Thursday, April 10, 2014

2 Affordable Italian Reds from the Whole Foods Twitter Tasting

If you've missed the Twitter Tastings organized by Whole Foods Market, you're missing some fun. People from all over taste the same wine and tweet their thoughts. This time around, I was particularly interested in the 2 Italian reds they featured:  Monrosso Chianti (2010) and Verrazzano Rosso, a red blend also from Tuscany (2012).

Cue the Chianti Cheat Sheet:

These 2 Italian wines, Monrosso Chianti and Verrazzano Rosso, come from the same region - Tuscany. Chiantis rank at the highest level of Italy's wine classification system, DOCG.  The Verrazzano Rosso is ranked lower, at the IGT level.  A lower ranking can be both a blessing and a curse, because even though it's ranked technically as lower quality, there are fewer regulations at the IGT level.  DOCGs are strictly regulated in terms of grape variety, alcohol content, aging, etc.  Whereas, the IGT-level winemaker has more freedom to experiment.  For instance, the Monrosso Chianti has to use at least 85% Sangiovese grape juice. The Verrazzano website tells me that their red blend mixes Sangiovese with Merlot (but doesn't give the percentages).

But how do they taste??

Monrosso Chianti 2010 -- Aromas/flavors of cherry, cranberry, and vanilla, with some earthy qualities. Medium, rounded tannins.  Medium-plus acidity, 13.5% alcohol.  Surprisingly smooth and easy to drink for a Chianti.  Chiantis are known for pairing well with food, but this wine could easily be drunk on its own.  It could go with anything from roasted chicken with herbs, to mushroom risotto, to spaghetti and meatballs.  It's totally all-purpose.  It even paired well with an apple-berry crumble that I made, based on this recipe (I used cranberries).

Verrazzano Rosso 2012 -- Earthier, spicier, richer than the Monrosso.  Aromas/flavors of red and black fruits, cocoa, and spice.  Higher in tannin than the Monrosso, but a bit lower in acid.  13.5% alcohol. Heavier, but could still be drunk on its own or paired with food.  This really opened up nicely after it had a chance to breathe in the glass for about 15 minutes.  I'd pair this one with something a little richer and heavier - pot roast, roasted lamb, or something with tomatoes and herbs.

I liked both of these wines.  The best part:  they are less than $15 at Whole Foods.  They are a great value at that price, and versatile enough to go with whatever weeknight meal you're cooking.  Give them a try!

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