- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Toscolo, Chianti Classico, 2003, $20

Chianti Classico does not refer to a wine’s style. It designates a geographic origin, the Classico region or zone — about 100 square miles situated between Florence and Siena in Tuscany.

Although other zones — Ruffina and Senesi, for example — are home to stylistically similar wines, Classico is Chianti’s heartland. This is where Tuscan wine began its transformation from a simple everyday quaff to something more substantial and serious — a red of world-class stature.

That transformation, which began nearly a century ago, has accelerated during the past 20 years. Leading vintners, driven both by personal ambition and regional pride, have embraced modern winemaking and viticulture, investing in low-yielding vineyards and new equipment. Today, the result is a series of truly compelling wines.

Some of these wines come in an international style. Often called “super-Tuscans” and often sporting proprietary names, they taste soft and rich. The best Chianti Classicos, however, evidence a distinctly homegrown character. They have an almost haughty charm, one that challenges rather than seduces your taste buds.

Tart rather than ripe fruit flavors are the norm, with a dry, dusty undertone and a tealike finish. Because sangiovese, the dominant grape in any Chianti blend, is high in acidity, the wines invariably prove more pleasurable when drunk with food than when sipped on their own.

Toscolo’s 2003 is a fine example of Chianti Classico. Medium-bodied, it displays dried cherry fruit, with supporting flavors echoing herbs and spice that linger in a long, satisfying finish.

Delicious now, it should age gracefully for a good five years and will pair particularly well with almost anything in a tomato-based sauce, including all sorts of barbecue. (Imported by Empson USA.)

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