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Friday, February 11, 2011

A New day in Chianti? The Brancaia Chianti Classico 2006

Do you love wines from the Tuscan region of Italy as much as I do? How about a great Chianti Classico? 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 great, read on because this time my review will revolve around another great Tuscan wine. So join me as I jump into the wine-wagon,  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 for holding candles] that Chianti use to be known for, instead today they are leaning toward a more approachable style that will impress you right away and give you that Chianti-Fix you may have been looking for and have not been able to find. And I believe doing it, without compromising the traditional hallmarks of a great Chianti.

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 wine making region in 2009. 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 here, it's entitled "Putting the "Super" in Super Tuscan". It gives a lot more background on Brancaia, than I will be able to accomplish in this review today.

I know here I go again dipping into the pool of unadulterated honesty for which I may draw fire from a few folks for what I am about to allege. But here it goes; I believe truthfully that wines [which can be quite dry and tannic in their youth] from the Chianti region can be both exciting and frustrating at the same time, because there are as many duds, as there are wines of wonder and amazement [shock or awe?].

Even among the [Denominazione di Orogine 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 called the "Bordeaux of Italy", as the flexibility in the blending recipe for Chianti accounts for some of the variability in styles among Chiantis."  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 why did I entitle this review 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 and while this may be true, it should not obscure the fact that Brancaia is producing some [nope I didn't appreciate them all] truly fantastic wines, which are true to the concept of terroir and in my mind many of their wines are a good 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 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 only uses cork] 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: So I stuff my 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, and tobacco.

Slurped: The mouth feel 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 type of wine. It has wonderfully integrated tannins and sufficient acid carries this unusually fruit-forward but elegant Chianti, that's just now hitting it's 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 a bottle, well the fine folks at the Hess Collection who are the importers of this fine wine sent a sample for the review process. This is not my first time to the rodeo either when it comes to vino from Brancaia, whose wines will seduce you over and over with their elegant charms.

Price and Purchase: Okay ya bunch of wino-tics [trust me, this is a real word] 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. 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 your interested: This wine scored 90 points on the CCWB's 100 point scale and the QPR is good, 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 Spectator] had this to say about the 2006 Brancaia Chianti Classico, "Shows plenty of crushed blackberry and cherry, with hints of flowers. Full-bodied, with a solid core of fruit and silky tannins that turn to vanilla and raspberry on the finish." and recommends to drink [I think it's peaking now] now through 2014 and gave this wine a score of 91pts.



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