Volpetto Chianti ($16.26)
Find it in the Italy Section

Chianti famously accompanied a meal of favas beans and liver for a reason.  The good ones have a sour cherry rasp, a balance of acids and tannins that cleanse and refresh the palate as you eat. They are a perfect counterpoint to the gaminess of offal, but please try those of lambs or calves rather than human.

Chianti is a (the?) wine of Tuscany, so it’s meant for fare like stews and steaks, for mushrooms more than brighter tomato-oriented cuisine eaten closer the toe and heel of the Italian peninsula.  Even more than French wine, Italian wine is for the table.  Chianti doesn’t make sense without food, it doesn’t yield its qualities unless it is washing down grub.

The Volpetto Chianti ($16.26) is a worthy example of simple, straightforward, everyday Chianti (there are qualitative steps up in the Chianti Classico and especially the Chianti Classico Reserva).  This wine, from Sangiovese and a drop of Cannailo, isn’t particularly complex, it doesn’t linger or haunt, but it does the job of slaking you thirst and compelling you to another bite of dinner.

Bartali Chianti ($26.95)
Find it in the Italy Section

With a Trudeau back in the PMO it’s time to try the Bartali Chianti ($26.95 … but for 1000 ml rather than the usual 750 ml) which comes, as these wines did back in the days of Wage and Price Controls and The War Measures Act, in the rotund straw-padded bottles called “fiascos”.

(When emptied those bottles often served as candle holders, creating a kind of faux continental atmosphere in apartments redolent of Mexican pot.  Imagine your parents, stoned, making out, the White Album skipping … okay, bad idea.)

The Bartali is almost as good as the Volpetto, perhaps even simpler, with less length and spice and a tiny bit confected but did well with a sausage and spinach sauced pasta dish.  Prudent to serve this ordinary wine on the cooler side.  (People mistakenly think red wine should be served at room temperature, but that rule was made long before narcotizing central heating.)

At every price range the wines of Italy remain the best deals at the NLC.