The Gateway Chianti

One bottle of Brolio and you'll be a convert.

Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico 2017 $25

Good Chianti is damn near my fave wine on this planet of ours. Sure, it would be great to drink Barbaresco on Tuesday nights or Haut Brion on Thursdays, but in the real world where I live, it’s the intersection of value, complexity and ageability that Chianti offers that hits my sweet spot.  All of which means, when people tell me they don’t like Chianti, I look at them like they just expressed admiration for The Proud Boys on national TV.

But if I can step back from my own wonderfulness for a moment, I assume what they mean is that they’ve had experiences with Chianti in the past that makes them think it’s an overly harsh, dry wine. It’s not—at least when it’s made even remotely well—but I do see how its dominant flavour of dried cherries and dried herbs cannot be as immediately appealing as, say, the ripe cherry flavour that a Pinot Noir from Sonoma might offer.

I’d counter that the more restrained fruit of the Chianti might go better with food, or that the more present acidity and structure will help it evolve for years in the bottle, but I appreciate if you’d want to counter back: “I know what I like, wiseass.”

But let me propose a compromise: Brolio. It’s one of the most storied names in Tuscany and one that was, along with Rubesco, one of the few Italian wines that graced my family’s table as I was growing up. The Ricasoli family are literally royalty in Tuscany and were fundamental in creating modern Chianti as we know it. And this current iteration of Brolio continues with that tradition of converting the cautious.

It’s much more approachable than most Chianti, thanks in part to the addition of 15 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and five percent Merlot to go with the required 80 percent Sangiovese needed to be classified as Chianti. Purists might scoff at the additions of the non-traditional grapes, but while they may soften some of the natural edges of the Sangiovese and move the fruit a bit toward the riper end of the spectrum, this wine is still very much Chianti: dried cherry, a bit of leather, maybe some dried flower petals thrown in. It’s just lovely and it maybe seduce you to the joys of this region.

And at $26, it’s a fair sight cheaper than that Sonoma Pinot you’ve been drinking. Let the conversion begin.