Tuscany … The word itself conjures images of rolling hills, adorned with cascading vineyards, dotted by old majestic castles and charming villages on hilltops. If imagination is given flight, these images are rapidly followed by emotions reminiscent of hedonistic enjoyment, romance, and love …
None of which you will find here in this blog.
OK, maybe some, but that’s it.
We will be getting all technical with one of the age-old favourites of Tuscany’s wines – Chianti. And by the time you are finished reading, and are thinking that this was more than you ever wanted to know, rest assured that there are many more ‘technical’ aspects to Chianti that I chose not to inundate you with this time.
Before we give Rocca delle Macie Chianti Riserva the consideration it deserves, I thought I’d draw your attention to ‘Riserva’, and the faint DOCG that you see above 2011 on its label.
First the DOCG. It stands for the Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita which, as you can guess, means ‘controlled and guaranteed designation of origin’. The DOCG, a part of the Italian wine laws classification system, was introduced in the 1960s when the up-to-then top classification of DOC, Denominazione di Origine Controllata, was noticed to have a bit too much variation to carry the inference of the top quality.
To make this top classification even more distinctive, the bottles that earned it through meticulous government-licensed analysis and tasting have a small numbered seal on their necks. In addition to the original idea for the seal to show that the wine bottle has not been tempered with, it makes the DOCG wines easier to spot.
Now, the word ‘Riserva’. In the olden days, rather than being sold right away, the best wine (implying the aging potential) would be reserved for later, hence the term. Now, in much of Italy, and the world for that matter, adding Riserva / Reserva / Reserve to the label is little more than a marketing ploy to have you think that you are drinking some reserved, and subsequently better, stash of a wine than its counterpart which has not been so fortunate as to be labeled as such.
Not so with Chianti. The said DOCG laws specify what needs to happen for a wine to be allowed to carry the Riserva designation. And what needs to happen is that the Chianti wine has to be aged at least 38 months, much longer than 4 – 7 months otherwise prescribed for a Chianti.
So, does this mean that DOCG or Riserva wines are better than DOC* and non-Riserva ones? Well, for DOCG, the wines would be of more rigorously controlled, if not outright better, quality. For Riserva, not necessarily. You may find that the longer aging of Riserva results in a wine of evolved aromas and tastes which may not be all you’ve ever hoped to find in a Chianti.
Back to this particular one, produced by Rocca delle Macie. The 2011 vintage, in stores today, does not seem as ancient knowing that it was aged for more than 3 years. That aging process brought a brownish rim to the core of translucent ruby colour. It also brought smoky and spicy aromas to the fore, followed by lighter fruity ones, of cherry and dark berries. The taste of cherry was carried forward with the food friendly acidity, being rounded with the tannins which were nicely tamed by the same extended aging. This was why it went so nicely with the earthy flavours of a mid-week pot roast.
* Not to mention IGT wines! – More about them another time.