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Fava Beans and a Nice Chianti

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These three are more than just candle holders. - KELSEY HAWES
  • Kelsey Hawes
  • These three are more than just candle holders.
There was a time when Chianti evoked a straw-covered squat bottle which held a credible juice, but made for a better candle holder. Although Chianti is a red blend made in the Chianti region of Italy, adding white wine grapes was once required. Over the years, new regulations have vastly improved quality, and although the wine must be at least 75 percent Sangiovese—80 percent for the Classico region—there are now eight sub-regions. Here are the panel's top three Chianti picks:

2015 Bibbiano Chianti Classico, $21

A Sangiovese-dominant blend (typically with less than five percent of the Colorino grape), dark plum and berry liqueur aromas dominate the nose along with a hint of black licorice. A beautifully balanced wine with a smooth palate, it combines creamy chocolate cherry and berry flavors. The velvety finish lingers on the palate.

2011 Poggio Gualtieri Grignano Chianti Rufina Riserva, $18.99

After Classico, Rufina is arguably the most prestigious of the Chianti sub-regions. Red fruit aromas pour from the glass of this Riserva, backed by cedar, vanilla and spice. A dollop of Merlot (10 percent) adds a silky texture to this earthy wine that's filled with spicy, dark fruit flavors. It finishes with a touch of tart cherry.

2015 Villa di Geggiano Bandinello, $21

Though the Bandinello family's winery is in the Classico region, this wine can't be labeled Chianti because it's a blend with just 60 percent Sangiovese. Still, it's a delicious, fruit-forward wine with ripe cherry and chocolate aromas and a subtle earthiness. The flavors are fresh and lively, with sweet cherry and berry fruit balanced by a hit of acidity on the finish.