2 Jan 2011

Wine of the week 6


Felsina Chianti Classico 2008, and Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva 2007
with the estate's co-owner, Guiseppe Mazzocolin


This time we move to Italy. Perhaps a logical step, given that wine number 4 bears an Italian name on its label, despite it being French. In between, our brief trip to California for wine number 5 was just a little joke for Christmas, but we will return there in due course.

Chianti is clearly the most famous region amongst the extraordinary diversity of places that produce wines in Italy. In fact wine is produced all over the boot, and in roughly equal volume to the production of France. Chianti lies in Tuscany, in central Italy, and its production, essentially red, derives mainly from one of the best indigenous grape varieties, sangiovese (which means the blood of Jupiter, showing both its ancient origins and its mythical power).

Like most widespread appellations, the quality of Chianti's wines can be quite diverse, but the best, and there are now many of them, are of supreme quality, managing that difficult combination between powerful fruit flavours, good tannic structure and impeccable balance attained through fairly high acidity. One should remember that Tuscany is practically all hills, and thus night-time temperatures can be quite cool and winters severe.

I tasted these two Chiantis from Felsina Berardenga (to give the state its full name) at the recent Grand Tasting event in Paris, along with some other splendid Italian wines that I will probably mention in a while. Felsina is a very old estate situated in the southern part of the Chianti region near the town of Siena. It was revived as from the 1960's by the current owners.

The Riserva (bottle on the left with the dark label) ages for longer that the Chianti Classico and hence is one year older. Both wines are quite superb, beautifully poised and balanced, with deliciously restrained flavours of chewy wild fruit, a pleasantly firm edge with no agression and a lasting impression of lightness that leaves the palate yearning for another sip. One can feel the beauty of the landscape shimmering in the distance. These are wines for drinking with a fairly wide range of food, as nothing in their presence seems overbearing. Italian elegance at its very best!

The Felsina Chianti Classico can be found for between 10 and 15 euros in Europe, whereas the Riserva goes for between 15 and 20 euros. Both prices are more than reasonable for such quality.