Everyone has that one bottle of wine that has been sitting in the back of the wine fridge for far longer than initially intended. It’s not that it’s being saved for any occasion in particular — it just never seems quite right for the moment.
That’s what happened with a bottle of Tenuta di Arceno “Strada al Sasso” Chianti Classico Riserva that I always seemed to forget about until digging through my stash come dinnertime. “I should save this until I’m eating something Italian,” I would think to myself, dreaming of tangy red sauce and tomato-accented Sangiovese.
The wide array of Chianti available in the U.S. market makes opening an unknown bottle slightly trepidatious. At its best, Chianti can be nuanced, food-friendly, and long-aging. At its worst, it can be thin, uninteresting, carafe-worthy juice. The fact that this is a Chianti Classico Riserva adds a bit of reassurance. Produced in the best Chianti vineyards and aged for an additional length of time, Chianti Classico Riservas are typically made from a winery’s best grapes and are richer than the standard Chianti.
Aged for 10 months in French oak barrels, the Strada al Sasso has both depth and complexity. It has the classic notes of Sangiovese — sour cherry, canned tomato, mixed Italian herbs — with savory richness and tons of umami. The palate has Chianti’s classically high acidity and a surprisingly spicy finish, making it a better match for marinara than arrabiata sauce.
Overall, this wine tastes interesting and expensive, even though it can be found for as low as $25. The 2008 vintage isn’t the current release of the Strada al Sasso, but it can still be found in a few stores. Better yet, pick up the current 2010 release. While its surrounding vintages stole the stage with power and richness, this is the sleeper that will develop for years to come. In fact, you may even want to pick up two bottles — just in case.