Have I ever told you how much I love Chianti? Yeah, I thought so. But please indulge me while I spend a few minutes talking about my affection for this old Italian standard … and tell you about another good one that cost me just over $10.
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Chianti first caught my attention a long time ago, possibly before I was old enough to buy it legally. I would taste it while enjoying old Italian-American standards like red-sauced spaghetti and meatballs or lasagna in little neighborhood eateries in Louisville, New York, and Los Angeles.
It didn’t take long for me to figure out that the food made the wine taste even better. Then it struck me that the wine made the food taste better, too. This insight led me to appreciate wine with food, not just on wine or food alone. I’ve never lost that focus, nor have I ever lost my love for Chianti.
I’m sure you already know the basics about this food-friendly red wine from Tuscany. It dates back to the 14th century in Tuscany (or even, says legend, to ancient Rome), but it has been increasingly regulated and refined over the years, during the 19th century and again with modern updates in the 1990s.
The Sangiovese grape is required to constitute 80% to (rarely) 100% of the blend, but it may include other red grapes like the indigenous Canaiolo and, in modern times, non-traditional, even non-Italian grapes like Cabernet, Merlot, and (gasp) Syrah. Historically, up to 30% white grapes such as Malvasia and Trebbiano were permitted in the blend, but that’s no longer the way. Ditto the once widespread wicker-basket bottle, which lost favor because it cost producers more than the wine is worth. You can still buy it, though, if you want to make a throwback Chianti candlestick.
Chianti may also be labeled with additional reference to the region or the style in which the grapes were grown and the wine was made: Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva, and so on, not to mention the pricey “Super Tuscans” and modest Sangiovese wines labeled Toscano, both similar and perfectly good in their own right. Let’s save that talk for another day.
Today, let’s just be grateful that we still have Chianti around, that it’s such a characteristic Tuscan wine that shouts “Forza Italia” when we pull the cork and pour a glass, and that it goes so very well with red-sauce Italian dishes, and with red meat or cheese too.
The $11 wine I spoke of earlier is Querceto 2019 Chianti, whose producer Querceto (“The oak-sheltered vineyards”) is a fifth-generation estate grower and winemaker dating to 1897 in Greve in Chianti. Its fresh, juicy tart-cherry and dried cherry aromas and flavors and tart, food-friendly acidity will enhance your Italian meal and take you back to the old days … even without a wicker basket. You’ll find my tasting notes below.
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Today’s Tasting Report
Querceto 2019 Chianti ($10.99)
Querceto Chianti shows a clear but dark garnet color in the glass, dark almost all the way to the clear garnet rim. Typical Chianti aromas of tart black cherries and dried cherries dominate the aroma, with hints of spice in the background. It’s firmly acidic on the palate, a character in Chianti that makes it a natural with food, but behind the tart entry you’ll find appetizing, juicy black-cherry fruit that lingers in a long finish. Its 12.5% alcohol hits the traditional standard without being strong enough to intrude. U.S. importer: Prestige Wine Imports Corp., NYC. (April 16, 2021)
FOOD MATCH: It has the good acidity and firm structure to stand up well to roast beef or steak. Chianti’s traditional partner, too, is tomato-sauced pasta, like our hearty dish of spaghetti with tomato sauce with mushrooms, black olives, and garlic.
WHEN TO DRINK: Simple Chianti may not be made for the long haul, but the structure and balance in this young example strikes me as capable of holding under good cellar conditions for at least five years.
Curiously, my previous tasting report on the 2015 vintage of the same wine, tasted in May 2017, was quite similar, and the price is unchanged. That’s consistency!
It’s a remarkable value at my local $11 price, which matches Wine-Searcher.com’s $11 average U.S. retail. At this quality and value, if you like Chianti for everyday enjoyment, you might want to buy it by the case.
Visit Castello di Querceto’s web page in English. For an interesting article with photos about the sixteenth century castle (Castello) that gives Castello di Querceto its name, go to this producer’s page
For more details, importer Prestige Wine Imports offers this fact sheet.
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Check prices and find vendors for Querceto Chianti on Wine-Searcher.com.
Learn more about Castello di Querceto and browse listings for the producer’s other products at this Wine-Searcher link,
Read more about the wines of Chianti at this Wine-Searcher link, and page down to find listings for dozens of other Chianti wines.
WINE FOCUS: TALK ABOUT MERLOT AND MERLOT BLENDS:
Join this month’s Wine Focus conversation in our WineLovers Discussion Group: Merlot “Star or Co-star?”
More affordable wines
Want tips to still more good, inexpensive wines? Here are Wine-Searcher links to vendors and prices for a bunch more wines for $10 or less that I’ve told you about during the past year or two. Please tell us about your favorites!
- La Vieille Ferme Vin de France Rosé ($8.99)
- La Fiera Montepulciano d’Abruzzo ($8.99)
- Laroque Cité de Carcassonne Cabernet Franc ($9.99)
- Domaine de Pouy 2016 Côtes de Gascogne ($7.99)
- Alamos Mendoza Malbec ($9.99)
- Caposaldo Chianti ($8.99)
- d’Arenberg McLaren Vale “The Stump Jump” ($9.99)
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