Sat 25 Sep 2010
Not much Chianti Superiore is made in Tuscany; production is under two percent of total Chianti output, which encompasses, generally, Chianti, Chianti Superiore, Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Riserva. The “Superiore” designation doesn’t necessarily mean that a wine is “superior” to those made in a “lesser” category but that its production requires greater density of planting and lower grape yields in the vineyard and a slightly higher alcohol content than “regular” Chianti. Chianti Superiore is officially categorized as a D.O.C.G., or Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, the highest classification of Italian wine, though in the past 20 years this distinction has been passed out like candy at a children’s birthday party.
Anyway, a few nights ago I made a sauce for penne pasta in this manner: I minced about a quarter of an onion, a small carrot, a stalk of celery and I guess three cloves of garlic and sauted them in some olive oil and a little grease from some chopped Italian sausages I had previously cooked. When the vegetables were just beginning to brown, I poured in about half a cup of red wine, turned the heat up and let that bubble until the wine had evaporated. Meanwhile, as recipes say, I had taken about 15 small and very ripe Roma tomatoes (from the Memphis Farmers Market), halved them, sprinkled them with olive oil, salt, pepper and dried thyme, marjoram and oregano and put them under the broiler until they began to blacken and blister. The skins, what was left of them, slipped off easily. I scraped the tomatoes and any liquid into the pot with the vegetables, stirred all this together and then took a pair of kitchen shears and went in there and scissored everything into the smallest possible pieces. Before serving, I took two very ripe, dark red tomatoes, dipped them into the boiling pasta water for a minute each, stripped off the skins, chopped them and added them to the sauce to heighten the freshness factor. A couple of dippers of the hot pasta water stirred in gave the sauce just the right consistency. Prego!
All of which brings us to Banfi’s Chianti Superiore 2008, one of the wines in the Banfi Toscana portfolio. This is the first release of the wine; it’s available only in the United States. The wine is made from 75 percent sangiovese and 25 percent canaiolo nero and cabernet sauvignon and aged four to five months in French oak barrels. This is an accessible, direct and authentic expression of the sangiovese grape and of the Chianti style that makes up in delicious appeal what it may lack in depth and dimension. Scents and flavors of black cherries, red currants and plums are bolstered by spicy elements that increase as the moments pass, manifesting themselves in hints of cloves and allspice, orange rind and black tea. The structure is just dense and chewy enough to remind you that, yes, the wine indeed has some structure, with slightly dusty tannins unfolding in the background. The Banfi Chianti Superiore 2008 was exactly what was needed with our pasta, its vibrant acidity and dark fruit flavors matching nicely with the rich sauce. Alcohol content is 13.3 percent. Drink through 2011. Very Good. About $11, A Real Bargain.
Nothing on the bottle tells consumers that the image on the label is the painting Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci. The girl — for she was only 16 — is Cecilia Gallerani, the mistress of Lodovico Sforza, who was Duke of Milan and Leonardo’s patron. The piece was executed in 1489-1490 in oil paint — then a new medium — on panel. It hangs in the Czartoryski Museum in Krakow.
Imported by Banfi Vintners, Old Brookville, N.Y. A sample for review.