Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Il Conto, Per Favore!

How To Order Wine in a Tuscan Restaurant

(And how to choose a good Chianti at home)

When you go to Tuscany and look at a wine menu, it can get a bit confusing. It’s the same situation if you’re buying wine. Do you choose a Chianti Classico, a Riserva, a Gran Selezione, or an IGT, and what's the difference?

Our advice is to ask your cameriere (waiter) first. Real wines vary greatly from year to year, depending on the weather and a thousand other factors, so recognizing the name of a good winery doesn't always guarantee a good wine. Even the best producers have off years. The wine from big brands you recognize from home will probably be made mostly for export. You really don't want one of those. Your waiter will know what local wines are good now, and he’ll be happy to show off his skills and choose a good bottle for you.

How much should you spend? 

Wines in restaurants in Italy are not marked up excessively compared to most countries. Wines are marked up by 200 to 500% here, so a budget of €20-€40 will get you a very nice bottle of wine. And unless you are buying big name wine (designed for tourists) then you pretty much get what you pay for.

As for what kind of Chianti, it's a matter of taste, and pairing with what you’re eating. Chianti Classico wines are younger and fruitier, and go well with most foods. A Riserva or Gran Selezione will be aged longer, have a smoother finish, can be a little more full bodied, and so go well with roasted meats or the famous Fiorentina steak.

What about the so called Super-Tuscan IGTs? These are effectively classified as regional wines, a step up from table wines, but most vineyards use the freedom declassification brings to craft very special wines, still based largely on the Sangiovese grape, but also adding other non-local grapes to produce fuller bodied wines that are able to withstand extended ageing in the bottle. They’re usually the most expensive wines, and you have to wait until they are ready to drink. It’s best to make sure the IGT you want to open is ready before you pop the cork.

If you’re in an Italian restaurant (in Italy!) ask your waiter. Follow this rule and you’ll be introduced to amazing wines that you would never have found on your own. We've never been disappointed.