I don’t know about you, but I have a thing about Italian food and wine. More so than with other countries and their wines, I just have to have Italian reds when I cook Italian-inspired dishes.
This past weekend, as I planned to make my go-to version of Pasta alla Norma, with its tomatoes, eggplant, basil, and topping of shaved ricotta salata cheese, I also had to buy a couple of Italian wines to complement the dish.
This is not just some obsession with wine and food symmetry. It’s based on the fact that many Italian reds, with their naturally high acidity, won’t be intimidated — “overpowered” is probably a better word — by the acidity of tomato-based dishes.
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With that in mind, I turned to Tuscany and the 2015 Coltibuono “RS” Chianti Classico. Coltibuono is the name of a more budget-friendly “negociant” line of wines (the grapes are sourced from other growers) from Badia a Coltibuono, one of the oldest and most famous producers in the Chianti Classico zone.
With an average price of $16 on Wine Searcher, the Coltibuono is an excellent Chianti for everyday drinking with a variety of pasta sauces and meats. The wine is 100 percent Sangiovese, the signature red grape of Chianti and Tuscany.
Sangiovese’s perfumed red fruit, violets and, bright acidity were evident on the nose, followed by notes of red cherry, blueberry, and a good deal of earth and some baking spices on the palate. Oak is seamlessly integrated into the mix.
It reminded me of old-style Chianti Classico — full of earth tones, not too fruit-forward, and a pleasure to swirl and contemplate. “RS,” by the way, refers to Roberto Stucchi, who manages Badia a Coltibuono with his sister Emanuela, the sixth generation of the family that has run the winery since 1846.
Badia a Coltibuono means Abbey of Good Harvest, and with this splendid and unpretentious Chianti Classico, it lives up to its name.