Best value Chianti (but sorry, fellow Texans, not available here)

Above: My good friend Francesco treated me to a bottle of 1995 Chianti Classico by Castell’in Villa at the Enoteca I Terzi in Siena when I visited in October.

Castell’in Villa is one of my favorite producers of Chianti Classico. It’s actually one of my all-time favorite Italian producers: traditional-style, pure Sangiovese, grown in galestro-rich stony soils at excellent elevation and with superb exposure, and raised in large cask. The wines are remarkably affordable (I recently bought some of their entry-tier 2007 for under $25) and the winery continues to draw from what must be an astonishing cellar, offering importers library releases that stretch back to the 1970s (I’ve tasted back to 1979).

The only problem is that you can’t get the wines in Texas.

Above: We paired the 95 with housemade tagliatelle tossed with funghi porcini that night in Siena.

Well, actually, there’s another problem: the wine is readily available in the U.S. but Texas won’t allow out-of-state retailers to ship the wine here. It’s against the law. Unless, of course, you set up shop as a winery in Texas — even if you don’t make wine. Yes, a winery that doesn’t make wine…

I’ve already pissed off a lot of folks today with my post over at the Houston Press, “Absurdity of Texas Wine Shipping Law Reaches New Heights”, about Friday’s news that the Texas alcohol authority has granted a winery license to Wine.Com, eve though — in the TABC’s own words — Wine.com doesn’t produce wine. With the license, Wine.com will now be able to ship wine to retail customers within Texas.

I knew this issue would press some of Tom Wark’s buttons: he’s spent the last few years campaigning against the anachronistic, obsolete, gerrymandering laws that regulate retail shipping of wine in our country. I sent the link to Tom this afternoon and he responded immediately:

    But here’s what needs to be understood. Wine.com is actually only able to sell and ship wines to Texans that it first purchased form a Texas wholesaler. That means that the Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico you mentioned can not be sold by Wine.com and shipped to a Texas consumer unless wine.com buys that wine from a Texas wholesaler.

    What’s really interesting is that Wine.com set up a physical presence in Texas and got the wine producers license in stead of a retailers license. You know why? Because a few years ago, when SWRA was suing texas for discriminating against out of state retailers, the TX legislature passed a law that limited Texas retailers to only shipping wine into the county where the physical retail outlet was located. However, a Texas “WINERY” can ship ship throughout Texas.

Above: A San Francisco-based retailer shipped me the wine regardless of the TABC restriction. It’s a great value and one of my favorite wines.

For the record, I side with many of my colleagues in the trade when it comes to the three-tier system in the U.S. I believe, like them, that the three-tier system helps to keep costs down and it protects the consumer by making it difficult for importers and distributor to monopolize brands.

But what the hell, yo????!!!! Ain’t America a free country? As a U.S. citizen, shouldn’t I have the right to purchase a bottle of wine from a retailer in San Francisco or New York and have them ship it to me?

Most retailers ignore the TABC restrictions anyway. And I have a secret for you: the rich folks in Texas? They spend so much money at the high-end retailers in New York and Northern California that the sellers will always find a way to get them their high-cost wine.

Me? I just want my under $25 bottle of Chianti Classico by Castell’in Villa! And by golly, it went great with a bottle of ranch dressing from Walmart! So there!

Here’s the link to my post over at the Houston Press.

4 thoughts on “Best value Chianti (but sorry, fellow Texans, not available here)

  1. Hi Jeremy.
    It is nice you remember the dinner at I Terzi. However, that was not one of the best bottle from riserva 1995 Castell’inVilla I had. It was what we define an unhappy bottle. It was just good but nothing mre that simply good. And I remember several oustanding example from that wine during the years. Ir was not oxidized, it was not corky, it was not bad at all but simply it was not great. Looking to have the opportunity to taste some other bottles together soon.
    Regarding the Texas restrictions let me add that the fanny thing is that as retailers from Europe we are able to deliver to a private customer in Texas. We do not have any restriction in the States except the State of Utah (I think for religious reasons).

    • I agree, Francesco… the wine was “off” as we might say… I’ve tasted the 95 a number of times here in the states… and I agree: although the wine wasn’t bad, per se, it wasn’t at its best…

      either way, it still represents an immense value: even though you treated that night, I saw the price on Terzi’s list. ;)

      Thanks again! :)

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