Chianti wines can boast being the only vinifera mentioned in two hit movies, in nearly identical lines of dialogue. In Silence of the Lambs, Doctor Lecter offers his food pairing advice regarding some, uh, liver, fava beans and “a nice Chianti”. And in his homage to that scene, Jim Carey’s Lloyd, in Dumb and Dumber expresses his desire to repeat that same pairing when appraising a passing female, again with a “nice bottle of Chianti”. I don’t really know what fava beans are, and don’t particularly care for liver from any source, but nonetheless can enjoy a nice Chianti.
Though the name has been somewhat bastardized by domestic producers of red “stuff” in a jug (like the white “stuff” in a jug mislabeled “Chablis”), the real deal Chianti comes exclusively from the Tuscany area of Italy, and is made from the grape called Sangiovese. Italian labeling rules permit some blending of other red varietals, but at least 75 % of the contents must be Sangiovese, and all from the Chianti zone of Tuscany, on the toe side of the “boot,” up on the shin.
When perusing the Italiano section of a wine store, there are a lot of less-then-familiar, nearly unpronounceable selections. Among those, typically, are Chianti, Chianti Classico which refers to a smaller sub-zone, Chianti Classico Riserva, and, less commonly Chianti Superiore. Classico, Classico Riserva, and Superiore have more specific rules regarding blending and aging before sale than just plain Chianti. And, of course, they fetch piu di Lire than just plain Chianti.
Folonari, as a brand, has roots way back in the 1700’s when the Folonari family began making wine. It became Folonari Fratelli in 1825. The family took over Tuscany based Ruffino in the early 1900’s. That original family concern is, today, 3 separate entities. Ruffino is part of Constellation; the grandson of the founding Folonari operates Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari Tenute, with his son, and focuses on higher end Italian wines; and the Folonari label, spun off of the family business in the late 60’s. That Folonari branch produces affordable table wines for people like me. This was $10.99 for a 1.5 bottle.
This Chianti is unoaked, but there is a subtle and appealing earthiness, or mustiness, or leather character. It’s 100% Sangiovese, very dark, has a hint of those same just-recited traits in the aroma, and is very smooth on the tongue. Nice. Berry and cherry flavors tempered by the hint of Italian countryside. Makes me wish I was at an outdoor table at a little Italian Trattoria, like the one owned by the father of Michael Corleone’s Sicilian bride in The Godfather, although, there, we’d likely be drinking a glass of Nero d’avola instead of Chianti. I would not, however, wish to share my table with Mr. Lecter though. For fear he might suddenly develop a craving for liver.