The key to Chianti: Wine with Gerard Richardson

Gerard Richardson
Gerard Richardson

WRITING these columns requires tasting a lot of wines and it's easy to get diverted away from what you want to taste into drinking what you think you need to taste. So this week, I decided to put heart before head and I came up with three styles to put in the hat: Bordeaux, Chianti and Chateauneuf and Chianti won the draw.

It's one of the most famous wine regions but it's too often only thought about when we are dining Italian for the evening and that’s a shame because it's a surprisingly versatile style of wine with a wide range of foods.

Chianti was famously described by my good friend Janice Robinson as the Bordeaux of Italy. While I can see where the comparison comes in terms of the food styles it matches to and the quality levels it can achieve, the style is very different on the palate. Chianti is dominated by the fabulously fruity Sangiovese variety which can become layered with quite complex and fascinating flavours when aged in oak.

I get more hung up on the price of Chianti rather than the often complicated classifications and, after 40-odd years of trying them, my advice is simple: avoid anything under a tenner from this region. There are plenty of bargain basement Sangioveses if value is the key selection criterion.

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Calappiana Chianti Riserva 2019

I love this one with its almost over-ripe cherries and warm spicy plums on the palate. A cracker with pasta dishes but sublime with a good steak. £15

Borghetto Chianti Riserva 2017

Another cherry laden beauty with soft, silky autumn fruits on the finish. There’s a gentle hint of spice which makes this so right for tomato based pasta dishes. £11.50