Tuscany Uncorked: The 2006 Brancaia Chianti Classico Riserva

“My idea of heaven still is to drive the gravel farm roads of Umbria and Tuscany, very pleasantly lost.”― Frances Mayes, Under the Tuscan Sun

Do you love wines from the Tuscan region of Italy as much as I do? How about an excellent Chianti Classico or perhaps a Riserva? How about one made in a modern style, sure to please even the most sophisticated palate while not breaking the bank? If you answered yes to any of those questions fantastic, read on because this time my review will revolve around another gorgeous Tuscan wine. So join me as I jump into the wine-wagon once more,  as we are heading over to Tuscany's Chianti Classico region.

Forget that image you may have in your mind of the straw-covered, jug-wines [great candle holders] an image those in the Chianti wine region have left far behind. Instead today many producers are leaving the uber rustic style behind, in favor of a more approachable style that will impress you right away and give you the Chianti-Fix you may have been looking for and have not been able to find. But I believe doing so without compromising the traditional hallmarks of an excellent Chianti many have come to know and appreciate its authenticity.

Chianti Classico is one of my favorite places in the world and I actually had the pleasure [and some pain] of traveling to this great and historic winemaking region in 2009. My very first trip was taken as a wine blogger and stayed on a vineyard in Castellini. This is the second wine I've reviewed from Brancaia and if you not familiar with that review, I would recommend taking a look there first before you continue reading it's entitled A TASTE OF TUSCANY: 2004 BRANCAIA ILATRAIA. It gives a lot more background on Brancaia than I will be able to accomplish in this review today. There's also another informative article entitled under THE TUSCAN SUN: 2008 TENUTA SETTE PONTI CROGNOLO which will fill in some of the gaps left out here in this review.

So here I go once more dipping a toe into the pool of unadulterated honesty for which I may draw criticism from a few folks for what I am about to claim. But here it goes; I honestly believe that wines which can be quite dry and tannic in their youth, can be exhilarating in after a decade of cellar time, smoothing out those harsh tannins. That said, the Chianti region can be both exciting and frustrating at the same time, because while there are many duds, as there are wines of wonder and amazement. You can easily find your way to both shock and awe in the same region.

Even among the [Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita] DOCG which designates a producer of Chianti Classico, where you should find the familiar Black Chicken on the neck of the bottle. According to Jancis Robinson, who notes that "Chianti is sometimes referred to as the "Bordeaux of Italy," as the flexibility in the blending recipe for Chianti accounts for some of the variability in styles among Chiantis."  I believe that is well said, because when I find a great producer of Chianti-Classico, I get very excited and it's from this wellspring of excitement that I tell you it's a "new day" in Chianti Classico thus it's with great pleasure I present to you once more, Brancaia.

You may be asking what is with the reference to a "new day" in Chianti? That's a good question, the premise of this "new-day" I believe is the pushing of the envelope, seen by some as "Nuvo" or un-traditional. While this may be true, it should not obscure the fact that Brancaia is producing some [nope I didn't appreciate them all] genuinely fantastic wines overall. Many of which are true to the concept of terroir and in my mind, many of their wines are an excellent example of what the region is capable of producing in the right hands.

To me, this is what Brancaia certainly represents, as a new wave of producers in Chianti. Of whom I would like to characterize as thinking outside the [straw-covered bottle] traditional parameters in Chianti Classico, by introducing Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to their Sangiovese dominated blends and the use of French Oak barrels [some Tuscan winemakers consider anyone using French oak to be a non-traditionalist].

Swirly-swirl: After uncorking the bottle, [sorry Stelvin fans Chianti Classico uses cork exclusively] and if you ask them about screw caps they just look at you like you must be from "outer-space." What you will find after you pour yourself a glass, is that this wine has a deep garnet colored core, fading to the cerise colored rim, a wonderfully vivid color swirling about in my glass.

Sniffy-Sniff: After I stuff my fat half-Irish nose into the glass and giving the wine a few good swirls, its aromatics open to reveal a super-elegant expression of fresh berries, plums, and tobacco.

Slurped: The mouthfeel reveals a sumptuous expression of coffee, dark fruits, medium in weight, with a nice offset between the fruit and herbal characteristics which makes the wine very appealing as a drink now and drink often style of wine. It has wonderfully integrated tannins and sufficient acid carries this unusually fruit-forward but elegant Chianti, that's just now hitting its stride.

What's in it?: In this wine, you find a wonderful blend of 85% Sangiovese and 15% Merlot.

Full Disclosure: So if you're wondering how I was able to get my hands on this bottle, well the fine folks at the Hess Collection who are the importers of this exceptional wine sent a sample for the review process. When it comes to vino from Brancaia, this isn't my first rodeo, many of the wines they produce will seduce you over and over with their elegant charms.

Price and Purchase: Trust me, grabbing some of this wine is going to be a little tougher than I thought, as it is not sitting on any shelf just waiting for you to come and get it.  At least it wasn't at the time I first penned this post seven years ago. The wine biz is ever fluctuating, today's winner could be nowhere's ville tomorrow. This Chianti is a bit on the expensive side as Chianti's go, not the QPR winner I hoped it would be, however, for the caliber of wine, it's still a good value for $29 to $32.

Brick & Mortar: For the folks in the San Diego market, I spoke with the San Diego Wine Company and with Vintage Wines Limited of San Diego who both said they would order it for you, but you would need to speak with them regarding the arrangements of acquiring this wine. For the LA crowd, you can pick up this vino at Tarzana Wine & Spirits or at Fine Wine House, but I would call first.

My Recommendation: Because of the situation this wine is in, it may mean splitting a case with a friend or a few friends, who love a Chianti Classico like you do or maybe you could talk your favorite wine store into acquiring a few cases as a wise move to accommodate their customers. Whatever you do, I want to highly recommend this modern style of Chianti Classico to you, please give it a swirl and let me know your thoughts, I don't believe you will be disappointed. Until next time sip long and prosper.

What's the Score: Hey point seekers here's my score if you're interested: This wine scored 90 points on the CCWB 100 point scale, and the QPR is excellent, but not great. Another very well made wine worthy of a place in your cellar or at a Tuscan inspired dining experience near you.

Other Voices: In case you need another opinion about this wine that I've found most tasty, I give you Mr. James Suckling formerly with the WS [Wine Speculator] had this to say about the 2006 Brancaia Chianti Classico, "Shows plenty of crushed blackberry and cherry, with hints of flowers. I found this wine full-bodied, with a solid core of fruit and silky tannins that turn to vanilla and raspberry on the finish." and recommended to drink [I think it's peaking now] now through 2014 and gave this wine a score of 91pts.


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