Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

Hello Prince Albert! Italian wines can be confusing for many people with so many different grape varietals, regions, strange names and legally defining terms like DOC, DOCG and IGT. The best way to learn more about these mysterious wines is to taste and discuss them. With every wine you taste and learn about, you can do away with misconceptions, gain more confidence in understanding and discussing the wine, learn some incredible pairing options and most of all, enjoy some fantastic wine!

Our wine journey this week takes us to one of the most famous regions and countries on the planet; Italy. More specifically, Tuscany is the focus of our tastings.

Even if they aren’t aware, most people are quite familiar with the most famous wine of Tuscany which is of course, Chianti! Chianti has two designation levels including DOC and DOCG with the added terms of Classico, Riserva, Superiore, Ruffina etc. providing more information for the customer.

Chianti by law must contain at least 80% Sangiovese grapes and the DOC or DOCG designation bestowed upon the wine is determined by yield size, ripeness of grapes, grape varietal chosen, growing area, soil mineral content, aging requirements (in bottle and oak) and many other factors. The DOC and DOCG designations specifically list every attribute or quality control that must be strictly followed for the wine to be accepted and awarded.

When not all of the requirements of the DOCG designation are met, the wine will be considered for DOC and if those requirements are also not met, the wine will be considered for the IGT designation. The specific designation of the wine does not immediately guarantee its quality but indicates that all production and aging requirements according to DOC and DOCG rules have been followed.

While all of the previous information may quickly get confusing, my recommendation is to pick a style you want to learn about and stick to it. Let’s take a look at a grape that is paramount and iconic in the Tuscany region, Sangiovese!

Both of the wines tasted this week are made primarily from Sangiovese grapes. The Poggio Maestrino (from the Morellino di Scansano DOCG) is slightly more interesting due to the fact that it is not nearly as well-known as Chianti but still produces delicious wine from the Sangiovese grape.

The Morellino di Scansano DOCG is much less complicated than Chianti DOCG as it has two basic levels of wine: unaged, quickly released wine and Riserva wines which require at least two years of aged before release (at least one in oak). The name Morellino is synonymous with Sangiovese just like Chianti or Brunello. This DOCG must be at least 85% Sangiovese grapes with the rest made up of Tuscan varietals.

Comparing the Chianti wines and wines of the Morellino DOCG, you will notice several similarities. The fruit and spice profile is similar (pepper and cherry) with an earthy undertone to both wines. Both are excellent food pairing wines and will compliment charcuterie or marinara sauce. While both wines are great for food, the Morellino is softer with slightly less acidity. This could be due to its hot growing region (Southwestern Tuscany) and aspect facing the sun which ripens the grapes more fully. The Chianti was tangier and sharper with a higher level of acidity.

If Italian wine intimidates you or you skip the aisle because you’re just not sure what you’re getting, make a nice pasta dish with marinara sauce and pick up some Chianti or Morellino. You’ll discover why Sangiovese is one of the most important grapes of Italy and you’ll be peeling away one more layer of mystery that is Italian wine. Here are my wine picks of the week!

Fattoria di Scannano DOCG Chianti 2018: (DOCG Chianti, Italy). Dry red, deep ruby color. The nose is light and simple with plum, herbal tones (oregano, basil), red currant, mushroom and cherry. Moving onto the palate, fine spice and tangy red cherry pop on the palate with a slightly metallic follow-up flavor. Plum and pepper collide with an herbal twist. Medium body with high but silky tannins. Earthy and zingy pepper warms the palate on the decent finish. Medium-plus acidity makes this wine an excellent palate-cleanser and the perfect pairing option for sauteed mushrooms, chicken parmesan, marinara sauces or charcuterie boards. As the wine breathes, hints of cough drops, eucalyptus and mint can be tasted. Very good! $22, 13% ABV

Poggio Maestrino Riserva 2013: (DOCG Morellino di Scansano, Italy). Dry red, medium ruby color with hints of garnet. The medium-intense bouquet of this Italian red features forest floor, sweet tilled earth, raspberry, oak spice, pepper, plums and cherry. The spice and fruit notes carry onto the palate with medium body flavors of plum and sour cherry, black pepper, delicate chocolate, raspberry and earthy berries. The wine is quite dry with a low sugar content and high, grippy tannins making it ideal with soft cheeses, olives or dried salamis. Medium acidity with a medium-length finish. Overall, this wine is light and lively with that old world spice and classic fruit flavors. Pair with spaghetti Bolognese, lasagna or charcuterie. Very good! $20, 13.5% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!