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Wine Review: Reviving the basket-clad Chianti

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Have we, in our climb up the ladder of success, forgotten an old friend that helped us get where we are today? I am alluding to a companion who helped us through the rigors of our late teens and early 20s and who accompanied us on our way to success: the immortal, basket-clad bulbous bottle of Chianti wine.

With the passage of time our wants and tastes have changed, and we have moved on. It might be fun, however, to return to those days of yesteryear and renew an acquaintance with that old friend.

Today’s Chianti is presented in modern, straight-sided, unjacketed bottles. However, if you look hard enough, there are still one or two producers keeping the old-style bottle in a basket.

Da Vinci 2016 Chianti ($13)
Although not swathed in a straw basket or the bulb-shaped bottle of the past, Da Vinci 2016 Chianti is as true an old-fashioned Tuscan masterpiece as you can get. The brilliant deep garnet color heralds fresh and pleasant aroma of violets and dried plums with a hint of wild berries in the background. The flavor is full and powerful, accenting blackberries, plums and an earthy flavor synonymous with Chianti. As far as what this wine will accompany: everything. After all, it is Chianti.

Castello Di Albola Chianti Classico ($18)
This wine is made from the traditional Chianti grape variety, the sangiovese, which has been grown in a specific area designated by the Italian government as the Classico District. The wine has a complex fruit aroma with the accent on plums and cherries. The flavor exhibits the same elements that we remember, mingled with raisins and oak. There is enough tannin in the wine to assure many years of life, but it is not enough to make the wine uncomfortable or too austere. This is an exceptional wine that should not be relegated to accompany only an Italian meal. It can go with any red meat or cheese dishes – or just quiet sipping.

Brancaia 2013 Chianti Classico Riserva ($27)
A typical Chianti wine, it has been made from grapes grown in the Classico District and given a little extra care. This particular Chianti has been given over two years of extra aging in oak barrels before being released to the public. It results in a smooth, full-flavored wine with a bit of oak in the background and a brilliant fruit flavor. Good grapes do make a better wine.

Cecchi 2015 Chianti ($13)
This is a picture perfect Chianti, with all of the flavors and aromas that made the variety an international favorite. It is a big and robust wine that despite all of its power, maintains a soft velvet-like character. The wine has a complex fruit aroma with the traditional accent on plums and cherries. It is a fantastic accompaniment for Italian cuisine.

Cecchi Chianti Classico Storia di Famiglia 2015 ($21)
This wine comes from one of the oldest producers of Chianti wines in Tuscany and the first taste will confirm why it has lasted this long. Powerful flavors and aromas lead to a smooth mouth feel and a long and fascinating finish.

Cecchi Chianti Classico Riserva di Famiglia ($36)
A bit pricy for a college-era memory but more than worth its price. The color is a deep, dense ruby red and the aroma is kaleidoscopic, alternating between cherry and blackberry with hints of tobacco, leather and cedar. These aromas continue into the flavor where they merge with warm spice and fruit. It’s truly a work of art.

Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at frojhe1@att.net.

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