Table Wine Asheville: Chianti 101

Wine 101: Understanding Chianti

Key Facts:

  • The first thing to understand about Chianti is that the wine is named after a region, not a grape.  The Chianti region covers a vast area of Tuscany and includes eight defined zones that are allowed to include Chianti on the label.  The most famous of these zones and the one responsible for the finest wines is simply called Chianti Classico.
  • Only Chiantis from the Classico region may boast the black rooster seal (known in Italian as a gallo nero) on the neck of the bottle, which indicates that the producer of the wine is a member of the Chianti Classico Consortium, the local association of producers.  This is not necessarily a sign of quality, as many members of this Consortium consistently produce underachieving wines.
  • No matter which sub-zone the wine comes from, Sangiovese is always going to be the core component of the wine.  By law, Chianti must contain at least 75% Sangiovese (80% in Classico), up to 10% Canaiolo and/or Colorino, up to 15% other red varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Syrah.  For Chiantis outside of the Classico zone, the white grapes Malvasia and Trebbiano can comprise 6% of the blend.
  • To truly understand Chianti, you have to understand some simple qualitative levels and regional distinctions that dictate how the wines are made.  Bottles simply labeled “Chianti” can be made with grapes (at least 75% Sangiovese) from anywhere within the Chianti zone and no aging mandates are required.  If it says Chianti Classico, it must contain at least 80% Sangiovese from the Classico zone, and only red grapes are permitted to make up the rest of the blend.  The wine must also be aged in oak for a minimum of 12 months.  At the top of the quality spectrum is Chianti Classico Riserva, which must contain no less than 80% Sangiovese and must be aged for a minimum of two years in oak and 3 months in bottle. 
  • When made well by a quality producer, Chianti can rival any wine in the world in terms of flavor, complexity and aging potential.  Master of Wine Jancis Robinson notes that Chianti is sometimes called the “Bordeaux of Italy”.  Much like Bordeaux, Chianti is typically often a blended wine and there are several qualitative levels, from simple and juicy to deep and complex.
Table Wine Asheville - Chianti Class

If this is what you think Chianti is, you should sign up for this class!

Wines Tried on Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

1. 2011 Pietralta Bianco Toscano – Yes, Tuscans do drink white wine too!  Remember those two obscure white grapes that can be included in some Chiantis (Trebbiano and Malvasia)?  Here they are together in this fresh and fragrant white wine from a tiny family producer, based in San Gimignano.

2. 2010 Pietralta Chianti – Here’s your “basic”, entry level, regional Chianti and it is based on a blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo.  The Lattuada family own and operate this estate, and they do everything the old fashioned way…….by hand and with attention to detail.  This is a great spaghetti/pizza/lasagna style of Chianti, with bright fruit and great verve and energy.

3. 2010 Fattoria Castellina Chianti Montalbano – The Montalbano sub-zone of Chianti is in the northwestern corner of the region, and it’s a bit cooler up here.  This is the home estate of Fabio and Elisabetta Montmoli and their vineyards are all certified organic.  Their Chianti is 100% Sangiovese fermented and aged in older barrels, and the cooler climate results in Chianti with lovely, cool red fruit notes along with complex notions of earth.

4. 2009 Le Rote Chianti Colli Senesi – Colli Senesi is the largest sub-zone of Chianti with close to 9,000 acres under vine.  Much of the Chianti from here is simple and quaffable at best, but a few estates produce wines that rival those from the Classico zone and this is one of them.  Lara and Massimo Scotti produce just 585 cases of this wine, a blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo that is aged for a full year and a half before release.  It is darker, more intense and more “serious” than the preceding wines.  Drink this outstanding value now with grilled meats or stews or cellar through 2020.

5. 2008 Pruneto Chianti Classico – We now enter the heart of Chianti with a gorgeous wine that is “raised” from vineyard to bottle by Riccardo Lanza.  His vineyards are in Radda, one of the top vineyard sites in the Classico zone, and his wines are all based entirely upon Sangiovese.  Riccardo makes just over 1,000 cases of wine a year and this is the type of Chianti that Tuscans drink.  Earthy, peppery, minty and structured, his wines are delicious and uniquely authentic.  Drink now through 2030!

