Chianti Classicos from Italy are seriously good wines

When I was growing up in the 1970s in Bremerton, our family would occasionally head to a little Italian place on Kitsap Way called Filippi’s.

It was a quaint place, a classic small town Italian restaurant with cheap jerseys red and white tablecloths and generous portions. My dad would always order ravioli, and my brother, mom and I would share a deliciously rustic pizza. The owner, Tony Zampella, would always come out of the kitchen to help every guest feel at home.

As a boy, I was fascinated by the straw covered wine bottles at each table that were used as candleholders. I don’t remember my folks ever ordering a bottle of wine at Filippi’s, and I always wished they had just so I could keep the empty bottle as a candleholder.

We don’t see those bottles called “fiascos” around much anymore. By the 1980s, Italian wineries wanted to upgrade their image, and the fiascos equated to cheap wine in the minds of consumers, even as they conjured images of something fascinating and exotic in my imagination.

These days, Italian wines are serious, and among my favorites are those coming from Chianti Classico, a hilly region between Florence and Sienna in Tuscany. Chianti Classicos are made primarily from sangiovese grapes (they must be at least 80 percent sangiovese), though they can have other grapes in the blend, including white varieties.

Arnie Millan, European wine buyer for Esquin Wine Spirits in Seattle, is a big fan of Chianti Classico for its quality, consistency and food friendliness. He said that while Chianti Classico pairs well with what we commonly think of as Italian food lasagna, pizza and spaghetti it goes particularly well with grilled meats, particularly wild boar. The secret is the bright acidity and flavors of cherry and raspberry.

And about those fiasco bottles? They’re still made, but they are difficult to find. If you really want one for a nostalgic candleholder, check out online auction sites or ask your favorite wine merchant to put in a special order.

Three to try

Here are three delicious Chianti Classicos. All are distributed in the Seattle area, so ask for them at your favorite wine shop.

Flsina 2012 Berardenga Chianti Classico, $25: Using grapes from the southern area of Chianti Classico, this wine reveals lively acidity backing rich red and dark fruit. It’s a firm wine that will age well for a half decade or more.

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