Several times in the last few weeks it’s come up in casual conversation as to whether I prefer Italian or French wines. Husband insists that Italian is better while I’ll almost always choose French. This choice, however, is based on many factors. Hands down the best wine I have ever tasted was in the beautiful country of Italy. Be that as it may, I live in good old ‘Merica. In ‘Merica, and more specifically in the price point I currently can afford to buy wine, I find that more often than not, I’m happier with French selections over Italian.
That being said, as a lawyer, I know that there are exceptions to almost every rule. Right now I’m a huge fan of Italian Nebbiolos, Barberas and Barolos. I don’t think I’ve had a disappointing version of any of these varietals. I am not, however, a huge fan of most Chiantis or “Super Tuscans”, which tend to be the more affordable Italian wines, though I’m sure it’s just because I haven’t found the right ones. With France, I’m pretty much willing to try anything and rarely find a disappointing variety. Tonight, we had an old friend over for dinner. We obviously had opened a bottle before he arrived (French). He brought an Italian. I was surprisingly disappointed with the French and astoundingly pleased with the Italian, which happened to be a Chianti.
To: Alleged Blog Readers
Date: April 15, 2015
Wine: 2012 Saumur Champigny/2007 Contemassi Chianti Riserva
We started with the 2012 Saumur Champginy. Husband was home before I was and said it was very nice, so I had high expectations. When I swirled and sniffed, I didn’t get much on the nose. The color was a light shade of ruby with fairly thin and even legs. When I tasted it, I thought it was underwhelming; there just wasn’t much flavor. The experience was a very short one, with nothing really lingering after I swallowed. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t great either. Once I had some tomato and cheese, all I got was a metallic aftertaste.
From there we moved on to the 2007 Contemassi Chianti Riserva that Old Friend brought over. I was hesitant, given my reservations about USA-bought Italian wines, specifically Chiantis. I was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable this was. The nose was thick, almost meaty, like you know this wine has some history. There were hints of spice and licorice. With its deep, rich burgundy color, it was a bit darker than the French. There was absolutely no bite, just a smooth, delicious finish. When I sipped, the medium-bodied mouthful was exceedingly pleasing. Very enjoyable with the prosciutto, mozzarella, tomato and basil panini I whipped up on the George Foreman.
I had to Google most of the words on the French bottle. It turns out that Saumur Champigny is an appellation in the Loire Valley region of France. The back of the bottle tells me that this was 100% cabernet franc. I’m still not sure who the producer is. On the front it reads “Val De Loire,” meaning Loire Valley, and under that, “Reserve des Vignerons” which translates to “Reserve Winemakers”. The back label says it was “Estate bottled” by “Groupement des producteurs du Samurois”. Google translate tells me this means a “Grouping of Saumur producers”. I’m guessing this means it’s a blend of everybody’s leftover grapes. I don’t know where this wine came from, but it retails for $12.98 online. I don’t think I’d buy this again but it wasn’t the worst wine I’ve ever had.
The 2007 Chianti Riserva was produced by Contemassi, a vintner that apparently has no website, but is imported to ‘Merica by the Bronco Wine Company. Chianti refers not to a grape varietal, but rather a region in Italy. This bottle was made up of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo grapes which were aged in oak barrels for 24 months. This bottle retails online for about $12. Given the nice flavors and the price point, I would definitely suggest giving this one a try.
 Other words to describe this fair country include perfect, amazing, wonderful, brilliant, paradise, and heavenly. I cannot emphasize enough how in love with Italy I am.
 Note I’ve used the present participle form of the verb live, meaning I live here now, in the present. In the future I intend to live in the fair country mentioned above in Footnote 1, supra. Sooner rather than later would be ideal. Just putting it out there.
 Remember those law school loans?
 This is a very broad generalization and is in no way meant to offend fine purveyors of Italian grapes.
 I say almost because today is April 15. There are no exceptions to the rule that your tax filings (or an extension) are due TODAY! If you file late, there will be penalties!
 In addition, of course, to cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, red blends, rosé, and champagne.
 Essentially, “Super Tuscans” are Italian red blends. You can read more about them here.
 He’s a lawyer, and former Mayor of neighboring town, but got out of Firm and political life and now works in “insurance”, whatever that means.
 In English it would be proper to say “paninis”, but in Italian, panini is the plural version of panino (sandwich – singular). Thanks, Marco and Cinzia.
 I’m quite the chef you know.
 This happens a lot since I have no real grasp of the French language. I used “bonsoir” as a form of greeting morning, noon and night while I was in France. “Bonsoir” translates to “good evening.”
 Remember, an appellation is “a legally defined and protected geographical indication used to identify where the grapes for a wine were grown.”
 It appeared on my wine rack one day, I’m sure I bought it and just don’t remember where or when.
 Hence, Chianti wines are usually blends of different grapes grown in the region.