6. 2006 Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva “Rancia” – The top Chianti of the vintage from perennial “all-star” Felsina, their single vineyard bottling comes from old vine Sangiovese.  Deep, dark and powerful, the wine offers up alluring aromas of mint, mocha, espresso and dark fruits leading into a full bodied, structured palate of powerful black cherry and black currant fruit framed by beautifully integrated, classy oak.

Table Wine Asheville - Verso Salento Rosso

2010 Verso Salento Rosso – Wine Of The Month

Verso has all ready taken off at the store and has quickly become the “go-to” wine for grilling this summer.  It is a full bodied, luscious wine from the Salento Peninsula at the top of the heel of Italy’s boot, and the wine is made with a small percent of appassimento (raisined) grapes, the same process that is used to make the famed Amarone wines of Italy’s Veneto region.

Verso is perfect with barbecue of any sort, but baby back ribs are ideal!

Verso is perfect with barbecue of any sort, but baby back ribs are ideal!

The blend is 60% Negroamaro, 35% Primitivo (Zinfandel) and 5% Malvasia Nera, and a scant 1,500 cases are made.  It opens with aromas of ripe, sweet, baked berries along with strong notes of clove, allspice and vanilla.  Once you stop sniffing the wine, which will be hard to do, the palate is ripe and glycerous (thick) with soft tannins and luscious notes of warm blueberry, raspberry and boysenberry and that same seductive spice mix.  It is the perfect wine to take to a party and blow your friends away with or to drink alongside barbecued pork or chicken anytime this summer.

Just mention that you saw the sale pricing on the website or in the newsletter to save!  The sale pricing is good through August 31st.

Regular Price: $17.99 

Sale Price: $14.99/bottle 

Buy 6 or more, and we’ll knock the price down to $13.99.  That’s over 20% off!


Table Wine Asheville - Valpolicellas of the Tezza Family

Understanding Valpolicella: Free “Try Before You Buy” Tasting – Saturday, July 27th., 2013 – 2:00 to 5:00 p.m.

This Saturday, we’ll be tasting and discussing wines from the Valpolicella zone of the Veneto region of Italy.  Valpolicella is first and foremost a region located in the northeastern part of Italy.  The vineyards are situated around the city of Verona, just east of Lake Garda and wines labeled Valpolicella are always red.  The grapes used to make the wines, from the simplest to the most grandiose are Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara, and there are different qualitative “levels” of Valpolicella. 

At the entry point, you have a simple, juicy, typically red fruited version known simply as Valpolicella.  The ultimate and most regal wine of the region is called Amarone della Valpolicella, which is made with grapes harvested later and dried for 120 days before fermentation occurs.  And in the middle you have Ripasso which literally means “repassed”.   With this technique, the juice of a Valpolicella is added to the pomace of leftover grape skins and seeds in the Amarone barrels.  At the end of the day, it is a zone that produces a number of diverse styles of wines, and we’re going to let you taste a couple of different interpretations today.  

 – 2012 Tezza Campo di Majoli – Here’s sort of a “riff” on a Valpolicella.  Based on 70% Corvina and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon fermented entirely in stainless steel, it is round, rich and juicy, with a nice core of berry fruit and hints of chocolate and warm spice.
Regular Price: $14.99
Tasting Price: $13.49/$12.74/$11.99 

– 2010 Tezza “Ma Roat” Valpolicella Ripasso – Ma Roat is a blend of Corvina and Rondinella made using the Ripasso style, discussed above.  It is fermented entirely in stainless steel and offers up classic Ripasso notes of fresh berries and dark spices.
Regular Price: $14.99
Tasting Price: $13.49/$12.74/$11.99 

The tasting wines are 10% off by the bottle, 15% off if you mix six of them and 20% off if you mix twelve of them.


Table Wine Asheville - Small Vineyards Imports Tasting

“545” Wine Tasting – Try 5 Wines For $5 – Friday, June 21st., 2013 – 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.

If you live in Asheville and love Italian wines, you should definitely make Table Wine a destination this Friday, June 21.  We’ll be sampling out the latest batch of wines to arrive from Small Vineyards, an importer whose philosophy on picking out wines is very much in common with ours:

“Every bottle of Small Vineyards wine bears our gold seal, signifying that the wine is hand-harvested, earth friendly, and from a family owned estate. By importing wines from small estates, we are helping to protect unique grape varietals, local winemaking styles, and preserve a special way of life.” 

