Wine of the Week

No code needed for Da Vinci

Wine of the Week

I rarely have the opportunity to point out a winery with enough of a family resemblance among the wines that I can confidently recommend a methodical work-up from the bottom of the price range to the top. Well, I have one for you now.

Giovanni Nencini, the roving representative for Cantine Leonardo da Vinci from Vinci, Italy, was in town recently to show his wines. The first thing I learned was that the winery is a cooperative, owned by the farmers who grow the grapes. I love operations like this, a genuine manifestation of "power to the people." For the past 45 years, the winery has taken the best grapes from its 200 member vineyards to produce Sangiovese wines (mostly Chiantis) for export.

We tasted through the entire line of Da Vinci wines. The least expensive, a simple Chianti for about $13, is a great introduction to the line: floral aromas and food-friendly acidity make the wine a natural for pasta dishes. Serve it a little cooler than normal (about 60 degrees), and the wine really sings.

The next step up gets my vote for best quality/cost ratio. Their Chianti Classico ($17) is a complicated and attention-grabbing wine with huge black-cherry flavors. It would pair nicely with braised meats such as osso buco. At $28, the Chianti Riserva is too young to drink now, but if you like the house style and have wondered about aging your wines, this is an inexpensive route to learning about the benefits.

My favorite of their wines is the only one not made from Sangiovese. Santo Ippolito ($42) is a super-Tuscan blend of merlot and Syrah that is an incredibly intense wine just crying for hearty roasted game such as boar or antelope. The top of the Da Vinci line is their Brunello ($68), a wine I like for two reasons. First, it is low-priced – as Brunellos go – and second, it's made in the traditional style. This is not a fruit-bomb aimed at pleasing California palates. Instead, it has a velvety mouthfeel with soft, sweet tannins. This style of winemaking is rapidly disappearing, so if you would like to know why folks used to prize Brunello so highly, this wine is a great entrée.

The Chianti, Chianti Classico, and Chianti Riserva are available at fine wine shops and better grocery stores throughout Austin. The Santo Ippolito and Brunello are usually found in restaurants, though they are available to stores through special order.

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Cantine Leonardo da Vinci, Giovanni Nencini

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