We tried these wines hoping that they would be a good middle ground between higher-priced Chianti Classicos and the usually unworthy basic Chianti, and for the most part, they lived up to the billing.
There are seven Chianti sub-zones surrounding the heart of Chianti, and while it's difficult to find many of them in the United States, three of them were represented here.
First Place: Il Castelvecchio Chianti Colli Fiorentini 2008. Hints of fennel and mint on the nose, with Suzanne finding "fabric softener" and Andy noting "rubber dishwashing gloves". David said that it "smells soapy". Tasted of freshly brewed coffee, cherries and lavender, with nice balance. Shows good richness and intensity. Ali and Andy's favorite of the tasting. Received 25 total points. Joyce's bottle. About $14.
Second Place (tie): Renzo Masi Chianti Rufina 2009. Looks unfiltered, darker in color, and a touch thicker. Dusty, with raisins, caramel, and blackberry jam scents. Tasters found some decent tannins to go with the lemon and cranberry flavors. Tangy but also full in the mouth. Spices on the finish. Andy felt it was "well-traveled", to which Ali added, "the wine version of Joyce". David felt that is was "an all around package". Joyce's favorite, but received votes from everyone, for a total of 22 points. David's bottle. About $13.
Second Place (tie): Marchesi de Frescobaldi Nipozzano Riserva Chianti Rufina 2008. Unfiltered. More perfumed than some of the others, with a pleasant nose of cranberries. Andy was reminded of "walnut bookshelves", and Ali felt that there was "something refined about it". Beautiful, silky texture, featuring flavors of cherry, grapefruit, and flowers. Kristin, Suzanne, and David's favorite. Received 22 points. Ali's bottle. About $17.
Third Place: Palagetto Chianti Colli Senesi 2008. Tasters found scents of game meats, iron/blood, crayons, dust, and dried berries. David sniffed "something medicinal", and Kristin felt it was reminiscent of "walking around a farm in muddy boots". Dominated by cherry flavors that starts of OK, but with a sharp finish, hinting of chalk. Received 11 points. Suzanne's bottle. About $14.
Falchini Chianti Colli Senesi 2009. Hints of orange in color. Joyce felt that it was "modest", with Andy finding "sweet smoke". Others noted flowers, earth, mint and a metallic note. Ali sensed "a spring mix", while David detected "damp black earth". Joyce said that it "smells surprisingly dry to me". Flavors of cola, mint, and cream, with Ali finding "cheese on the attack". David felt that it was "front-loaded" in flavor. A prodding finish. Received 4 points. About $13. Andy's bottle.
Lavacchio Cedro Chianti Rufina 2006. Smells darker, with clear barnyard notes to go with the cranberries. Kristin detected "crazy glue", and Ali felt it was "like rotting candied blueberries in an old barn". Andy noted that it "tastes like batteries", with others finding smoke and black cherry flavors. Plenty of acidity on the finish. No votes. Kristin's bottle. About $18.
Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage Port 2005. Suzanne felt that it "smells strong", with Joyce declaring "sexy-dangerous". Notes of prunes, espresso, and bitter chocolate. Not super-complex, but very drinkable. About $25.