As the days start to become cooler, you may start thinking it's time to transition into fall’s cooler weather with darker hued wines. If you are one of the wine drinkers who feel you need to begin bridging the seasons with reds, there are two regions that offer astounding values that you should consider: Chianti and Rioja.
Let's start with Chianti, a region in Tuscany, where this red wine has it's roots. First of all, the term “Chianti” is used as a broad catch-all phrase that doesn’t convey the vast range of styles offered today. Today's Chianti isn't that old straw-clad fiasco bottle that implied rustic country wine that was often shrill and acidic. That style of Chianti is long gone and in it’s place you’ll find some wines with character and great values that are widely resepected on the world market.
Antinori Chianti Superiore Santa Cristina 2011 is a case in point. This wine is a blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot iit is also a good value, running around $15 (or less).
A bit of history: Santa Cristina was originally introduced in 1946 as a Chianti Classico, but with the passage of the 1984 DOCG laws requiring lower vineyard yields, Chianti Classico grapes became so complex and rich that they required more aging than this fruity fresh wine needed to maintain its style and character. In 1987, Santa Cristina moved away from the Chianti Classico designation, and with the 1994 vintage Antinori began including 10% Merlot to the blend to add soft, open fruit nuances to the wine.
Antinori Chianti Superiore Santa Cristina 2011 is a classic, ruby-red, well-structured Chianti, offering aromas of red berry fruit (red currant and cherry), with vanilla and floral hints of violets. As the wine breathes, whiffs of vanilla from the oak aging waft from the glass. The medium-bodied palate is well-balanced and complex, with sweet tannins and ripe red fruit notes upfront, followed by typical spicy sensations from the oak palate and more savory flavors lingering on the finish. It's great with a meal or for a quiet evening watching the sun set over the ocean.
When looking for value in red wines, Rioja continues to offer the best values in ready-to-drink, age-able wines. At a tasting earlier this year, Vivanco Dinastia Rioja Reserva scored high points all around.
For just under $20, Vivanco is a deep, dark cherry red wine made from vineyards in Briones and Haro, Rioja Alta, where the average age of the vines is 35 years. With aromas of spicy oak, this wine has everything any Rioja fan would wish for: mature black plum and red cherry followed by some balsamic and eucalyptus notes. There is a wonderful balance and blending of the aromas and flavors—from the oaky toffee elements in the nose (vanilla and marshmallow), to the long-lasting black cherry, sweet currant, dried herbs, mushrooms, and a minerally touch of limestone that race across your taste buds. This wine has intensity and balance, soft, round tannins, and a long finish with hints of toast and licorice. If possible, try to decant before serving.
Both of these wines are perfect with appetizers, any cheese, pizza, root vegetables and red and grilled meat. To bring out their soft fruitiness, try chilling them for about 20 minutes before serving.