness radiating from a woody core and mouth-watering acidity. Concentrated, elegant and a drying tannic finish. Goes well with a bean and pork stew in a tomato and sage sauce.
€16.99 In Dublin at Nectar Wines, Sandyford; Kelly's, Vernon Avenue; The Corkscrew, Chatham Street and wineonline.ie
4) Chianti Classico 2008, Campomaggio 12.5pc
Earthy bouquet of damp leaves. Mellow and smooth with a hint of liquorice and at its peak of maturity. Enjoy with spicy paprika meatballs in a tomato and basil sauce.
€16.99 at select Eurospar, Spar and Mace nationwide.
5) Chianti Classico 2010, Badia a Coltibuono 13.5pc
Smooth and mellow classic austerity balanced by harmonious tannins. Match with a carpaccio of beef with rocket and freshly shaved parmesan.
€22.50 at tindalwine.com, Searson's, Monkstown; 1601, Kinsale and Next Door, Myles Creek.
6) Chianti 2013, Brunelli 13pc
Cherry fruity perfume. Very tasty flavours of red cherry and a tang of black tea. Goes great with lasagne.
€16.49 at Mitchell & Son, Customs House Quay, IFSC and Glasthule.
7) Chianti 2010, La Maia Lina 12.5pc
Earthy and woody aromas. Tasty, concentrated and attractively austere along with a touch of some earthy truffle. Perfect for a party with pepperoni pizza.
€13.99-€14.99 in Dublin at Higgin's, Clonskeagh; D-Six, Harold's Cross and Gerry's, Skerries.