The wines of Tuscany are considered to be among the best in the world.
Mention Italian wine and one word immediately pops into people's minds--Chianti! After decades of poor versions being served in American restaurants the Italians had had enough. Approximately 20 years ago a concerted effort was made to increase the quality of Chianti exported to the US. Chianti now stands with a renewed image. (There are some chain restaurants that are still foisting poor Chianti on their customers, but we'll ignore them for now.)
Chianti provides a tangy, easy-to-drink red wine that pairs well with many types of food. Many vintners have met with success with innovations in wine production. These wines are primarily based on the Sangiovese grape, but Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot have added depth to the wines. Some of these wines cannot carry the name "Chianti" under Italian law, but are labeled vino da tavola (table wine).
Don't be afraid to venture out in pairing Chianti and food. Last month I had an unusual pairing at The Jazz Factory's monthly wine dinner. They served Chianti with lobster bisque! When I read the menu I was hesitant, but ready to trust. It was marvelous, fantastic, a wonder! The spicy tones of the wine cut through the creamy soup so that it wasn't too heavy. The raspberry and violet notes kept the wine from being too heavy. Grilled meats are a natural pairing for Chianti.
Are you looking to try a good Chianti without breaking the bank? The Ruffino 2006 Il Leo Chianti Superiore is an excellent beginning. The aromas are of violets, cherries, and raspberries. The flavors echo the berry flavors, but accompany them with layers of spice. It is slightly jammy without being too chewy. It has a nice looong finish. A good buy for under $15.