Updated: Jun 13, 2018
“his lips drink water but his heart drinks wine” ― E.E. Cummings
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Let me just say that the Chianti region is straight from a Tuscan postcard!
Believe it or not, this wine tasting excursion was actually one of our many gite (trips) around Florence! After all, studying a language also involves lots of cultural research... Yup, that's how I'm going to justify this wine tour ;)
After taking a drive along winding gravel roadways, coasting along the gently rolling hills, my classmates and I finally arrived at Villa Buonasera. Located in the Chianti region, this vineyard is truly a Tuscan escape.
Upon arrival, we were greeting by our host, Cristiano, who quickly dove into demonstrating the wine-making process. As a group, we ventured through the different cellars, learning about the various wine-making process for red and white wines, the results yielded from barrel-aged versus stainless steel vats, and the harvesting trials and tribulations.
After our agricultural lesson, we were invited to taste the wines accompanied by a four-course meal, prepared by Cristiano's mother. Once we sat down, we begun our tasting session. First our host discussed how to correctly taste a wine (see the 4 S's). Building on that, Cristiano then encouraged us to think about the flavour profiles of the wines. For instance, if a wine had fruity qualities, then the bee who pollinated the vineyard might have also take advantage of a nearby cherry tree! How cool is that?
Sipping and eating, we also learned which wines best suit different meals. Typically, red wines compliment red meats; however, I also learned that reds pair well with hard cheeses like Pecorino. Likewise, dessert wines aren't only meant to be enjoyed with a slice of cake as they also elevate soft cheeses like brie!
Overall, the tasting menu was unbelievable! We began with an assortment of crostini paired with Sangiovese. A bit acidic for my liking, but very fruity.
My goodness, I never knew how delicious a crostini with fresh olive oil, salt, and pepper could be! #Simplydecadent
Cristiano informed us that the extra virgin olive oil used was in fact a product produced at the vineyard. Unlike olive oils back home, Italian oils produced in Italy have a totally diverse aroma and flavour. Upon opening a fresh bottle, the fragrant scent of olives rushes through the air. As for its taste, the oil is unreal. It is mildly tangy as if there was a hint of child pepper, that's how flavourful pure and organic olive oil can be! It is also rich in colour, a silky yellow-green hue.
After that, we sampled a Chianti Classico that quite lovely. It paired excellently with penne and a savoury meat sauce of pork, veal and rabbit. I must say that I was surprised by the wonderful flavours of the rabbit!
Next, my favourite course! A robust Merlot by the name of Maddalena allowed itself to be enjoyed with a plate of fresh Tuscan Pecorino and rich cinghiale (wild boar) salami. What can I say? I am ALWAYS a sucker for charcuterie!
We finished our tasting with a traditional dessert wine called Vin Santo. If you are a Canadian and familiar with the ice wines of Niagara, you might expect that Vin Santo tastes similar. However, you would be wrong if you thought it was sweet! Though it is definitely more sugary, it also had a surprising hint of spice! To be dipped in the wine were cantuccini, crunchy Tuscan biscotti made with almonds.
My mouth is watering as I think about what a wonderful meal we enjoyed! It was literally a dream having the opportunity to experience one of Tuscany's greatest attributes, Chianti. It is something that I will forever treasure in my heart.
The Lowdown on Chianti
A wine can only be classified as Chianti if it is produced with at least 80% Sangiovese grapes.
The different types of Chianti include: Chianti, Chianti Classico, Chianti Riserva, and Chianti Superiore, all of which vary according to vintage, maturation, and alcohol level.
In 1716 Cosimo III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, officially delimited the production zone of Chianti wine.
The symbolic black rooster is a featured instituted by the Chianti Classico Wine Consortium, founded in 1924 to protect and promote Chianti, while preventing wine fraud.
Chianti was traditionally stored in a fiasco, a round bottle covered with close-fitting straw.
High in both acidity and tannin (dry)
Earthy, with notes of red fruits like strawberries and cherries
Pairs excellent with food, and is a favourite with many tomato-based dishes
According to Chianti.com, "Chianti is characterized by a combination of almost perfect weather and soil that produces a precious wine considered one of the best wines around the world."
Though Chianti was obviously the focus of this wine tour, I have listed some useful tips and tricks on how to make the most of your next wine tasting experience too!
How to Taste
The 4 S's are key in wine tasting. One must see, smell, swirl, (smell again!), and finally, sip.
Colour will vary depending on the type of wine. For example, a light-bodied wine will be translucent in colour (whether red or white), while medium, full, and old-bodied wines will gradually work their way to a more velvety and opaque hue.
Our sense of smell is one of the greatest human abilities. It has the power to alert us in times of danger, but also to intriguing our other senses. When it comes to wine, aroma is critical, which is why it is wise to smell the wine when it is first poured into a glass, noting first impressions. Do you smell floral or fruity notes? Are there subtleties of oak? Is it acidic?
Swirling the wine around in your glass will also enhance the experience. By swirling in a circular motion for about ten seconds, the wine is able to breath, opening its bouquet. Once more, it is wise to smell the wine's aroma. Chances are the wine will be much more fragrant!
Lastly (and most importantly!), you must take a sip. It usually takes several sips to fully taste the wine, allowing the juices to coat your entire mouth, delighting every last taste bud! In order to really taste a wine, you must consider an array of elements such as texture, length, and body, which brings me to my next topic.
Understanding Flavour Profiles
I used to think that tasting wine was simply a matter of preference. It was like watching a movie; either you liked it or you didn't! I have since learned that liking and appreciating something are two very different things. Despite personal biases, it's important to understand how a wine is constructed as it could lead to admiration!
According to Wine Folly, a wine is charcaterized by 5 qualities: sweetness, acidity, tannin, alcohol, and body.
Sweetness - Wines with higher sugar levels tend to tingle the tongue, making viscous wines more sugary due to their syrup-like consistency.
Acidity - Light-bodied wines are more acidic, leaving a tartness that lingers on the roof of the mouth.
Tannin - The bitter quality from the chemical compound of grape skins and seeds, dries out the mouth.
Alcohol - Most wines range in alcohol content between 11% and 13%. Wines with higher alcohol levels will taste more oily and full-bodied.
Body - Elements like grape variety, vintage, aroma, and tasting notes account for the overall perception of a wine.
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So there you have it, just a few tools to impress your friends at the next dinner party or wine tour that you attend!
Do you have a favourite Chianti? Share below!