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Wine Reviews: Review of Montellori Chianti
by: Vino Joe (e-mail

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A good value Chianti: Montellori Chianti

Everybody loves Chianti, right? But does anybody know exactly what it is?

Let's get straight what Chianti is NOT: it's not a grape, it's not a brand name and it's not a motorcycle (that would be Ducati). It does not necessarily come in a cute straw-covered bottle, nor is it always cheap.

In many winegrowing areas of Europe, wines are named after the region in which the grapes are grown. For example, Burgundy means the wine comes from the Burgundy region of France (and it can be red OR white!). Champagne refers to wine from the region of the same name (so there really isn't such a thing as "Champagne" from California!). Similarly, Chianti is a wine from an area called "Chianti," which is inside of a region called Tuscany, in Italy. And inside of Chianti is an even smaller area called "Chianti Classico." So: Italy Tuscany Chianti Chianti Classico. The further inside you get, the higher the quality of wine (and the more you pay).

Wines labeled as "Chianti" must, by Italian wine law, contain at least 80% of the native grape Sangiovese. This grape produces a wine that has a distinctive cherry character, high acidity, and medium to substantial tannins -- all elements that lead to a very food-friendly wine. Recently, Sangiovese has found favor on the US West Coast, and many bottles of "California Chianti" are being sold -- don't be fooled, and don't waste your money. There is enough "real" Chianti coming out of Tuscany, at all price levels, to keep you sated.

The most expensive Chianti wines are labeled "Riserva," a term which informs you that the wine was aged for a minimum of two years before release. A quality Chianti Classico Riserva, for example, can run you anywhere from $17 to more than $50 retail. But you don't have to pay that much to enjoy the pleasure of Chianti; non-riserva wines can be had for as little as nine or 10 bucks.

I like to keep a few bottles of inexpensive Chianti and Beaujolais around all the time, because they're easy to drink, match with just about everything and everybody enjoys them. Always on the lookout for good values, I recently discovered a good quality Chianti for only $11.00: Fattoria Montellori.

Montellori Chianti 2002 has an open nose of fresh, ripe black cherries. Bright flavors of black and red cherry greet the palate, held together by ample acidity and medium tannins. The finish is all sour cherry and cranberry, with mouthwatering acidity and almost no trace of alcohol. The tart acidity and mild tannins make it a perfect match for pizza, pasta with marinara, eggplant parmigiana and similar fare. It's an easygoing wine, a soft and light Chianti with a fun factor that reminds me of a Beaujolais Villages. At just over 10 bucks, it's a little too expensive for an everyday wine (at least for my budget), but it's a definite crowd pleaser; and considering that few Chiantis hover around the 10-dollar mark, it's a great value.

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