If you’ve ever heard us preaching the gospel of small family estate wines, this should sound quite familiar.  If you haven’t, just realize that when it comes to wine, 9 times out of 10, smaller is better.  We like the folks who like to get dirty in their vineyards, who subscribe to the philosophy that good wine is made in the vineyard, and who apply minimal “treatments” to their wines in the cellar. If you compare wine to any other agricultural crop, which one tastes better, the one that comes from the small farmer who sells his crop at the local farmer’s market or the one that comes from the large factory farm that gets sold at the grocery store? Hopefully you prefer the tomato you buy at the tailgate market over the one at the grocery store…………..the same premise applies to wine.  Don’t believe us?  Come taste for yourself this Friday.

$5/person…..Free for Grape Nuts

The Wines You’ll Get To Try
Prices range from $16 to $23 

1. 2012 Antonio Sanguineti Vermentino
Tuscany, Italy

2. 2012 Cantina Altarocca Orvieto Classico Superiore
Umbria, Italy

3. 2010 Macedon Pinot Noir
Tikves, Macedonia

4. 2011 Perazetta Erio Super Tuscan
Tuscany, Italy

5. 2010 Verso Salento Rosso
Puglia, Italy

6. 2012 Marchetti Verdicchio “Tenuta del Cavaliere”
Castelli di Jesi, Italy

2007 Casa Contini Biferno Riserva

Wine of the Weeks – 2007 Casa Contini Biferno Riserva

Here’s something you don’t see that often – a perectly aged, mature and complex red wine that retails for less than $15!  Casa Contini owns vineyards in the newly demarcated DOC of Biferno, and the region makes reds, whites and rosés.  If you’re Italian wine geography is a little rusty, Biferno is located in the greater Molise zone along the Adriatic coast, just above the heel of Italy’s boot.

The Biferno River, that cuts right through the middle of Molise.

The Biferno River, that cuts right through the middle of Molise.

This rendition blends 85% Montepulciano with 15% Aglianico and the wine sees 18 months aging in oak followed by 6 months further maturation in bottle.  The forward fruit of Montepulciano is given more muscle and earth nuances from the addition of Aglianico, and the resulting wine displays a nice core of dark berry fruit complimented by notes of vanilla, exotic spice, herb and pepper.  It is custom made for grilled meats or rustic fare like lamb stew.  Don’t worry, this one’s got at least another 3-4 years of life ahead of it!   

Buy it in the next 2 weeks and save 10% off by the bottle, 15% off if you buy six bottles and 20% off if you buy 12 bottles. 

Regular Price: $14.99/bottle 

Sale Pricing
$13.49 on 3-5 bottle purchases

$12.74 on 6-11 bottle purchases

$11.99 on 12+ bottle purchases 

Sale pricing good through 3/26. 

Please mention that you saw the sale pricing via the newsletter or website to save!

Wine of the Week – 2008 G.D. Vajra Barolo “Albe”

Aldo and Milena Vajra are said to be some of the nicest people producing wine in Italy’s famed Piemonte zone. I have been a huge fan of their wines for many years and the 2008 version of their “entry-level” Barolo is the finest I’ve ever tasted.  Keep in mind that other Barolos from the same vintage that registered scores in this range start at $65 to $70!  This is a steal my friends, and I would highly recommend that you take advantage of the absurd price we’re offering it at.

Here’s what Antonio Galloni of The Wine Advocate had to say about the 2008: “The 2008 Barolo Albe is flat-out delicious. The Albe has often been a big step below the flagship Barolo Bricco delle Viole, but not in 2008. Although softer and rounder than that wine, there is plenty of vintage character in this vibrant, beautifully articulated Barolo. Sweet dark cherries, incense, licorice and tobacco are all wrapped around a pliant finish. The 2008 is accessible even today, and is a great – and I mean great – introductory Barolo for the year. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2020.”
93 points – Wine Advocate, 94 points – Wine Spectator

Our first shipment will be arriving on Wednesday, February 13 and we highly recommend that you call us or email us to reserve yours.  She ain’t gonna’ last long.  828.505.8588 or

Regular Price: $36.99/bottle

$31.44 on 3 bottle purchases

$29.99 on 6+ bottle purchases

The sale prices are good through Friday, February 22.

