Wine Time: Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2011, Italy

COST: $33-$36

 

WHAT: As confusing as Italian wines can be, you can’t go wrong buying a good Chianti. The Badia a Coltibuono (bah-DEEH-hah ah kohl-teeh-BUOH-noh) is one of the best Chianti Classico wines around.

It is more full-bodied and elegant than many wines from the Chianti and Chianti Classico regions in Tuscany, and is good with food or by itself.

Chianti has undergone big changes over the years. Any of you old enough to remember when it came mostly in straw-covered, bulbous bottles will be in for a pleasant surprise if you haven’t tried any recently. The wine that we drank over red-checkered tablecloths and a candle stuck in an empty Chianti bottle are long gone.

That wine was cheap, coarse, thin and not very good. As good wine from around the world became available and Chianti sales slipped, producers in Tuscany had to step up their game. They improved big time, taking advantage of the many microclimates to create many wines from the same grape, sangiovese.

This wine is 90 percent sangiovese and 10 percent canaiolo. It’s a deep ruby color in the glass, with elegant balsamic aromas mixed with flowers, tobacco and licorice.

Badia a Coltibuono is known for its streamlined, elegant wines, often a little thinner in consistency and color, as is the Chianti tradition. But this wine is warmer and more full-bodied. Black cherry flavors mix with herbal notes. There is still great freshness in the wine but the full body and substantial mouthfeel add to the pleasure. The wine is five years old, and full of mature tannins and fruitiness. A good dose of acidity keeps it all fresh.

After hand harvesting, the grapes were macerated on the skins for three weeks. After fermentation the wine was aged for 24 months in casks of French and Austrian oak, and another four months in the bottle before release.

I would chill this slightly before serving. The winery recommends serving it at 64 degrees.

The winery also produces Coltibuono Cetamura Chianti ($11), Chianto Classico RS ($15), Chianti Classico DOCG ($20) and a special Sangioveto di Toscana ($60). All are outstanding at their price point. Each one would enhance your meal.

WINERY: Like many places in Italy, Badia a Coltibuono can trace its roots back for centuries. In this case, it goes all the way back to the 3rd Century BC to the Etruscan civilization. The winery itself comes directly from the 11th century Romanesque monastery, which is still standing on the property.

The name translates to “abbey of the good harvest.” The abbey was founded by Vallombrosan monks in the 11th century and immediately became a center for wine production.

San Giovanni Gualberto, founder of the Vallombrosan order and patron saint of the foresters, rangers and parks, established the abbey in 1051. The Vallombrosans may have been the first to cultivate Sangiovese in Tuscany.

An ancient badia, or abbey, holds a special place in the history of Western Europe. During the Middle Ages, these abbeys served not only as places of worship and spiritual refuge, but also as centers of learning, engines for economic growth, and laboratories for agricultural development. The monastery was active from 1000 to 1810, buying large tracts of land. Napoleon annexed most church property in Tuscany in 1810. Some he gave away to friends or as political favors. Some he sold.

The Stucchi Prinetti family has run the estate since 1846, balancing history and innovation to create one of Chianti Classico’s best-loved wineries. Seventh-generation family members run the property. The philosophical approach is to maintain both the integrity of Sangiovese and the unique terroir of Chianti Classico through organic farming practices, clonal diversity and restrained use of new oak barrels. They continue to work with pioneering Tuscan oenologist Maurizio Castelli.

Emanuela Stucchi, the first woman elected president of the Marchio Storico del Chianti Classico, manages the winery with the help of her three brothers: Roberto, who is head winemaker; Paolo, who oversees the well-regarded Coltibuono restaurant; and Guido, who runs hospitality.

Today, the estate is composed of vineyards, chestnut, walnut and olive trees, all of them lying on one of the best sites in the Chianti area, where the soil is very rich and the climate is mild and sunny all year round. They are some of the most iconic Chianti Classico wines.

Coltibuono’s estate today is a center of Tuscan culture and includes a restaurant, a culinary school, a B&B and apartments for farm holidays and is open for visits and tastings to all who want to learn about local products and traditions.

The estate is situated on the hills of the commune of Gaiole in Chianti with 2,282 acres that include vineyards, farms and olive groves.

Among the first leading wine-producing firms in Tuscany to wholly return to environmental sustainability, Badia a Coltibuono is dedicated to the preservation and vinification of Sangiovese and local varieties. The winery produces three Chianti Classico wines, two IGT, two Vinsanto and a Grappa. The estate also produces a line of “Coltibuono” wines, made from grapes selected from small growers in Tuscany.

These wines are imported by Dalla Terra Winery Direct, an unusual importing model that keeps prices down by bypassing the national importer in the traditional three-tier system. Distributors buy directly from the producers and pass the savings, which average 25 percent, along to consumers.

GOES WITH: We had this with grilled pork chops, baked potatoes, peas and salad. The chops actually were thick slices of a boneless pork loin I bought on sale and cut at home.

I love it when the pork loins go on sale because I can use the meat in so many ways: chops, stir fry, soup, stews or roasted. I buy several large ones and cut them into thirds to tuck away in my freezer for when I need them.

The pork was tasty with the deep, rich flavors of the wine. The aging of the wine smoothed out the tannins, but this is still an intense wine, and needs substantial food for pairing. I rubbed the pork with Morton’s Nature’s Seasons and some Hawaiian spices, so there was a good bit of flavor to mix with the fruit in the wine.

This was another bottle that disappeared quickly from the table, as we all thought it was outstanding.

This wine also would go well with roasted meats, game and aged cheeses.

WINE EVENTS

 

FRIDAY, OCT. 14

Wine tasting, 5-8 p.m., Whole Foods, 2907 Washington Rd., featuring five glasses of wine for $5, with snacks. Get wine tickets at the service counter. 762-333-0260.

OCT. 14-15

Wine and beer tasting, 4:30-6:30 p.m. Friday, 3-6 p.m. Saturday, Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Lock Road, Evans; (706) 922-9463.

FRIDAY, OCT. 21

Southern Suds, 6:30-9 p.m., Augusta Museum of History, 560 Reynolds, St., $20-$60; this is the second year for Southern Suds, which includes lectures on brewing, food, music and a sampling of craft brews from around Georgia; Tickets available at EventBrite.com; (706) 722-8454

Wine tasting, 5-8 p.m., Wine World, 133 Georgia Ave., North Augusta; three whites, three reds and cheeses, $5; (803) 279-9522

 

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