Coltibuono's Classic Chianti

I visited Badia Coltibuono about 15 years ago to observe the cooking course run by the family matriarch, the regal Lorenza de’ Medici. The classes were informative and fun, Lorenza utterly charming, and the badia (abbey in English) and its setting idyllically Tuscan. But the wine? Well, I was not particularly impressed by the wines. Coltibuono was following the trend popular at the time of making “international”-style wines, a term not always indicative of approval.

They tasted more California than Tuscany, and while there’s nothing wrong with California wines, I do rather expect them to come from California, not Tuscany.

Since then the wines of Coltibuono have become widely available in America, thanks to the diligent marketing efforts of the estate. And while the increasing visibility of these labels did bring back fond memories of my visit, they didn’t tempt me to try the wine.

My loss, it seems. The other day I pulled the cork on this week’s wine of the week, the Coltibuono Chianti Classico 2009 ($15), and was immediately captivated by this appealing and utterly Tuscan wine.

Gone were the attempts at overripe internationalism; they were replaced by the simple, fresh charm of Sangiovese.

I queried winemaker Roberto Stucchi about this evolution. “We’ve got stronger relationships with better sources, so we are able to buy in better quality grapes,” he explained before getting to the heart of the matter. “The wines are now a bit more focused in terms of the purity of fruit. We want the Sangiovese identity—maybe we’ve got a bit stronger in that sense. Earlier we were leaning a bit more to an international style, and now I think we’ve found a different balance of a more classic Chianti style. We like the fact that it’s very identifiable Chianti character.”

The resulting wine has that pretty freshness, that uncomplicated sense of fun, that utter lack of pretension that is exactly what I look for in inexpensive, everyday Chianti.

To find this wine near you, try Wine Searcher.

When to Drink: Now and for the next 2 or 3 years 
Breathing/Decanting: An hour’s breathing really helps 
Food Pairing: Salami, grilled chicken, hard cheeses, red pasta sauces 
Grapes: 100% Sangiovese
Appellation: Chianti Classico
Region: Tuscany
Country: Italy
Price: $15

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