Rioja vs. Chianti Classico

The purpose of this tasting is to compare the differences between Italian, Sangiovese-based Chianti Classico and Spanish, Rioja which is a Tempranillo based wine.

The Wines:

  1. Decembrino, Chianti Classico,  2007 DOCG, 13% Alcohol
  2. Traza, gra2, Rioja, 2008, DOC, 100% Graciano, 13.5% Alcochol

I realized at the tasting that I had not purchased a Tempranillo-based Rioja but rather a Graciano grape wine.   I learned that Graciano grape is indigenous to Spain and is currently near extinction because of its notorious low yields and susceptibility to mildew.

The Wine Tastings:

I have to note that it is a long while since I tasted a radically different wine so this tasting was a treat all of its own with this new grape for my tongue to explore.

Both wines had deep, dark and rich colors with the Rioja being more purplish than the Chianti.   The Rioja had more pronounced legs, due to greater alcohol and it seems to be heavier and thicker than the Chianti.

Upon smelling the Rioja for the first time, I knew I was in for a new adventure.   I was totally baffled and could not identify the very particular and unique smell of this wine.  I knew it was not fruit.  I knew it was earthy but that was about it.  Its aromas were powerful and the distinctiveness of the smell was quite intriguing.     To my surprise the Chianti had meaty smells and I could not identify any fruitiness either.    Perhaps my sense of smell was affected by my husband’s leeks in the stove as we wine tasted.

Once we had our first sips, other aromas shined for Rioja which were mushroom, tar and tobacco, and perhaps burnt toast or charred wood.  The tannins were rough, a heavy and thick wine, very powerful, very different.   It had a long finished and even though it had high tannins, it did not seem to be unbalanced.

The Chianti showed ham and licorice flavors not as powerful as the Rioja, but quite a full-bodied wine a well, with less tannins.  The finish was moderate however but well-balanced and more acidic than the Rioja.

Blind Tasting:

We proceeded to do a blind tasting of the two wines and I thought the Rioja was so distinct that I should have no trouble identifying the wine blindly.    Well, I was wrong.   I only got one out of three.

Paring the two wines to these Cheeses:  Brie, Gourmandise, Gorgonzola and Shropshire Blue:

  • I found that the Rioja did best with Gourmandise.  The Chianti Classico, got along well with the Gorgonzola but best with the Shropshire Blue.

My final assessmentt gives the Traza Rioja a special place for uniqueness and also a more complex and better wine of the two.  However, the Decembrino Chianti while perhaps not as complex as the Rioja, still a pretty good solid wine.

I would recommend the Traza experience to everybody who likes full and powerful red wines.

Happy Tastings.


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