The Fiasco of the Seventies

When I refer to the Fiasco of the Seventies, I'm not talking about the green polyester pants in my 5 th grade class photo. I’m referring to the straw basket containers of yesterday’s Chianti wines . Anyone who dined at a local Italian restaurant in the early seventies remembers these straw-covered bottles, which were used more for holding candles than quality wine. I think that the unwritten rule was that they had to be placed on a red and white checkered table cloth with a candle that resembled a melted pack of crayons. However, when you actually drank the Chianti of this era, you wished you had drunk the "molten crayons."

The shift in both the quality and the marketing of these wines is nothing less than remarkable. In the eighties, vintners of the Chianti Classico region sought to drastically improve the quality of their wines and image. In doing so, they looked to the “ Gallo Nero ”or "Black Rooster" in Italian. No, the Gallo Nero is not the ominous mark of La Cosa Nostra ! It’s the official seal of the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico , a regional producers' association. Participants of the consorzio must now adhere to strict rules dealing with yields, color, aging, acidity levels, and permitted grapes (at least 80% of the grapes used must be Sangiovese). Common wine terms have strict meaning when applied to Chianti Classico wines. For instance, Chianti Classico wines marked “ Riserva ” must be aged for a minimum of twenty-four months.

What makes Chianti Classico such an extraordinary buy is that these relatively inexpensive wines are on the other side of the proverbial fence from the nebulous " Super Tuscans ," which generally command much higher prices. The next time you find yourself in a restaurant looking at a "phone book” of wines that have been marked-up upwards of four hundred percent, look for a reasonably-priced Chianti Classico Riserva and put your trust in the Gallo Nero!

Author's Picks:
'09 San Felice Chianti Classico Riserva "Il Grigio" $18.99
'10 Fattoria di Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia 2010 $36.99