You may remember that I went to Chianti in Tuscany in October for a relaxing holiday with Roby. If you do, you will also remember that I was going to blog about it. Small problem… I forgot to charge my camera before leaving and it ran out of juice part way through. I do have some photos to share nonetheless, and some interesting experiences to boot.
One of these was at a vineyard in the heart of wine making country called Castello di Meleto. We had been going around vineyards and wineries looking for someone who did some proper wine tasting, and when we went into Castello di Meleto we found that for individuals and small groups there was a selection of wines with tasting notes. We were just about to start on our first glass when a large group of Americans came past, headed by a sommelier…
“How many wines have you tasted?”
“Well… this was the first one…”
“Come and join us then!”
OK then! Off we went and joined the group as extra guests. The wine tasting was absolutely fantastic and we learned a great deal from Anthony as we discovered the leader of the group, who works for Castello di Meleto, was called.
The first thing he did when we started to taste the first glass was to tell us to spin it, let it breathe, take a deep sniff and …. “SMELL THE DIRT!!!”He told us all about the smells of earth, mushroom and woodland in a good Chianti and I have to say that it is true.
We also learned that there are many, many different types of Sangiovese grape, and that in order to be called “Chianti Classico DOCG” the wine has to not only be produced in Chianti but also must be at least 80% Sangiovese. The rest of the wine can only be made up of a few selected grape types, including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Canaiolo and Colorino. Chianti is, like all my favourite reds, a dry, full bodied wine with a rich red colour. The Castello di Meleto Chiantis did not disappoint.
On the way to the Castle, we had noticed that many of the vineyards are situated on slopes – after all, Chianti is a lovely green hilly area. We had wondered out loud if there was a difference between the wines produced from vines at the bottom were better, or those at the top… or perhaps there was no difference at all? We got the answer to our question fairly quickly. The “top of the hill” wines are best, because they have the right concentration of minerals, don’t get waterlogged, have more sunlight and the roots are better aerated. Question answered!
If their Chiantis were good, then their “Super Tuscans” were worthy competition. Super Tuscans are wines made in the general area but which do not have all the characteristics necessary for them to qualify for the Chianti Classico DOCG label. These do not have to adhere to the strict rules that DOCG wines have to, in particular with regards to provenance and blend. Many of them are, however, excellent. They are often made with Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Cabernet Franc, and many, especially the blends, could be described as more “easy drinking” than their Chianti DOCG cousins, this is because the Sangiovese grape has a thick skin which imparts a great deal of dryness to the grape – less of it makes for a softer mouth.
After the red wines, there was also a fizzy rosé made from Sangiovese grapes to taste. It was probably one of the palest rosés I have ever seen, and we were told that this is because the Sangiovese skins have to be pulled from the wine very quickly or it ruins the flavour and colour. Apparently the process is so delicate that they have to check it every twenty minutes to, as even 30 minutes too long can wreck the product.
After this, we also tried olive oil. It was an intense green and the flavour as well as the colour was essentially fresh cut grass – really lovely oil, full of flavour and not at all bitter.
Conclusion: If any of you ever find yourselves in the Chianti region, go to Castello di Meleto. Just go. It was fantastic. Oh, and thanks Anthony!
With love, from Italy