Maia’s Cellar is a column from our friend Maia Gosselin of Sip Wine Education. As always, stay tuned for more from Maia!
I love the Classics. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of classic literature, art, cinema and cars (what’s not to love about a Rolls Royce?!) but for purposes of this article I’m talking specifically about wines that come from classic regions. Those places with names like Burgundy, Bordeaux and Piedmont that produce wines in a class of their own; have stood the test of time and never disappoint whether you spend $10, $100 or $1,000.
Of course you can’t have any discussion on classic wines without mentioning Italy and France. Two of my favorite regions from these countries are certainly worthy of the classic distinction: the Côtes-du-Rhône and Chianti. To celebrate these appellations, the 90+ Cellars “Classic Series” was created. Classic Series includes a Chianti Riserva DOCG and a Côtes-du-Rhône AOP. Each of these wines is distinctly unique and of course, delicious!
But first, a brief rundown on what becomes a classic…
Practice Makes Perfect
When you’ve been making wine for a few thousand years chances are you’ve gotten pretty good at it! Italy has a wine heritage dating back some 6,000 years but it was really during the Roman Empire that they got serious about establishing a wine culture and finessing their techniques. And although the Greeks introduced viticulture to Southern France in the 4th century BC, it’s again the Romans who are credited with developing winemaking and planting vineyards in the Rhône as they trekked through the country.
Packed with Personality: There’s more to being a classic than just having a long history. Regions like the Rhône and Chianti are steeped in tradition and something vital to winemaking: a term called “terroir”. Pronounced “tear-whah” this is essentially the component that gives these wines their unique personalities. It’s a philosophy that believes that wine reflects the place it comes from; that soil, climate, topography come together to infuse a wine with a particular character. When you taste the wine, you taste its terroir.
Classic Exhibit A: Chianti, Tuscany
At a Glance: Tuscany: Located in central Italy, Tuscany is home to several famed classic appellations including Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti. Chianti as a region has been around since 1716 but they’ve been making wine there for centuries. The wines are dry and can be light to full-bodied. It’s typically distinguished by notes of cherries, plum and earth.
The term Chianti Riserva applies to a DOCG Chianti and means that is has aged a minimum of 2 years in the bottle before release.
Note: Most of these wines are made from 100% Sangiovese grapes but the law only requires a minimum of 70% for Chianti and 80% for Chianti Classico. Some winemakers will blend in Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Syrah for additional smoothness and character.
Classic Exhibit B: The Côtes-du-Rhône, Rhône Valley
At a Glance: The Rhône Valley
Located in south-east France the Rhône Valley is divided into the North and South, separated by the Rhône River. There are 30 sub-regions and within those countless more appellations and villages. The Côtes-du- Rhône is an appellation that covers villages in both the North and South.
Côtes-du- Rhône: This appellation includes villages in both the North and the South. These tend to be more entry level wines, not overly complex but consistently high quality.
NOTE: Although best known for its reds, the Côtes-du- Rhône produces a delicious array of white and rose wines. Chianti today is always made as a red wine.