Impressive Tuscan Reds Brighten Up Winter Meals

You know what makes winter bearable, at least for me? Big cooking projects and intimate dinner parties with friends featuring awesome wine pairings. I recently received samples of three Tuscan stunners and while I may’ve missed the holiday gift giving window, I am right in time for wine pairings for winter dinners and gifts for hosts! Let’s see what we’ve got here.

Tenuta di Nozzole 2018 Chianti Classico Riserva ($20-25) Wow. I always love Chianti – and I’ve been partial to one producer for a number of years – but this Tenuta di Nozzole is a WINNER! If I look at my tasting notes, the first thing I wrote was “Goregeous!” It’s got it all – blackberry, raspberry, cassis and some brambly, woodsy notes, with a little richness from oak aging. It’s an elegant, juicy, generous wine with a luxurious texture. It drinks like a $60 bottle and I love it! It’s exactly what you want with a pizza (especially one with some sausage and/or mushrooms), a pan of lasagna, or just some pasta with Bolognese or marinara sauce. This beauty totally over-delivers for the price.

Let’s talk about Chianti for a minute, shall we? The main grape is Sangiovese (Italy’s most-grown red grape). First, there is basic Chianti, which must contain at least 70 percent Sangiovese (and can be up to 100 percent) and can be made anywhere within the limits of the Chianti region.

Moving on up to fancy town, you’ve got Chianti Classico, which is its own appellation, sort of smack in the center of the larger Chianti region. You will always see the rooster symbol on the neck of a bottle of Chianti Classico. The wine must contain at least 80 percent Sangiovese and can be up to 100 percent. And to qualify as a Riserva – like this Tenuta di Nozzole (Tenuta means “estate” in English) – the wine must age for more than two years before release and have half a percent more alcohol than the minimum for non-riserva wines, which is 12 percent. (This one has 14 percent alcohol). There are seemingly endless rules for meeting certain quality standards but each one its reason!

Tenuta di Biserno 2019 Insoglio del Cinghiale $35-$43 This is what you would call a Super-Tuscan. What does that mean? It means it is a Tuscan red wine that is falls outside the rules set for the Chianti DOC. The “original” Super Tuscan is Sassicaia, Tenuta San Guido’s Cabernet – Cabernet Franc blend that debuted in 1968. Since then, a number of Tuscan winemakers have exercised the freedom to create red blends using all sorts of grapes.

This Insoglio is a knock-out! It’s made from 33 percent Syrah, 33 percent Merlot, 14 percent Cabernet Franc, 14 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 6 percent Petit Verdot. How cool is it that this winery is using traditional Bordeaux grapes for a Tuscan wine? And friends, it’s a great one. It’s got strawberry-cherry compote jumping out of the glass, alongside dried figs and a touch of mocha. It is LOVELY! It’s got luxurious, silky tannins and huge character. The fruit shines through and is backed up with structure and body. God, it’s good. I tasted it from Coravin, and will pop this baby open for a grilled steak, like a Bistecca Fiorentina (a big grilled t-bone, brushed with olive oil, often seared alongside fresh rosemary, and sometimes accented with a blitz of lemon juice). Okay, on to the mac daddy….

Tenute Silvio Nardi 2015 Brunello di Montalcino $65-$83 Well, friends, this is the wine you want to serve with something special, like a rack of lamb, a nice piece of beef or something mushroomy. Brunello di Montalcino is made with 100 percent Sangiovese (which they call Brunello, in Montalcino, the tiny hill town in Tuscany). It is a powerful expression of the grape, and must be aged at least four years before release (five for riserva). At least two of the four years of aging must be in wood and at least four months in bottle. This bottle spent 12 months in a combo of new and used French oak barrels, then took a trip to large Slovenian oak barrels for 18 months and was bottle-aged for 12 months.

This is a wine that impresses, with its aromas of cherry, old leather and dried herbs. It is super-ageable – you can drink it now and it’s fantastic – but it will be even more glorious in a couple of years. It’s very precise and structured, showing all the elegant nuances of this crazy Sangiovese grape. (All the top critics gave this wine scores of 93 and 94.) Serve it with meat – pork roast, lamb, beef.

Whether you’re gifting a host or treating your friends, these three will make any winter meal delicious and memorable. Cheers, friends! If you want more info on these wines, here are links. I use wine.com, because it’s an easy way to get quick info – and order if you want – (I don’t receive anything for it) but I also encourage people to support local indie wine shops, which can often procure whatever you desire from a distributor!

Tenuta di Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva

Insoglio del Cinghiale

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello di Montalcino

Salut!

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