Vino: 2003 Villa Antinori Toscana

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Name: 2003 Villa Antinori Toscana
Grape: Sangiovese with a touch of Merlot, Cabernet & Syrah
Region: Tuscany, Italy
Price: $19.97 to $27.99

It happened last night for the first time in weeks: I craved red wine. In an Italian mood, I enjoyed some Chicken a la Parmigiana with a bottle of Chianti and I was in heaven.

Chianti is perhaps Italy's most famous wine whose quality can vary as a result of overproduction. As a general rule of thumb, Chianti packaged in a straw basket is a village wine which is meant to be consumed young and is not always the best example of delicious Chianti. Chianti is always primarily Sangiovese coming from the Tuscany region of Italy, although it can often be blended with a handful of other varietals. Villa Antinori has been producing Chianti for centuries (they have a legacy of twenty-six winemaking generations) and is one of the most reliable and readily available bottlings.

Chianti should be garnet in color with dry tannins, mushroom/forest floor earthiness with bright cherry fruit. The tannin and acid balance in Chianti is enough to stand up to the equally food defying acids of the tomatoes which tend to dominate the local Tuscan cuisine. When done well these are well balanced wines that are truly enjoyable to drink.

Stores: PJ Wine $19.97 (4898 Broadway @ 204th St.), America's Wine Shop $19.99 (398 3rd Ave between 28th & 29th St), K&D Wine $22.99 (1366 Madison between 95th & 96th St), Park Avenue Liquor $25.00 (292 Madison Ave. between 40th & 41st St)