“545” Wine Tasting – Exploring Italian Wines

We’re feeling like supporting another fellow North Carolina resident this week.  Last week, we tasted wines from Chapel Hill based importer Andre Tamer’s portfolio and this week, we’ll be featuring wines from Durham based importer Jay Murrie’s collection.  His company, Piedmont Wine Imports, is packed with delicious tasting wines from tiny, organic/biodynamic, family estates from various regions of Italy.  We are excited to be selling these wines and working with such a passionate person.  You don’t want to miss this one!
$5/person…..Free for Grape Nuts 

Here’s the lineup:

The Wines
Prices range from $14 to $20  

1. 2010 Orsolani Erbaluce “La Rustia”
This isn’t one of Jay’s wines, but I think he would approve.  This is white wine nirvana for me!  Come by and we’ll tell you all about this obscure little grape from Italy’s Piemonte region.

2. 2011 Case Ibidini Insolia
Also not Jay’s, but we’re just getting started with him.  Insolia is native to Sicily and it produces a white wine full of energetic, minerally goodness.

3. 2010 Castellina Chianti Montalbano
Jay’s wines start with this gorgeous rendition of Chianti from a certified organic estate.  Pure, vibrant and packed with classic cherry and red berry notes.

4. NV Caparsa Rosso di Caparsa
Proprietor Paolo Cianferoni drinks a liter of wine every day and says his wines have to be made in a healthy way.  Certified organic, pure Sangiovese goodness.

5. 2010 La Casaccia Freisa di Monferrato “Monfiorenza”
Freisa is one of the many obscure but delicious grapes of Piemonte.  Giovanni Rava is the man behind this wine and his vineyards are certified organic.  This is the type of wine I could drink all day – fresh, floral, spicy and chuggable!

“645” Wine Tasting – Try 6 Wines For $5

For the adventurous wine drinker, no country offers as much variety of wine as Italy. Grapes are grown in almost all corners of the country, and there are more than one million vinyeards under cultivation making it the second largest producer of wine in the world, just behind France…… most vintages.

We’ll do our best this Friday, September 14 from 4-7 p.m. to provide you with a sampling of notable wines from some of Italy’s oldest and most noteworthy production zones.  From the cooler climate, more Alpine-influenced wines of the north to the warm climate, Mediterranean influenced wines of central and southern Italy, we’ll take you on an educational, fun and delicious tour of the country via her wines.  The cost to taste all six wines is just $5 or it’s free if you’re a Grape Nut.

1. 2010 Orsolani Erbaluce di Caluso – Caluso is in the far northern reaches of Italy, not too far from the Swiss border, and the Orsolani family work with the most noble white grape of the region – Erbaluce.  The wine is as fresh as a mountain stream with lovely notes of lemon, pear, green melon and limestone minerality.

2. 2011 Roagna Langhe Bianco – Started early in the 20th century, this small family estate is highly revered for their Barbarescos.  Although white wine is not their focus, they make a small amount of this true original – a blend of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Nebbiolo…….yes, I said Nebbiolo, which is a red grape.  It is truly delicious and completely unique.

3. 2009 Sartarelli Verdicchio “Tralivio” – The Sartarelli family are one of the reference point estates for high quality Verdicchio.  The grape thrives in the regions along the cost of and inland of the Adriatic Sea, in central-eastern Italy.  Mineral and herbs burst out of the glass of this focused and pure white leading into a palate dominated by lemon, nectarine and peach notes.  91 points – The Wine Advocate

4. 2009 G.D. Vajra Langhe Rosso – We head back up north to Italy’s Piemonte region to sample a wine from the fantastic Vajra family estate.  Renowned for their Barolos, they also make this honest red, which serves as the family’s “house wine”.  It is always a blend of several grapes including Dolcetto, Barbera, Nebbiolo, Freisa and Pinot Nero, but we’re not really sure what the current incarnation contains.  We do know, however, that it is delicious!

5. 2008 Pirro Varone Primitivo di Manduri “Casa Vecchia” – Pirro Varone specializes in old-vine Primitivo, which is the same grape as Zinfandel, and his vineyards are all certified organic and located in the heel of Italy’s boot in Puglia.  This one shows the “heartier” side of Italian wine, with rustic, spicy notes of berries, herbs and spices. Perfect for fall fare!

