Danville Express

Living - December 7, 2007

The Wine Guy: A taste of Tuscany

by Gregory Peebles

2004 Rocca delle Macie

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG

(Castellina in Chianti, Italy)

(Costco - Danville, $15.99)

Chianti Classico, decreed as a specific geographical zone within Tuscany's larger Chianti region by Grand Duke Cosimo III in 1716, produces some of the world's greatest Sangiovese-based red wines. Four ancient townships comprise the heart and soul of Chianti Classico: Castellina, Gaiole, Greve and Radda. Besides grape vines, the rolling hills are dotted with plots of wheat, sunflower, umbrella pine, cypress and olives.

Having personally visited Rocca delle Macie in 1998 and tasted many young wines from the barrel, I can attest to the quality and stunning beauty of the estate along with Castellina's bucolic landscape as a whole. This estate (494 acres dedicated to grape vines and 198 acres planted to olive trees), owned by the Zingarelli family since 1973, is intent on building a reputation among wine industry professionals and consumers alike for world-class quality and regional typicity.

Being a blend of 90 percent Sangiovese, 5 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 5 percent Merlot, this Riserva holds terrific promise. Enjoy a couple bottles now and cellar a few more for four or five years. The thick, tight, tannic structure requires some time to mellow, and its flashy acidity will provide overall longevity. By 2012 or so, you should be reaping the delicious benefits of your investment and patience.

The colors are youthful and shine intensely through the crystal. Purple, red and ruby hues intertwine beautifully.

Take plenty of time to appreciate the aroma and bouquet. The varietal blend contributes unmistakable notes of cherry pie, blackberry, earthy minerality and a whiff of meatiness. Having spent two years in wood (French oak) and three months in bottle prior to release as required by DOCG ("Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita") statute, the outstanding bouquet is one of smoke, herb, spice, leather and vanilla.

Your palate will enjoy a very dense wine of substantial complexity. A tight core of sweet cherry and tart plum is protected by heavy, chewy and chalky tannins. Fruit, acid and tannin components work wonderfully together.

As for the finish, it's what one would expect: lingering, packed with red fruit nuances and ultra fine tannins. You'll taste this wine long after your last sip.

Riservas are normally vinified only in outstanding vintages. Producing such extraordinary wine depends on identifying the best vineyard sites in any particular year. The entire process from vineyard to bottle is guided by very strict DOCG laws designed to protect the consumer and guarantee product integrity.

I'm hungry! How about you?

Big, hearty wines deserve the same style of cuisine. Try an antipasti course of cured meats or crostini (Italian canapés), move on to panzanella (tomato and bread salad) or ribollita (twice-cooked Tuscan bean soup), followed by a main dish of roasted wild game or polenta al sugo (polenta with a rich meat sauce). Don't forget the fresh, hot rosemary focaccia sprinkled with coarse salt. Bene!

Let your palate be the judge...

Have comments or questions about wine? Gregory Peebles, wine industry professional and East Bay resident, can be contacted at caledoniawine@sbcglobal.net.

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