“Battles, unlike bargains, are rarely discussed in society.”….. James Fenimore Cooper

How times have changed since I first read The Last of the Mohicans in high school.  Today, it seems everything is fit for discussion or even viewing on the airwaves.  But on the plus side, given this lack of reservation today, it’s OK now for me to review this wine with an ARP of just $11. I can be a certified “snob” and a Mizer at the same time!  That’s a good thing because the story of this wine is an interesting one.

It begins in 1946 when Santa Cristina was introduced as a Chianti Classico by Niccolo Antinori.  Instrumental in the renaissance of Chianti, the Antinori family was involved in the famous Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc blend (“Tignanello”) that was influential in the “Super Tuscan” movement and “Solaia”, also from the Tignanello Estate.

Santa Cristina is a blend of Sangiovese (60%), with the remaining 40% coming from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah and was never meant to be the others.    In 1987, with the passage of the DOCG laws (surprisingly spearheaded by Niccolo’s son, Piero), lower yields were mandated for classified vineyards. Among other things, more aging would also be necessary and doing this would alter the style and character of Cristina.

Interesting because one of the first things that struck me upon tasting this wine was its “new world” character.  Its taste is a tad sweet - attributable to rich, ripe, juicy fruit.  The nose is of mashed berry preserves. On the palate, the wine coats; thick, rich and juicy with ultra-ripe berry. A hint of cherry cola and a whispered hint of cardamom-like spice.

With the 1987 vintage, Santa Cristina moved away from the Chianti Classico designation and began adding Merlot in 1994 (10%) to the blend to make it softer and add more nuances of fruit.  The wine now is classified IGT (as were Super Tuscans anyway). While some may lament this “declassification”, I’ll opine that Niccolo Antinori knew where he wanted to go with this wine and arrived successfully where he intended.

That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy Chianti Classico or even the Chianti from the DOCG’s 6 other sub-zones.  It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the dry and tannic Nebbiolo of Barolo. It does mean that there is room for all styles.  And, as I write this, I’m thinking of people whose only experience with Italian wine (other than Prosecco) has been with one of the Nebbiolo grape, maybe a Gattinara, and assumed that was representational of Italian wine.  Or maybe they found Chianti too acidic.

Italy is the land of over 900 grapes, but that doesn’t even matter in this example because – other than Sangiovese which is so widely accepted it might as well be an “international variety – the rest of the grapes are!  For those people wanting to branch out and taste the wines of the “old world,” this is your introduction.  For “old world” wine aficionados that want a “daily red’ and are in the mood to lighten the load on their palate, this is your wine also. 

With an ARP of $11 U.S., this wine is Antinori’s best value Tuscan red. I found it at $8.99 making it taste even better.  Grapes are grown on their estate hillside vineyards in Cortona, near Montalcino. Varieties are picked at different times favoring each variety’s most opportune time, then   de-stemmed and soft pressed. The must is fermented on the skins for one week (may vary) in stainless, then racked before undergoing malolactic fermentation. The result, after blending, is a “user friendly,” easy drinking red wine with red fruit and very gentle tannins. Other tasters note hints of black pepper, eucalyptus, blackberry, mint and cranberry. A wine for all seasons most definitely suitable for discussion in society.

………….. Jim

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Santa Cristina:   
ALC:                             13%
Imported By:               Ste Michelle Wine Estates
                                    Woodinville, WA

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