6. 2010 Perazzeta Erio Rosso Toscana – We’ll end the tasting with a Super Tuscan from the Bocci family.  This blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, Cab and Syrah is about as friendly as Italian wine can get.  Luscious red fruits and exotic spices are present in the nose and the palate of this super red wine that will have you thinking that it costs $40+.

South Asheville’s Best Free Wine Tasting

Every Saturday, we host one of Asheville’s best free wine tastings from 2 to 5 p.m.  It is free to the public and the tasting typically features 4 affordable wines from small family wineries.

The “smaller guys” use a more artisan approach in the farming of their grapes and the making of their wines and they are driven more by quality than profit.  Much like the local Asheville organic farmer or cheese maker is driven by the quality of their product as opposed to the quantity produced, the farmers/producers we champion share a similar ideal.

At the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding, so stop by Table Wine on Saturday’s to taste what we’re talking about! We love to talk about wine, so feel free to ask questions, even if they make you think the sound dumb.  We won’t make you feel inadequate! 

This Saturday’s lineup (July 21) will include the following wines: 

1. 2011 Tenuta Sant’Antonio Scaia – This wine comes from one of the top young producers in Italy’s Veneto region and it blends the native Garganega (typically found in Soave) with Chardonnay.  It is an intensely aromatic and flavorful white with notes of wildflowers, peach, apple and honey.  Great on a hot afternoon by itself, this one also loves spicy Thai and other Asian fare.

2. 2011 Vecchia Torre Leverano Rosato – This dry Rosé hails from Puglia in southern Italy.  It blends the native Negroamaro with a splash of Malvasia Nera to create a dry, but fruit filled pink wine with aromas and flavors of ripe strawberry, cherry, cranberry and peach.  The wine works with almost any sort of food, but really loves sunny back porches and friends.

3. NV Garofoli Antica Osteria Rosso – Here is Italian table wine at its finest!  A blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese, it is super friendly, with flavors of ripe black cherry, plum and spice.  Perfect for washing down Marco’s pizza or spaghetti and meatballs.

4. 2008 Schola Sarmenti Roccamora – Here’s something many of you have probably never tried – 100% Negroamaro from a single, 35 year old vineyard.  Hailing from Nardo, along Italy’s southern, Salento peninsula, this is a big, boisterous, delicious wine.  Flavors of wild cherry, plum, roasted herb and complex spice make this a wine that loves grilled meats and stews.

“545” Wine Tasting – Big Italian Reds

We love Italian wines and so will you once you try these 5 at our tasting this Friday, May 25.  The issue that many of our customers have with Italian reds is that they can be tangy and sharp and not especially likable without food, but that’s not always the case.  Come by and try these 5 that we think work well on or off the dinner table this Friday.

The sampling gets started at 4:00 and ends at 7:00, and the cost is $5/person or it’s free if you’re a Grape Nut.

Here’s the lineup:

1. Falesco Sangiovese – The brothers Cotarella make some of Italy’s most splendid values from their home winery based in Umbria.  This is dark, rich and structured Sangiovese that sees a little bit of oak aging that serves to soften the wine a bit.  It is a consensus best value in The Wine Advocate and sells for a song.

2. Gianfranco Alessandria Barbera d’Alba – Gianfranco Alessandria is a shy and quiet man, but his wines aren’t.  This is a nice, full bodied Barbera with loads of black currant and plum fruit with subtle suggestions of violet and spice.

3. Falesco Merlot – Here’s a 92 point rated wine (The Wine Advocate) that drinks like it should cost you about $30……it’s about $15.  Ripe, almost jammy blueberry and blackberry fruit are interlaced with notions of baking spices and nicely integrated French oak.  Yum!

4. Zenato Cormi – “Cormi” is a fun, uncoventional blend of Corvina (the top grape in an Amarone) and Merlot from Zenato, one of the top names in Amarone.  The Corvina is allowed to dry for a short period of time, thus intensifying the flavors, and the Merlot adds a nice plush texture to this pleasure heavy offering.

5. Bodegas Renacer Enamore – This is a joint project between Mendoza based Renacer and Verona based Allegrini and some of you know how good of a hand Allegrini has with Amarone.  The wine is produced in Argentina and the blend is primarily Cabernet Sauvignon with smaller amounts of Malbec, Cab Franc and Bonarda.  The grapes are allowed to dry in the Amarone style and the wine is simply delicious.