The Perception of Aging in Tuscany

Casolino Chianti Classico, 2008

Tonight I’m having friends over for a wine tasting.  I’m using one of the suggested wine tastings from my online class at Wine Spectator.  The challenge was to find a Chianti Classico and a Chianti Classico Reserva from the same producer.  Then I needed to find a Rosso di Montalcino and a Brunello di Montalcino from the same producer.  All four wines are predominantly made from the Sangiovese grape.  The Montalcinos are 100% Sangiovese.  The Chiantis can be a blend but must be at least 75% Sangiovese, and many are more than that.  So, we’ll be comparing the same grape from two different regions in Tuscany, and aged for different periods of time.  I know theoretically what the differences should be, but tonight I’ll taste and experience the differences, and reinforce in my sensing memory the knowledge I’ve gained from my Tuscan wine class.

I had to visit 5 different stores in order to find the required wines.  As I went from store to store I brought with me my manilla folder with all my wine information in it.  Something happened because of that file folder.  The customer service I received in each store was a little more attentive.  One sales person after greeting me in a mildly friendly  way, glanced at my file folder, and stood up a little straighter.  Then he asked with a bit more interest, ‘How are you today?’  I think if I’d told him to straighten his tie, he would have done it.  I suppose the various salespeople thought I was on official business, perhaps reviewing and reporting on the store.  It’s funny how a small thing like a folder can change person’s perception of a person, if only slightly.

Casisano Colombaio, 2008 Rosso di Montalcino

Of the two Chianti Classicos, the Riserva is required by Italian law to age for 24 months before it is released.  The other Chianti Classico only has to age for 12 months before release.  Likewise, the Brunello di Montalcino must be aged for 48 months before it can be released.  The Rosso is only aged for 12 months.  For any wine, the longer it’s aged, the softer the tannins become, and the more integrated all the elements of the wine become.  If it’s a good wine to begin with, aging will soften it, and give it added dimension and complexity.

The other day while I was working out at the gym, a group of senior citizens were gathered around a machine, getting instruction from a personal trainer on how to use the machine.  He passed out diagram sheets to his clients and they dispersed to other machines in the area.  I happened to be working out on the leg extender nearby.  He came up to me and began giving me instruction.  I asked, ‘Why are you telling me how to use this machine?’  He replied that he was helping all the people in the group.  I wanted to say to him, ‘I’m not with that group.  Can’t you tell?!  Those people are old!  I’m not!’  But instead I politely explained to him that I’ve been working out for over 20 years (probably for longer than he’d been alive,) and I did not need help, thank you anyway.  I’m still a bit offended by his misperception.  However, as I age, I realize that I’ll be mistaken for an old person with greater frequency.

Casisano Colombaio, 2004 Brunnello di Montalcino

Tonight my friends and I will taste the wines, and try to identify the flavors, aromas and elements of each one.  I have pre-conceived notions about them based on what I’ve read.  After we’ve analyzed and compared all four wines, we’ll mix up the glasses and see if we can identify which wine is which.  Without the labels to read, I wonder how our perceptions will change.  I hope at least that I can tell the newer wines from the two that have been well aged.

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