Before the 1990s, when most people talked about chianti, they were referring to chianti classico, located in the heart of the region. But there are seven other zones that can call themselves chianti. With the rise in cost for classico, these other contenders have grown in popularity, in many cases offering excellent quality at a very good price. That is certainly the case with this week's wines, all made from the sangiovese grape. In our blind tasting, they beat out several higher priced chianti classicos. Here are the top picks:
2007 Busi Chianti Rufina, $12.99
Dusty, dark cherry fruit aromas dominate on the nose of this wine, segueing to lively notes of sweet cranberry and creamy caramel. Bright berry fruit drives the palate with its silky texture and light layers of black pepper, green tea and red licorice. Soft tannins mark the finish that lingers nicely.
2008 Poggio Stella Chianti Colli Senesi, $13.99
This chianti has nice bold berry fruit aromas that pour from the glass with an enticing touch of earth and leather that is oh-so-Italian. Very fruit-forward in style, there's a sucker punch of ripe cherry flavors backed by savory hints of licorice, herb and spice in this one. Just the right hit of acidity keeps things in balance on the sweet fruit finish.
2004 Travignoli Chianti Rufina, $12.99
Most wines are meant to be drunk young, but with the right wine, a few years of bottle age can allow flavors to evolve nicely. This is the right wine--an elegantly smooth red marked by subtle dark fruit aromas with earthy notes of herb and spice. It's beautifully balanced in the mouth offering round, ripe black and boysenberry fruit flavors that play against tart plum with an admirably persistent finish. The Travignoli is a lovely value.