A small group of us recently (5th July) held a blind tasting of Chianti wines. We undertake these ‘wine trials’ on a regular basis and with varied themes, so, although only keen amateurs, we have some experience in tasting blind. It is an interesting and enjoyable way to spend an evening. The Chianti tasting, in many ways, proved to be the most interesting – not least because of the huge variation in quality and the random nature of the wines’ value for money.
Out of seven wines tried, we all agreed that two stood way above the rest in terms of quality. One wine was left way behind whilst four others jostled for a rather poor midway position. This split was the most distinctive we’ve ever had in two years.
To take the last wine first; Majestic’s Nipponzo Chianti Rufina 2010. Hailstones made this vintage a disaster for many growers in this particular sub-region and you have to ask why Majestic bought this wine. It was retailing at circa £14, so not a particularly cheap wine by any standard. Compared with the others, the nose was odd and the palate unpleasantly tannic, acidic and short. [Richard: pleased to report that MWW happily swopped my second bottle of this (it was a bought on a buy-two-get-one-slightly cheaper deal) for a Valpolicella which was much nicer.]
This dramatically contrasted with the two best wines. In our opinions, Villa Trasqua ’07 Classico Riserva (sold by Haslemere Wines) and Fontodi Classico ’07 (Wine Society), were the winners. My notes have them both with long, dry finishes following the initial tart cherry hit, so typical of Chianti. Their prices were £18 and £30 respectively – and at odds with their positions. This suggests that, with Chianti, you broadly get what you pay for, however other results were more random.
M & S had two wines in the middle ground but the lively, young £10 raffia-flasked plain ’13 beat the powerless £14 Paneretta Classico Riserva ’11 – both wines being rather short. The £23 Classico Riserva from Capponi (sold by Berry Brothers and Rudd) was not good value, being rather hot in the mouth (14% ABV) and seeming unbalanced. Finally, in the middle ground came Waitrose’s ’10 Ricasoli Classico, initially smooth but lacking in oomph at the finish, priced at £13.
As for a general comment, Chianti does not seem to offer any certainty to the buyer. Prices, labels, regions and even vintages do not give many signposts as to the quality of wine behind the label. That’s frustrating for the public, interesting for us and expensive for all.