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  • Jancis Robinson
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  • Jancis Robinson
6 Jan 2003

It's a nasty time of year in this northern hemisphere. It's freezing. Celebrations are over. The bills are coming thick and fast through the letterbox which, in the wake of two burglaries inflicted on our family over the holiday period, is being redesigned to thwart what I'm told is currently the felon's favourite weapon (not yet used on us in fact), a telescopic rod with a magnetic, key-searching end. Yes, I've had a visit from the local crime prevention officer. He's teetotal but his wife, he assured me, would 'drink anything'. At last! A home for the bottle of Mateus Rosé sent to show off its glamorous new label. (The newspaper boy rejected it.)

So what do we feel like drinking at this time of year? Something comfortingly healthy and not too self-indulgent, I would propose. A bottle to remind us of red wine's healing properties, its sense of harmony with the cycles of Nature, something to put on the supper table to make it special without making you feel guilty.

Voilà, or rather Ecco! This particular bottle of Chianti Classico is what Italian red should be all about: extremely appetising, a completely authentic expression of the place and the vintage made by one of Tuscany's most respected winemaking families, the Martini di Cigala brothers (who also have holiday apartments apparently - but then who in Italian wine doesn't do agriturismo?). Their most famous wine is Percarlo, but in a way what I treasure most from Tuscany is not the Supertuscans but the more everyday wines that just ooze digestibility. This example is still very deep coloured and has no shortage of tannins, but they are miraculously ripe tannins (I would guess yields were pretty low) and add just that savoury kick of bitterness that Italian reds uniquely offer to the full, fleshy, frontal fruit with a certain earthy, tobacco character to keep it interesting to the bottom of the bottle.

This estate near Monti in the south of the Chianti Classico zone was once part of the Brolio estate and seems to go from strength to strength. A look at Ballantynes of Cowbridge and Noel Young and thence all the way to £14/$21 from one of its many US retail stockists. It's a great January pick-me-up at any price.