Chianti, the region of Tuscany between Florence and Siena, produces some of Italy's best-known wines. Made from primarily Sangiovese grapes, and sometimes blended with Merlot, Cabernet and Syrah, good Chianti has earthy tones like mushroom and spice, along with bright cherry flavors and pronounced acidity. The acidity makes Chianti and excellent accompaniment to tomato-based pasta sauces and pizza.
Chianti's varied and hilly landscape results in seven different grape growing zones. These zones are often differentiated on the bottle, thus choosing a Chianti might be a little intimidating because there is such a wide variety available. When selecting Chianti, look for "Chianti Classico" or "Chianti Rufina." Classico is more common, whereas Rufina is especially good when it gets older. Any wine labeled "Riserva" has spent extra time aging in the barrel at the winery and is considered superior in quality.
• Vino Italian Wine Merchants (121 East 27th St), has the Coltibuono Chianti Classico for $15/bottle.
• Tribeca Wine Merchants stocks the 2001 Rodano, at $14.99/bottle.
• Sherry-Lehmann carries the Ruffino Riserva Ducale for $22.95.