For many Americans, no wine better encapsulates Italy than Chianti. Having come into vogue packaged in a straw basket known, foretellingly perhaps, as a “fiasco”, this wine had the ideal combination of food-friendly taste and low-price that made it a pasta night classic. Chianti was destined, however, to become a victim of its own success. Feeling the pressures of a burgeoning market, producers took to increasing harvest yields and adding in higher percentages of unremarkable grapes leading to thoroughly lackluster wines. For a while, Chianti seemed to be destined to the bottom shelf.
But as the region as a whole revamped its image during the Super Tuscan revolution of raising quality and reinventing traditional grape blends, the wines of Chianti saw changes as well. For the Giacomo Mori estate, headed by Giacomo’s son Giovanni, this involved a major replanting effort in the mid-1990s. Taking inspiration from Chianti’s origins, Mori rejected the Trebbiano varietal and focused more on the noble Sangiovese, which has always been the lifeblood of these wines. To this, the estate adds 5% of the ancestral Tuscan grape varieties Colorino (for its color and depth) and Canaiolo (for its smoother fruitiness). Mori’s focus is truly on letting the land express itself through his wines and leveraging the natural advantages of his terroir. The vineyard and surrounding areas are composed of volcanic tuff, a soft rock made of compacted ash that forces the vines to reach down for water and which provides a cool, humid atmosphere for Mori’s hewn cellar space where the wines are left to age for 3-6 months.
The end result of this attention is a wine that stays true to its roots as a perennial pal of pasta while offering a deeper taste of Tuscany, a fact that led critic Antonio Galloni to even declare of their 2013 vintage “I can't think of too many Chiantis I would rather drink than this.” On the nose, this Chianti shows the typical cherry and fruit you might expect, but is also interestingly tinged with a darker toasty, smoky spice. The palate however is bright and energetic. Give this wine a bit of time in the glass to watch the initial tart cherry, wild strawberry and pomegranate open up to more floral notes with an espresso bitterness that acts as a nice counter. Its acidity makes it a fantastic choice for matching tomato sauces or cutting through olive oil on an earthy mushroom crostini. I also wouldn’t hesitate to serve this with milder salumi or something off the grill!
At only $14.95 with a 92 point score, I agree with Galloni in saying that this wine is “an overachiever in both its class and price range". So give the 2014 Giacomo Mori Chianti a place at your table next Italian night! Salute!