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Color and taste of bloody good Tuscan wine

ISACS is the founder and CEO of EnjoyGourmet, a leading gourmet digital (www.enjoygourmet.com.cn) and print media company in China. He has authored over a dozen wine and food books including the awarded ISACS Guides and other gourmet books and is a wine consultant to governments, wine regions and organizations. He also hosts wine events for leading organizations and companies throughout China. Contact John via jcolumn@enjoygourmet.com.

Blood plays an important role in many cuisines. This week’s iDeal section explores the delicious ways its used in Chinese cuisine.

In the West, there are blood sausages including black pudding, blutwurst and boudin and its also used to thicken and add flavor to classic French dishes like coq au vin and pressed duck. Blood, like wine, has an important symbolic role in many Christian religions. There’s also a very special grape that has ties to blood and just happens to pair quite nicely with many foods made with blood.

Sangiovese is Italy’s most important red wine variety. The grape is cultivated throughout Italy and makes some of the world’s finest red and rose wines. The modern name of the variety derives from the Latin word sanguis Jovis or “the blood of Jove” and most likely refers to the ruby red color of wines made from the grape. The first documented mention of Sangiovese was in the late 16th century by the writer Ciriegiulo and by the Renaissance the grape was well established in many parts of Tuscany and neighboring regions. The great noble families of Tuscany like Ricasoli, Strozzi, Mazzei, Antinori and Frescabaldi were champions of the Sangiovese grape as they created some of the world’s earliest wine brands under their family names.

Sangiovese like many grapes expresses itself in many ways. Young wines tend to be fresh and fruity with plenty of strawberry, red cherry and other red fruit and sometime floral qualities along with good acidity and herbal-spice elements. More mature examples may exhibit plum, bitter cherry, leather, tobacco and other earthy sensations.

Most Sangiovese wines have good fruitiness and acidity but there exists a myriad of Sangiovese wine styles from the light weight fresh Chiantis to the concentrated and complex Brunello di Montacino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Chianti Cassico and even Super Tuscans. While it’s true that Sangiovese wines are produced throughout Italy the most famous expressions come from Tuscany. This week I’ll take a closer look a few of the most historic producers whose wines you can find in Shanghai.

Barone Ricasoli

Of Longobard origin, the Ricasoli family first moved into Brolio in 1141 when the city states of Florence and Siena were in the early stages of their epic struggle for regional power that would last until 1478. Dating back to the 10th century, the castle was first a fortified village and later a fortress projecting the power of Florence in southern Tuscany. The Ricasoli family was aligned with Florence and played a key role in the struggle while all the time also making wines. In the mid 19th century, Baron Bettino Ricasoli invented the formula for Chianti Classico and also served as the second Prime Minister of a unified Italy.

The 32nd Baron, Francesco Ricasoli, now oversees the historic estate and over the past two decades has successfully brought Barone Ricasoli back to its historic position as one of Italy’s great winemakers.

Barone Ricasoli has sizable vineyard holdings and makes a wide range of wines including excellent Sangiovese reds. The flagship Brolio Chianti Classico DOCG red wine is a classically styled Chianti Classico with plenty of red and black fruit flavors and well-integrated tannins. My favorite Ricasoli wine is the Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico DOCG. This majestic red wine is a must try for lovers of Chianti Classico wines as it wonderfully expresses the potential of the variety to make wines of great character, balance and elegance.

Guicciardini Strozzi

Boasting over 1000 years of history, the Italian Winery Tenute Guicciardini Strozzi spreads over 530 hectares in Cusona. Situated amongst the green Tuscan hills the estate dates back to AD 994 and is close to the medieval town of San Gimignano, which is sometimes referred to as the medieval Manhattan. The owners of this historic estate are the Guicciardini Strozzi family who boast a rich history at the center of Italian winemaking, commerce, politics and society. Visiting Shanghai for the first time, the princesses Natalia and Irina Guicciardini Strozzi are related to Sir Winston Churchill and recently have also been documented as the 15th generation direct descendants of Mona Lisa. I’m privileged to be a good friend of both young ladies and they have beautiful smiles reminiscent of Mona Lisa and even more important to me, they also make great wines.

In fact Guicciardini Strozzi is most famous for a white wine, the Cusona 1933 Vernaccia di San Gimignano but they also make an excellent Sangiovese blend. The Millanni red wine celebrates the thousand year history of the estate and is a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The wine offers typical Sangiovese dark cherry and red fruit aromas and flavors along with subtle notes of oak and soft tannins.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the noble producers Antinori and Frescabaldi as they are two of the most important ambassadors of Italian wines to world markets. Both possess a rich history of making wine, Antonori from 1385 when Giovanni di Piero Antinori joined the Winemakers Guild of Florence and Frescabaldi from 1300. The two families also helped revolutionize the style and winemaking methods of modern Tuscan wines not only returning classic style Tuscan wines to prominence but also innovating the use of international varieties to make Super Tuscans.

Where to buy in Shanghai

Varieties: Sangiovese is the King of Tuscany and also Italy’s most important red wine grape.

Key term: Well integrated tannins refers to wines that have obvious tannic structure but tannins that do not overly standout or dominate a wine.


 

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