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Wine column: Chianti is so much more than a spaghetti wine

Depending on how old you are, you might or might not remember the explosive popularity of Chianti red wine from Italy in the 1970s.

A big part of the craze was the novelty of the squat bottle covered by a straw basket.

And, after you drank the contents, you could stick a candle in it to create a kitschy memento.

It was also the quintessential wine of inexpensive, red-and-white checkered tablecloth Italian restaurants and deemed the perfect wine to sip while eating spaghetti.

</who>Chianti in an old-fashioned squat bottle in straw basket, which is also called a 'fiasco'.

Chianti became a victim of its own success as high demand pushed Italian producers to pump out a lot of underwhelming wines from average grapes.

The Chianti Classico wines of today, the bottles with the 'black rooster' seal on the neck, are here to revamp that image.

To spotlight these wines and their quality, BC government liquor stores have declared October Chianti Classico Month and will have special displays and prices throughout the month.

The straw-covered, squat bottle is all but gone, replaced by the classic, Bordeaux-shaped bottle with high shoulders.

</who>These seven reds are a sensational cross-section of Chianti Classico wines from Italy. From left, Rocca delle Macie Riserva 2017 ($29), Carpineto Gran Seleczione 2015 ($70), Carpinto Riserva 2017 ($31), 2019 Roca delle Macie DOCG ($21), San Fabiano Calcinaia 2019 ($28), Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro Gran Selezione 2017 ($49) and Sur Lapo 2018 Mazzei Riserva ($33).

Chianti Classico is the original and the largest of the seven Chianti regions dating back to 1716.

The Sangiovese grapes that dominate Chianti Classico blends are grown in fabled central Tuscany between the Renaissance city of Florence and the medieval city of Siena.

Careful vineyard management with better clones of Sangiovese and lower yields means exceptional grapes to make premium, light-to-medium-bodied red wines with a delicate, fresh acidity and firm, but smooth, tannins.

The hallmarks of a delicious Chianti Classico are pleasing aromas and flavours of bright cherry and violets with a nutty, spicy finish.

You can certainly enjoy Chianti Classico with the cliched spaghetti, but also with any pasta in tomato sauce, chicken parmesan, pizza, steak, roast beef, burgers or cheese and charcuterie.

Chianti Classico labelling can be a little confusing with three tiers -- regular (aged a minimum of 11 months before release), Riserva (aged a minimum of 24 months before release) and Gran Selezione, winery-specific, best of the best wines.

Of course, the higher the tier the pricier the wine.

Seven of the Chianti Classicos featured for the month of October at BC government liquor stores are:

- 2017 Rocca delle Macie Riserva ($29)

- Carpineto Gran Seleczione 2015 ($70)

- Carpineto Riserva 2017 ($31)

- 2019 Rocca delle Macie DOCG ($21)

- San Fabiano Calcinaia 2019 ($28)

- Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro Gran Selezione 2017 ($49)

- Ser Lapo 2018 Mazzei Riserva ($33)

</who>There are two grape stomps this weekend in Oliver to celebrate harvest -- one at Nostalgia Wines (pictured) on Saturday, another at the Festival of the Grape on Sunday.

Stomp some grapes

Yearning to get your feet purple this weekend?

Then hop in a barrel and stomp some grapes at one (or both) of these events in Oliver.

On Saturday from noon to 5 pm is Nostalgia Wines' 5th annual Crush Party with live music, adult and kid grape stomp competitions and Lucille Ball look-alike contest.

Of course, Ball will forever be associated with grape stomping from the famous scene in a 1956 episode of 'I Love Lucy', set in Italy, in which she hilariously stomps and gets in a grape-throwing fight with an Italian woman grape stomper.

Register at NostalgiaWines.ca.

The Oliver Fall Festival and Festival of the Grape, running today through Sunday, includes the popular 2022 Grape Stomp on Sunday from noon to 5 pm.

There will also be wine tasting, food trucks and live music at the event at Oliver Community Park.

Check out the full schedule of weekend events at VisitOliver.com.

Steve MacNaull is a NowMedia Group reporter, Okanagan wine lover and Canadian Wine Scholar. Reach him at smacnaull@nowmediagroup.ca. His wine column appears in this space every Friday afternoon.



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