Shakespeare was probably not thinking about branding and AOC regulations when he penned one of most frequently referenced quotes in literature, but Juliet’s words have relevance in today’s wine industry. Once a wine finds its way into a glass, does the name on the label change the way it smells? When it hits your palette, does the appellation on the bottle change the way it tastes? For any of us who have sat through a blind tasting, we know all too well that the preconceived notions created by a label just distract us from the true enjoyment of a wine… and usually cost us a pretty penny.
If you are like me and care more about what is in your glass, not what’s written on the bottle, then you will share my excitement about enjoying elegant “Sancerre” and high quality “Chianti” for around $15 a bottle. Lucky for us, 90+ Cellars has been willing to gamble on wine lovers’ desires for quality in the glass over label recognition.
Let’s start with the concept of Sancerre. Marlborough, New Zealand may be the trendiest place to find quality Sauvignon Blanc, but Sancerre is where serious oenophiles look for more mineral-driven examples of this expressive grape. Not only is the Sancerre region famous for its soils and climate, but it’s also fun to say. Sadly, its limestone and flinty soils, along with that whimsical name, come with a steep price tag. A short trip north, down (yes, technically down) the Loire River to the villages surrounding the town of Gien lands you in the Coteaux du Giennois, source of our Lot 118 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc. The area shares the same soil composition, microclimate, and many of the same producers, without the added notoriety. This wine is Sancerre for those who want to drink a glass as opposed to serve a glass — at a fraction of the price.
Now let’s talk Chianti. Even if you’re too young to remember candlelit dinners with bottles in straw baskets, you probably still knew the name before your first sip of wine. In Tuscany, Sangiovese has as many historical names as it has regulations regarding the wines produced by it. Fortunately, Italians enjoy breaking the rules as much as they delight in making them. Many famous ‘Super Tuscans’, such as Sassicaia, have exemplified what can be achieved when a rebel has a cause. Although most of these ‘declassified’ Tuscan wines have focused on creating fruit forward, modern style blends, some producers have used to the opportunity to create higher quality, traditional ‘Chiantis’ by sourcing the best grapes from different areas in the region.
Our Lot 57 Rosso Toscana is a prime example. With 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot, under current law, this type of blend could be labeled Chianti. Thankfully, the producer behind this great wine felt it necessary to look outside the borders of the region to find the best grapes to make an exceptional, modern-style wine that still expresses its food friendly side. I would be hard pressed to find a wine capped with a rooster that drank this well at this price.
If these two wines don’t convince you that great wine is found in the bottle, not on the bottle, then I am at a loss on how to persuade you. I’m not trying to sell you on the fact that Atlantic City is the same as Las Vegas, but a ten will get you to black jack just as well as any face card. If you’re looking for a Sancerre or Chianti to enjoy with dinner or share with friends, try losing the labels!
Michael Munk is our Wine Portfolio Manager as well as Regional Sales Manager in CT and RI. He has degrees in Fashion Design and Business Management, but wine is his true passion. The son of a French immigrant, Michael grew up around wine. The first wine he actually remembers tasting and being intrigued by was the Chilean Castillo de Diablo from Concha y Toro, which he had with his Aunt and Uncle in a Spanish restaurant in the South of France when he was 17, followed by tequila over lime sorbet.