[Chianti in fiascos]
Chianti had a pretty good moment in the 1980s which was when Simon and I were also enjoying a pretty good moment (we married in 1988). Our Chianti of choice was Ricasoli, which Simon always called 'Rick Astley' after the singer who had an enormous moment in 1987.
It's ages since I last drank Ricasoli Chianti, but when I came across a bottle at the Sainsbury's summer tasting yesterday, the name brought back memories of laughing at Simon's deliberate mangling of iconic wine names. Rick Astley is back in the limelight (due to the Rickrolling that explains the 50 million Youtube views), and although Chianti's reputation has fluctuated over the years, it too seems to be on track once more.
For many years Chianti was seen as good-humoured Italian plonk in a fiasco (the name for the straw bottle holder) which was served in sitcom-style restaurants by waiters with enormous pepper grinders. Then the pendulum swung the other way, and Chianti was all about the super-expensive 'super-Tuscans' which sparked a debate about which grapes should be used (traditionally always Sangiovese).
But now, far from any sort of fiasco, I have found the brilliant Barone Ricasoli Rocca Guicciarda Riserva Chianti Classico 2009 which isn't cheap (£16.99 at Sainsbury's), but is excellent. It may have an eye-catching old-fashioned label, but it's a modern wine; the Sangiovese is blended with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot. It's ripe and concentrated, with a lovely mix of smoke, liquorice, and cedar. The tannins (often a problem in the past) are there to provide structure and ageing potential, but are kept in check. This big, ruby-red Ricasoli wine is a bit of surprise after all the thin Chianti I've tried. A bit like the surprise when the slim, bequiffed Rick Astley starts singing and the voice isn't at all what you'd expected. It's good to have them both back.