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Chianti Classico: Borgo Scopeto vs. Badia a Coltibuono

Cost: Average price $17 (on sale $12.99)

Where buy now: Sorella Wines, Surdyk’s

Grapes: Sangiovese

Region: Tuscany, Italy

Vintage: 2010 & 2011

I love me some Chianti. I don’t care what it’s like outside, inside, in my head or in my bed. I.Love.It. Today, I’ll tell you a tale of two Chiantis (both “Classicos”). Just when you think you’re getting the hang of this Italian wine thing, little nuances pop up.  What’s the difference between plain old Chianti and Chianti Classico?

Brass tacks

Italy: a country in Europe.

Tuscany: a region in Italy.

Chianti: a region in Tuscany.

Chianti Classico: a subregion of Chianti

Deep Cuts

Italy: a country full of beautiful people, places and things [food].

Tuscany: romantic sunsets with the redolence of Cyprus , often associated with rolling hills, wine and olive production.

Chianti: wine that is made with a minimum of 75% Sangiovese grapes. (Note that blending white grapes with Sangiovese grapes is permissible.)

Chianti Classico: wine that is, at minimum, 80% Sangiovese grapes blended only with other red grapes. In addition, Chianti Classico rests in oak barrels for a minimum of 12 months. You will also see a black rooster seal on bottles of Chianti Classico. This is known as Consorzio Chianti Classico, a group of winemakers whom want to uphold the quality of their wines and their region. Read on here: http://www.chianticlassico.com/en/vino/il-vino-chianti-classico/#/Chianti Classico

Let me introduce you two a couple Chianti Classicos I love and are under $15 (on sale, at least).

Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico (2010) – Blend: 90% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot, 5% Colorino.

Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico (2011) – Sangiovese.

Both of these wines exhibit that typical red ruby hue. Gun to my head, I’d say Badia a Coltibuono was a touch deeper in color.

Borgo Scopeto needed to open up about 15 minutes and it exhibited more of a blackberry jam fragrance. It also tastes of dark berries (with less of that earthy layer) and is chewier- definitely more “cat tongue” going on than the Coltibuono. This Chianti was a touch thinner in texture and excited the sides of my tongue. The finish was decent, but dissipates quicker than the Coltibuono.

Coltibuono fragrance was blackberry fruit with a layer of earth, both of which are evident in it’s taste as well. It boasts deep, rich flavors and layers that went swimmingly with our freshly grilled New York strip. This wine excited all areas of my tongue and has a nice, lingering finish.

Take the “Pepsi Challenge” and decide for yourself. Perhaps you’ll find a fave or find each of them pleasing. Regardless the challenge, make sure you have some nice aged Parmigiano Reggiano or Asiago. If you want to veer away from Italian cheeses (blasphemy!) most any hard cheese with some crystallization will do. (Just go see Certified Cheese Professional, Liz, at the Northeast Lunds.)

Other yummy pairing morsels include: roasted veggies (I love roasted cauliflower), grilled steak, lambchops (PS- Costco’s lambchops rule with some salt, pepper and a lil’ Rosemary), lasagna, cannelloni, ravioli, manicotti, eggplant parmesan, any red sauce smothered item, chili, pork roast and hamburgers. A while back, I ate bánh mì with Twin Cities Wine’s Jason Kallsen (check it out: http://twincitieswine.com/Twin Cities Wine Education. Here he is schooling me about the Chianti Classico region.

This is the best part of Chianti: it doesn’t require “fancy”. This is a wine you can dress up or dress down. Walk to your nearest gas station (who are you kidding, you’ll drive), pick up a Heggies “6 pack” pizza and pair away.

What is Heggies? Read Chris Clayton’s Twin Cities Business article here: http://tcbmag.com/Industries/Food/How-Heggies-Pizza-Built-a-Regional-Empire,-One-Bar?page=1/Heggies Empire.

As a wise man once said, “If it’s good to you, it’s good for you”.

Last Updated ( Monday, August 18, 2014 12:30pm )
 

Domaine Reverdy Hippolyte Sancerre

Cost: Average price $25

Where buy now: Sorella Wines

Grapes: Sauvignon Blanc

Region: Loire Valley, France

Vintage: 2012

Yes, you can call me out on the fact that it’s been months since I’ve posted a “Snob” bottle of the month. Sheesh! I feel like you’re behind the confessional curtain while I list my drinking sins. Guilt, shame, embarrassment. I am a non-practicing Catholic and yet those emotions come flooding back so quickly. That said, if Communion was from this bottle, I’d definitely attend church more frequently.

This Sancerre is truly heavenly, made by angels. Well, not really, but if angels ran a vineyard, it might result in this Tupelo honey gold liquid. It’s sooo worth the $25+ price tag. How come? Because it’s heavenly and it’s made by angels?

Honestly, discovering this wine was a fluke. My husband was shopping the Muni LQ (yes, that’s a thing in MN) near us and he found it deeply discounted. Though it was still more than our typical $15 threshold, the deep discount had my bargain-minded husband scheming and inquiring.

