The Exquisite Collection – Chianti Classico Riserva (Aldi)

Aldi Chianti

No, it won’t go nicely with liver and fava beans. It would be a terrible match. And seriously, who takes their food and wine pairing advice from a cannibal anyway?

As poor as that recommendation may have been, that line is so famous that despite its age, it’s probably still a boost to the Chianti ‘brand’. A very welcome boost too, I’m sure, because many a wine know-it-all will tell you that Chianti plays second fiddle, well actually third fiddle, to two other Sangiovese-centric wine regions – Montalcino and Montepulciano (the latter not to be confused with the grape variety of the same name).

The magic word here is of course Sangiovese, ‘Blood of Jove’ (or Jupiter, to give him his other name). To imbibe something with such a name seems somehow beastly and yet noble at the same time. Or maybe I’m just getting carried away. Whatever. In any case, Sangiovese might not always be considered Italy’s greatest grape variety, but it’s certainly the country’s most internationalised variety. It’s versatile and variable, with sour cherry, tomato (yes!) and tea leaf (yes!) all being high on the tasting note hit list.

Politics and economics have come together to swell a number of Italian wine regions well beyond their original size. But ‘Classico’ tells us that the grapes were grown right where Chianti started, which is still where most of the region’s best wines are produced. The term ‘Riserva’ tells us that it was aged in oak for at least one year before being bottled and going on sale (not necessarily the case with wines from elsewhere in the world displaying equivalents of that word).

So this should be pricey. A variety that needs attention over a long growing season, grown in a great and famous wine region, and we need to pay for the oak barrels too, along with all the other costs of getting the bottle onto the shop’s shelves. So £7.50 seems very reasonable. Almost suspiciously reasonable.

If you were expecting something with the flair of a £30 Chianti Classico, you are of course going to be disappointed. But Aldi are on form in the value for money stakes once again. Those slightly wacky tasting notes I mentioned – they’re all there. And they have some complementary friends in the shape of plums, subtle toasty oak, a hint of something herbal and just a pinch of clove. True to Sangiovese’s reputation, the acidity and tannins take no prisoners, but whereas these wines can sometimes lack the body to balance those two elements, this one doesn’t. There’s also a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon in the bottle, but as far as I can tell, it’s just enrichening the colour and allowing the Sangiovese to do the talking to the other senses.

Like many Italian reds, this one will be enhanced considerably by pairing it with the right food. Not the liver, not the fava beans. Just a simple, rich Lasagne or Spaghetti Bolognese would be ideal.

And that’s your next informal dinner party sorted. You’re welcome.

Tom BradfordThe Exquisite Collection – Chianti Classico Riserva (Aldi)

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