Chianti Classico is in a worse position than Rodney Dangerfield—at least Dangerfield got laughs to compensate for the lack of respect.
A couple of years ago, I was talking to the wine director of one on New York's best-known Italian restaurants as he complained that Chianti Classico was the hardest sell on his list. It was almost as if people don't order it because it's so reasonably priced. Unfortunately, this perverse process, which passes for thought, is all-too-common among many of the wine aficionados who peruse the world's mega wine lists on a regular basis.
Fortunately, though, it is not a condition that afflicts this column's enlightened readers. Here I seek out wines with personality, wines that taste of the soil from which they come—and therein lies Chianti Classico's problem. If someone has graduated from Coca-Cola to California cola wines, then scaled the heights of wine elitism (at least as it is sometimes perceived) by developing a taste for Super Tuscans, of course they are not going to be impressed by a mere Chianti Classico, such as the latest Wine of the Week, the Canonica a Cerreto Chianti Classico 2007 ($27).
Please, don't get me wrong. There are some super Super Tuscans, but we can't all spend $100 a bottle every night. That's where this simple, fresh, and vibrant Chianti Classico comes in. It's unpretentious, vivacious, and endlessly versatile. It's a wine to drink with friends over plates of pasta and large pizzas at a trattoria in Tuscany—or at least to imagine that's where you are drinking it.
It will stand up to a beefy Tuscan steak and not embarrass itself when confronted with a Vitello al Tonno—hardly a Tuscan dish, but that is the point: Easy-drinking versatility is what this wine is all about.
To find this wine near you, try wine-searcher.com.
When to Drink: Now
Breathing/Decanting: Half an hour really helps
Food Pairing: Extremely versatile; grilled meats, pasta, cheese
Grapes: 90 percent sangiovese, 10 percent merlot
Web Site: www.canonicacerreto.it