If you’re of a certain age, hearing someone mention the wine Chianti may bring up a certain memory or two.
First, the image of a squat, bulbous bottle of wine wrapped in a straw basket with a somewhat unreliable woven handle for ease of pouring, the bottle likely to become a vessel for candles to create artistic wax topography.
Second, the infamous dinner pairing declared by Hannibal Lector in the film Silence of the Lambs.
A dish of fava beans is probably better paired with an Italian white wine, whereas Chianti is driven almost entirely by Sangiovese, a grape that produces a red wine with aromas and flavours of everything one might experience in an Italian bistro or gourmet marke—dried oregano, pizza smothered in fresh tomato sauce and a rich Italian cheese, aged balsamic.
The Okanagan is often compared to California’s Napa Valley. It might be more fitting to compare – and contrast – our valley with Italy’s Tuscany. Similar laid back lake vibe, Forno pizza ovens popping up at winery bistros, and farm-to-table freshness.
The contrast? B.C. wine–arguably—does not yet have something with a name as recognizable as Chianti, and there isn’t much Sangiovese grown here compared to other reds. But we do grow many of the grapes that blend into Super Tuscans.
Thankfully, August is a great month for cultivating your Chianti vs. Okanagan conversations, as select B.C. Liquor stores put Chianti on display (In the B.C. Interior at stores in Kamloops, Vernon, Kelowna, and Penticton). In Vancouver, sign up for a Chianti tasting event with a three-course tapas style tasting menu.
The Okanagan winery to note is LaStella, where the winemaking and the guest experience are both inspired by Tuscany and Super Tuscan wines. Managing partner and winemaker (at LaStella and Le Vieux Pin), Severine Pinte was recently knighted to the Order of Agricultural Merit by the Consul General of France, a rare honour.
A few Okanagan bottles of Sangiovese can be found with a bit of effort as there are not many. Seek out the Modest Wines label at Mt. Boucherie, and small lots at Sandhill Wines, Echo Bay Vineyard, Black Hills Estate, or Bonamici Cellars.
When visiting your favourite tasting room, ask for a recommendation of the best red wine to have with an Italian dinner. Then stop by a B.C. liquor store and select a bottle of Chianti. Give both bottles a try with some good pizza or pasta.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.