Wine of the week: Straccali Chianti 2014

Straccali ChiantiThe retail market, despite years of producers wishing otherwise, is still awash in cheap Chianti, the Italian red wine made with sangiovese from the Chianti region of Tuscany. Most of it, save for a couple of brands like Melini, tastes like you’d expect: harsh and bitter, with little reason to drink even though it costs less than $10.

Add the Straccali Chianti ($8, purchased, 12%) to the first group. It’s not just a better value than the Melini, which I love, but a well-made wine that embarrasses all those $15 grocery store red Italians with their cute names and shiny labels. One of the great questions in Italian wine: Why, if the country’s winemakers can do something like the Straccali Chianti, do they do so many dull, overpriced, Paso Robles-style wines on the theory Americans prefer them? Trust me — we want quality, not marketing.

Look for more depth than the Melini, so that you have to swallow twice to get a hint of everything that’s going on. It’s also less rustic, with black pepper, red cherry, a little more grip, and the acidity that Chianti is famous for. One key to this wine: a touch of merlot is blended with the traditional sangiovese and canaiolo grapes, which rounds out the flavors and mouth feel. Plus, no oak, which lends more freshness than you expect.

Highly recommended, and almost certain to be added to the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame. Drink this as the weather cools on its own if you want a glass of red, or with pork or beef that will complement the crisp red fruit, as well as red sauce.

3 thoughts on “Wine of the week: Straccali Chianti 2014

  • By Karen -

    It’s because they think we’re stupid and they look down their nose at us.
    I can’t speak directly to Chianti but my mother was born on a vineyard in Piemonte and most of that side of my family is still there and so I’ve spent a lot of time hanging out with grape growers and wine makers in that region, which, of course is an important wine region in Italy. And they’ve been absolutely lovely to me personally and have always brought out the best of their private stash and I’ve enjoyed some truly spectacular wines while there.
    But their constant joke is that I’m nice and smart, you know, for an American and so I deserve the good stuff. But what they export to my countrymen? That’s what they call “wine made with a stick.” – as in, a concoction of grape juice and chemicals mixed up like a giant batch of Kool-Aid and sold off at inflated prices to the Americans because they don’t know better.
    By no means do I think this is universal – obviously there are some winemakers who do export excellent quality products from Italy. But cutting corners and cheating, especially if all you’re hurting is an outsider, is just part of the culture there as is keeping the good stuff for themselves. And that’s why they’re at the center of the recent fraudulent extra virgin olive oil scandals and why many Italian products sold in this country are inferior to what you get over there. Even the famous Nutella is so much better over there – less sweet, more chocolate. And wine is just part of this larger trend.
    I know I’m being tough on the Italians here but actually I love Italy and I couldn’t be prouder of my Italian heritage. But this tendency drives me batty. First of all I would be happy to pay a premium for a premium product but often times it’s just not available here because they’re hoarding it! And also I think they’re being incredibly short-sighted and downright stupid – and basically ceding the high end of the market to the FRENCH! gah! when in fact they have many wines and other products that are just as high quality, but they’ve foolishly damaged their brand by doing this. Absolutely maddening!

  • By Janet Brennan -

    Where can I buy Straccali Chianti in the Chapel-Durham NC area?

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