Recently I had an experience that changed my mind and outlook on a brand. If you’ve read my blog you know this isn’t something that happens often! I was invited to a tasting for the new Santa Margherita Chianti. I was loath to go because I’m not a fan of Pinot Grigio for a variety of reasons. I was pleasantly surprised that evening for a couple reasons.
The first shock was the Chianti is a DOCG certified wine. This isn’t a necessarily easy designation in Italy and means the wine had to be made and of a quality to a certain standard. The flavor palette of the wine also wasn’t cookie cutter. There was a fruity lush profile that isn’t typical of most chianti. The wine is made to be enjoyed with meat dishes especially if it’s still young. As it ages, I could see it playing better with a more rustic tomato sauce but the acid vs. juice didn’t dance as well as if I was eating a nice strip steak. I can see buying this if I want a rich juicy fruit forward wine to go with dinner or to “cocktail” at a party.
My second surprise came before tasting the Chianti and was for me the most exciting of the evening. I love bubbly whether it’s champagne or the occasional prosecco. I am a SNOB when it comes to this style of wine. The new Prosecco from Santa Margherita was a creamy, solid pour. This is NOT the prosecco or cava you buy to pour OJ in for your Sunday mimosa. This prosecco priced at around $20 is a great alternative to buying pricey Champagne. You could buy a lot of domestic brands around that price but honestly I wouldn’t and you shouldn’t. Many by the second sip, I’m ready to stop drinking.
The last jolt of the night came when I learned more about the history of the Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio brand. I had no idea it had been in the US since around 1980 or the market leader in its category. It spawned the Italian white wine craze many still enjoy. In a Chicago pride kind of way, this all began here in our home town because of the vision and insight of the Terlato family. Now a third generation wine maker, distributor they’ve been at the forefront of what American’s are drinking in and out of restaurants.
Ironically, I noticed this past weekend a table of 12 drinking the Pinot Grigio while I was out to dinner. I’m not about to stop my snobby wine ways. I’ll still buy my Roero Arneis and Chablis but I’ve enjoyed the prosecco a few times since that night and plan on buying it more often. The Chianti will also be on my list for the right occasions, as well.
If you want to enjoy the prosecco and a fun night out, Santa Margherita is promoting a Prosecco & Popcorn movie night August 30th in Chicago. Go to their Facebook page for more info and the opportunity to sign up – I already did!
Joe Campagna is the Chicago Food Snob. A former restaurant General Manager, Server and Chef you can find him on twitter @chifoodsnob. You can reach him through email at email@example.com. Joe is retained as a compensated blogger by Pei Wei Asian Diner.