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TASTING : Chianti Classics

July 15, 1993|DAN BERGER

These Chianti Classico wines are ranked in order of my preference. They were culled from tastings of about 50 wines at assorted sites over a two-week period and are largely from the 1988 and 1990 vintages--both considered excellent. If the wine was estate-bottled, the name of the house is followed by the commune where the fruit was grown.

Tasting these wines, I was struck by the fact that they are all very powerful, a product of some very good vintages. But I was a bit put off by prices that appear higher than just two years ago, when good, sound, drinkable Chianti Classico could be found for $10 or less.

Still, compared with so many fine French and California wines, these still compete in terms of price.

* 1988 Fontodi (south of Greve) ($20): Powerful fruit, berries and earth aromas with a trace of tar. A rich, powerful wine needing another decade to smooth out, though it could be enjoyed sooner with rich, highly seasoned foods.

* 1990 Castello della Paneretta (Barberino, central region) ($18): Superb aroma, already showing some mature elements, with a classic cherry Sangiovese aroma. Tart, yet already rewarding. An elegant and nicely structured wine.

* 1988 Castellare di Castellina Riserva (Castellina) ($19): Huge fruit, with berries and dense extract plus a delicate handling of French oak barrels. Lovely wine with depth and potential to get better.

* 1988 Castello di Fonterutoli "Ser Lapo" (Siena) ($22.50): Always a favorite of mine, with loads of fruit, spiced with ginger and smoke, and a lot of acid to age the wine handsomely. (A 1991 non-Riserva at $15 is good value.)

* 1988 Castello di Cacchiano "Millennio" (Siena) ($22): Rich, powerful aroma of fruit, earth and other complex notes. A fairly hard wine, but it should smooth out in two years.

* 1990 Villa Cafaggio (Florence) ($12): Huge amount of fruit, with charming berry/cherry notes and a lean, short aftertaste. Another year will make this excellent wine truly fascinating. Good value.

* 1991 Lilliano (Siena) ($10): Fragrant notes of violets and good structure. A wine to consume soon. (A stunning 1988 Riserva was marvelous, but a bit steep at $28.)

* 1988 Melini Riserva "Vignetti La Selvanella" (central-coastal) ($15): Stylish, aromatic wine, but not very much like Chianti because of its softness and smoked-oak notes that compete with the bright cherry fruit. Appealing, but not classic Chianti.

* 1988 Carpineto Riserva (Florence) ($15): Loads of fragrant cherry fruit but a lot of oak too. Another soft, generous, appealingly drinkable wine with less Chianti-ness than I expected.

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