Now, when my husband brings home wine, it’s pretty much a gamble.  What’s great is that if I don’t like it, he’ll drink it. He’s a bit like Mikey from the Life cereal commercials that way. (Although since the advent of this blog, he’s becoming more and more versed, I have to admit.) We uncorked, poured, swirled and took a sip. We looked at each other simultaneously, and paused. Then, on cue, as if scripted in a cheesy commercial, we exalted in joy!

Our spontaneous yet synchronized exaltation truly started with the rich pineapple & vanilla notes that enveloped our sniffers. It's what a Bonne Bell Lipsmacker wished it could be, though I'm not trying to imply it's sweet & synthetic. This wine’s light-to- medium body is balanced by a swirl of crisp, acidic tartness- plenty to wake up our taste buds. Lastly, the finish lingered long enough to take you to that heavenly place, as if pillowy clouds gently whisked us away to some utopian garden.

If I asked you “What would angel-made wine taste like?”, what would you say? Truthfully, I wouldn’t have known how to answer that question until this beautiful Sancerre came (or perhaps descended) into my life. And to think, this serendipitous encounter almost didn’t happen.

Last Updated ( Friday, August 08, 2014 2:32pm )
 

Portuga (Vinho Branco, Rosé & Red) Wines

Cost: Average price $11

Where buy now: Solo Vino, Zipp's

Grapes: Vinho branco: Arinto, Ferñao Pires and Vital. Rose: Castelão and Camarate. Red: Castelão, Touriga Franca, Cabernet, Syrah

Region: Portugal

Vintage: 2013

What do you know about Portuguese wine? Scratch that, what do you know about Portugal? Admittedly, I’m quite ignorant in the Portuguese department. I only saw one travel program on Portugal and it mainly focused on the Azores islands off the mainland: http://www.portugal.com/places/azores Now that’s a bucket list item!  

Well, I’ll leave it up to you to do your own Portuguese exploring. I’m not going to get all Rick Steves on your ass. What I will do is let you in on the Portuguese wine exploration I’ve been doing as of late.

It all began when a friend and I went to a Portuguese wine dinner at Café Ena some time back. I remember that each of the wines we tasted (which are too many for me to remember – seriously, I couldn’t keep track.) all tasted wonderful. It had that unique ‘terroir’ taste to them. Now, it could also have been the dreamy Mediterranean wine makers pouring and explaining their wines that had me enchanted, but I’d like to think I was mainly judging from my upper lips.

But where could I find more of these wines around town? Well, I’m delighted this line of wines from Portuga have made it across the Atlantic to the local scene. Without hesitation, I tried the white, rose and red. All of them are bang-for-buck Savvy Lush picks, I knew I couldn’t write about just one.

Like a typical tasting, let’s go from light to dark. I’m going to list the grape varietals but I’m not going to attempt to give a pronunciation key. Have you tried to speak Portuguese? It’s a tougher language than you might think. I believe it’s a cross between Spanish and French. (To my ears, it sounds like Barcelona accented Spanish, but only when the tongue is held firmly between the index finger and thumb.)

Portuga vinho branco (aka vinho verde) – This is patio wine pure and simple. What do I mean by that? I mean with it’s lower alcohol content, and chilled temperature, you could sip this all day long on the patio. (No one has to know how ripped you are, and it may help you tolerate that yippy neighbor dog.) It’s bright with a slight hint of effervescence. It smells fresh, a bit grassy, a bit citrusy and a bit rounded- an easy pairing with Summer foods. I’ll boldly assert that it pairs well with an asparagus frittata.

Portuga rosé – I mean c’mon. It’s a rosé. I’ve only met two rosé’s in my life that I balked at, ever. This is not one of them. This is a wonderful blend of Castelão and Camarate. No oak flavor, just easy to drink with crisp minerals dancing around the tart strawberry deliciousness. Drink it alone, or with, well, ANYTHING.

Portuga red – A blend of Portuguese Castelão, Touriga Franca, Cab & Syrah. Hell yes, this is yummifull! Red berry fun, light vanilla & spice. It’s smooth & medium bodied. Soft tannins but enough to give this wine some heft. If you like Zin, give this a try. Great with BBQ, grilled mushrooms, or what I had, garlic bread (and not even the good homemade stuff, I’m talking the $1.99 Coles garlic bread from the freezer aisle. You know, red packaging with loaves that bake up all buttery, salty & greasy?)

So you see, I’ve literally-ish drank the Portuguese kool-aid and I’m in on its seduction. These wines are right in my wheelhouse: delicious daily drinking on a dime. I hope I’ve persuaded you to give one if not all of the Portuga wines a taste. If I were a true hipster, I might say “Portugal is the new Spain”. However, it might be more fun to say it whilst holding your tongue.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, July 22, 2014 10:37am )
 

Fine. I don't have any sommelier badges. But I have drunk a lot of wine. A lot.

And though I’ve swirled my share of Chateau Valandraud Saint-Emilion, the bottles I buy are almost always under fifteen bucks. Because I'm not made of money.

So now I invite you to benefit from my tireless field work in the sodden trenches of great wine.

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